'Steaking' a claim on Prospect Street

Azul La Jolla beefs up its operation

The Steakhouse at Azul La Jolla

1250 Prospect St., # C10

(858) 454-9616,

www.azul-lajolla.com

  • Dinner: 5:30 p.m. to close nightly
  • Lunch: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturdays
  • Champagne brunch: 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sundays
  • $$$$

If you're a card-carrying carnivore who loves a great steak, it's "prime" time you headed to the Village to see what's cooking at the restaurant formerly known as Azul La Jolla. Famous for its views and fresh micro-seasonal takes on California cuisine, this Prospect Street favorite recently underwent a complete transformation and, this week, opens anew as The Steakhouse at Azul La Jolla (TSAALJ).

"Azul La Jolla was one of several wonderful restaurants on Prospect Street offering virtually the same cuisine," said Deborah Horger of The Brigantine Family of Restaurants, of which TSAALJ is a member. "With this in mind, [we] took a look at the Village and noticed the absence of a fine-dining prime steakhouse. The idea for TSAALJ was born with the intention of filling that niche."

Having already established itself as an upper echelon eatery, there was no way the staff at Azul La Jolla was going to entertain, much less execute, such a grand-scale revamp unless they could replicate the exceptional level of quality they had worked so diligently to achieve over the past nine years. It was quickly decided that the first step to guaranteeing the success of this initiative would be procuring the best brand of beef possible.

"The quality comes in the back door," Horger said. "We're purchasing the best beef money can buy: all USDA Prime steaks plus a sampling of Greg Norman Signature Wagyu Beef. It's like nothing you've ever had before."

What is Wagyu, you ask? In a nutshell, it's Australia's answer to Kobe beef, select virgin cattle raised on a diet of grain fodder, beer and sake (rice wine) and massaged to produce exceptionally tender, highly fat-marbled meat.

"This is the best beef I have ever tasted in my life, bar none," said TSAALJ executive chef Orion Balliet when asked his opinion of his new prized edible medium.

TSAALJ has three cuts of this rarified breed on the menu - a 10-ounce top sirloin ($47), an eight-ounce ribeye ($56) and a 10-ounce New York strip loin ($60). Other steak options include an 18-ounce Kansas City strip ($42), a 24-ounce porterhouse ($54), and a mammoth 46-ounce bone-in rib chop dubbed "The Tomahawk" ($125). Colorado rack of lamb, market price, milk-fed veal chops ($44) and Berkshire pork chops ($27) are available as well.

There are also a few holdovers from Balliet's Azul La Jolla menu such as the lobster pot pie appetizer with saffron vegetable cream ($16), macadamia-crusted mahi mahi with red Thai curry ($28) and cedar-smoked King Salmon with balsamic glaze ($25). However, the bill of fare at TSAALJ - like its dining room, which features a much more open floor plan, richly-colored appointments and sleek leather booths - is a dramatic departure from the original.

"Utilizing the finest quality product really allows us to keep it simple. With ingredients like that, I can focus my creativity on the starters and sides," said Balliet. He also flexes his innovative muscle via TSAALJ's patio menu, comprised of more casual creations and available during happy hour from 4 to 7 p.m. seven days a week.

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