Walking up and down West Main Street in historic Mystic, Connecticut was making us even hungrier. I haven’t yet made it to the grocery store for snacks and drinks to keep in our room, so we did not eat any sort of breakfast.
There are several restaurants in the historic section and my tourist map pointed out many of them and I announced them to Ron, as if I was a professional tour guide, as we drove around looking for public parking. I also noted that I will have to come back to historic Mystic for some serious shopping while Ron is in his classes this week – there is an array of intriguing specialty shops.
One of many storefronts in the historic buildings that lined the street, Azu Restaurant caught our eye. It looked like it would be small, quaint, and charmingly old inside. Looks can be deceiving.
The interior of this bustling eatery is bright, warm and modern. To maximize the use of the space, there were far too many tables crowded in for my comfort. A long dark bar stretches alongside one wall and the windows open wide to let sunshine fill the space.
The menu is as full as the tables – there were so many appealing options, I wanted to order half a dozen items. Realizing I had neither the stomach nor the funds to realize this dream, I read through the choices twice trying to narrow it down to just one dish. It was a double-whammy that I could not resist…two of my very favorite ingredients piled on a grilled pizza crust with shrimp, tomatoes and cheese. Those two stars are asparagus and balsamic vinegar. They take yummy to the 4th power!
I was so glad Ron chose a couple different bites so I coiuld try his food, too: clam chowder and the salmon chips. I suppose Ron is going to order clam chowder evey day this week.
We noticed that many people seated nearby were eating breakfast food – we inquired to learn the breakfast “cut off” was noon. Whew! I barely made it. My disdain of eggs and breakfast menus simply don’t jive.
Our server was timely and pleasant. All the servers, and the hostess, wore all black, a look I find to be professional in these types of trendy restaurants. She delivered the cutest little bucket of crusty bread cubes and a white dish of olive oil mixed with balsamic vinegar for dipping.
We were well on our way through drink round #2 when the food appeared before us. The food was beautifully presented. I had been admiring all the dishes I saw travel past me throughout our meal…longing to taste them all. Ours was no disappointment.
My “grilled pie” is served on a flat silver tray. It is large! Each of the eight squares is adorned with a shrimp. Large chunks of tomatoes, melted mozarella and crumbled feta, diced asparagus and balsamic vinegar is drizzled all over the surface. The roasted tomatoes are sweet and perfectly compliment the sharpness of the feta cheese and the tang of the balsamic. The shrimp are tender and perfectly pink. I savor each bite. Of course I offer a piece to Ron, but only if he can truly appreciate its greatness. I think he lied to me just to steal some of my food.
Reading the menu description, I was not quite sure what to expect from Ron’s dish. Another picturesque presentation reveals a sort of smoked salmon “nacho” trio. He offers me one and I gladly accept. Individually, the components don’t really do it for me. But in this combination, they are delicious. Another superb marriage of flavor contrasts, the red onion offset the smoky sweet salmon. The fried capers offer a nice tang and the chip is thick so that you can take bites off it without the “vehicle” crumbling in your hand.
I also tasted the clam chowder. Thick, creamy and slightly sweet, this chowder should satisfy Ron’s craving for the “real thing”. He declared it was much better than the chowder he ate at Jamm’s the night prior.
I feel confident after tasting these three dishes, and peering at the other diners’ food as it paraded by me, I could order anything else off the menu and be pleased. Prices were a bit higher than I expected, but this restaurant really delivers taste, creativity and quality. Its downfall, for me, is lack of intimacy, however other diners may enjoy the party-like atmosphere the closeness of the tables imparts.
I highly recommend Azu and confer upon it FOUR STARS. Don’t be surprised if I find my way back to Azu later this week for the lobster macaroni and cheese.Azu Restaurant 32 West Main Street Mystic, CT 860-536-6336