“Azure” offers a taste of the Mediterranean

Ask "Mo" Salman why he opened his restaurant in Bellevue and he'll give you an obvious answer.

"I have a passion for good food."

The newest chef in the North Boroughs believes "There is a lack of good, healthy food in the Pittsburgh area, especially being offered late at night."

That thought in mind, welcome Azure Cafe and Grill, named because blue is the restaurateur's favorite color. It also brings to mind the Mediterranean diet that he knows well. And if one more reason is needed, the word "azure" translates from many languages surrounding that sea as "to visit," something he hopes many diners in the area will be inclined to do.

This being his first experience as a chef, he explained where he learned his kitchen skills.

"Over the years, I developed my interests and learned from my parents and from travel," he said, adding, "And I know lots about food ingredients. For example, I try to get mostly organic beans that I purchase from Frankferd Farms in Saxonburg."

Azure's menu offers a wide variety for vegans and vegetarians -- lentil soup, hummus, black-eyed pea salad, fava bean puree -- as daily offerings.

But he hasn't overlooked meat lovers, with steak and chicken platters that include jasmine rice and salads, as well as a variety of seafood offerings.

Salman stresses that to provide his healthy menu, he pays more for all of his ingredients, while keeping his dinner prices "…still very reasonable."

He said that his unique food flavors come from carefully using seasonings such as ground cloves, nutmeg, and sea salt instead of iodized.

Azure's healthy menu also includes choices of healthy desserts. "We have flan, which is not found on many menus, and farina cake. It's really delicious, but usually offered only in high-end restaurants," he said. He added that the "star" of his desserts is kataifi [pronounced kuh-tie-fee], similar to baklava in sweetness and cake-like texture.

Following a satisfying dining experience, coffee, brewed with organically grown La Prima beans.

"I am not worried that my food is unique, but I hope that people appreciate it. I try to make my food as nutritious as possible," he said, giving a nod to his wall-sized menu.

Azure, located at 565 Lincoln Ave., is open Monday-Thursday 5 - 9 p.m., and on Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. - 11 p.m. The menu and additional information can be found at www.azurepgh.com

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