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Somewhat average dinner at Azie (except for fabulous desserts)

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Just ate at Azie on Folsom and 4th tonight. Been meaning to try their fusion stuff for a while, and I was somewhat disappointed on the whole, not because the food was bad, but because I feel that I could have gotten better for less elsewhere. Maybe it's a Monday thing (only day all of us could make it) or maybe it was an off night. I tend to expect cutting edge inventiveness at fusion places, especially those at Azie's price range, but didn't see much of that.

Cons:

The food was fine, but not exceptional, I've had stuff like this at House. I would be more than willing to eat at places that cost less, like Cobalt Tavern or Cosmopolitan Cafe or the Cafe at Chez Panisse, even if price was not a factor.

9 bites (a sampling of 9 appetizers) was a great idea and was decent, but the meats (in the short ribs and the fried pork cutlet) were not as tender as one would hope. The seafood bites were better, and the lobster pot de creme is totally worth the raves I've heard. On the whole, 9 bites looks great, and allows access to a ranges of flavors, but most of the flavor combinations were somewhat standard/classical/simple instead of cutting edge - soy, ponzu, sesame oil etc... not different from the stuff one could get at a moderate Japanese or Chinese place. Some of the flavors were also a bit on the thin side, lacking the kind of complexity that I have come to expect from a fusion place.

Also had a snapper with blackbean sauce - delicate sauce, not too heavy on the blackbean, with a good spicy kick from some green chilli, and a garlic sauce/puree. Came with oyster mushrooms and foie gras. I thought the foie gras was a wasted extravagance that didn't add much to the fish. Why have it there at all? A pleasant dish, but (to paraphrase Reichl) at these prices, pleasant is not good enough. I've had better fish at House on 9th for less. I certainly could get great fish cooked not too differently (sans foie gras) at a couple of good Chinese seafood places in town.

Pros:

Beautiful space
Beautiful presentation and very stylish serving plates.
Sake on the wine list - somewhat easier to pair with a whole bunch of dishes like their 9 bites.
Good service.

The earthy duck curry went along wonderfully with a very rich and fragrant coconut milk risotto.

They served some of the best dessert I've had recently (this dessert chef is a keeper - who is s/he?).

I had a very inventive trio of creme brulees - coconut, a brilliant mix of earth and air - chocolate and cardamon, and our favorite, lemongrass, for a novel and fragrant palate pleaser.

Also stole some of friend's desserts - a great example of warm chocolate cake with ice cream, and a fabulous pairing of a tart plum sauce (and plums) with a creamy rich panna cotta.

Overall impression - food is OK but not worth the money, desserts are to die for.

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