Happy experience at Aziza
The reports here looked good. I figured I'd get a good meal. But what I got was not good, it was excellent. Every dish was a winner, including some that had me scratching my head about how they pulled it off.
Aziza is modernized Moroccan food. I knew that, but it didn't help any. What's Moroccan food? Couscous? Lots of stuff with saffron in it? I wasn't exactly sure. But here's what we had:
Lamb sausage. Lamb sausage is hard to pull off well. It's often gristly and gritty, and sort of monotonic. This was different -- tender, rich, and flavorful, just what lamb sausage should be, and with two nice dipping sauces for it. A winner.
Spinach rolls. Well, I'm not sure that they called them that, but basically they were Spring roll like things with spinach in them. This is not something I'd tend to think I'd like. Spinach can be bitter, and is often watery -- so how do you get it to work inside of fried dough? Well, they pulled it off. It was cooked to tenderness, no more, and full of the fresh flavors of good spinach.
Breads and dipping sauces. 1/4" thick wedges of well-textured flatbread, and three heaps of thick sauce to spread and dip. Very worthwhile. The chick pea sauce was a little bland, but the spicy one was amazing.
Paratha. I think that was what it was called; I keep thinking of it as "Paratwa," but that's from a series of SF books by Christopher Hinz. Anyway, it was possibly the best dish of the night, pastry around a moist mixture of meat and egg. How they got the pastry to seem lively and now soggy, when wrapped around such a moist interior, I just don't know, but the flavor was amazing.
Couscous. Whoa. Maybe this was the best dish of the night. This was couscous in luxury style, with shrimp around the outside, and regions of chicken and lamb. Sounds like a weird combination, but really one didn't combine them, but experience one or the other while prospecting in one area or another. Fantastic.
Squab. I don't remember the preparation, but it was perfection.
For dessert, I had a great plums and dates combination platter.
Great stuff. I WILL be back.
5800 Geary Blvd., San Francisco, CA 94121
Not paratha, but pastilla, made with filo pastry and usually fillled with chicken (or pigeon), egg and almonds, with sweet spices. (Paratha is an Indian flat filled bread.) Aziza's pastilla is indeed one of the better ones I've had.
Yup. Pastilla, also spelled bastilla or basteeya, depending on who is doing the transliterating from Arabic.
We went to Aziza on Wednesday night for my fiancee's birthday. We both walked out trying to figure out when we could come back, it was fantastic!
We opted for the $50 tasting menu, I'll do my best for a rundown below. Aside from the food, we both loved the cocktails as well. I had a vodka/basil/meyer lemon drink served up that was delicious. I would be the perfect drink for a warm summer evening on the patio (it was about 60 and breezy in SF but that's beside the point.)
Soup--we both had the sweet corn soup. It was similar to a bisque but a little chunkier with a few pieces of crab, creme fraiche and a few drops of some sort of chili oil. This was absolutely delicious. The sweetness of the corn & crab went perfectly with the touch of cf and oil.
Starters--we had the heirloom tomato & cucumber salad and the spread plate
--salad was very good but I think they had run out of heirlooms as it was served with cherry tomatoes (maybe they were heirloom cherry but we were expecting the larger, sweeter version.) This was served with feta and an eggplant crostini (eggplant pounded flat then fried into a crispy "crostini). Served with a balsamic dressing, was really really good but with the heirlooms that we were expecting it would've been up there with the soup & couscous
-spreads--served with grilled pita, the 3 were a chick pea spread which was like really good humus, a dill yogurt similar to tahini and a picquillo (sp) pepper spread that was very smokey, almost similar in flavor to barbecue sauce. They were all very good and they complemented each other very well.
basitlla(sp)--vas very good, the spices were really interesting but this was complete overkill for the meal. By the time we got through this there wasn't much room for the entrees. Glad we tried it--we both really enjoyed it but we really didn't need it--especially after just having a plate of pita and humus-type spreads.
mains--I had the coucous with lamb, shrimp and chicken, she had the cod
couscous was right there with the soup as my favorite, it had a great buttery finish but the highlight was the two types of lamb that came with it. A lamb sausage link cooked perfectly and some pieces of slow cooked, almost stringy lamb that was outstanding! The shrimp and chicken were really just along for the ride, defenseless against the great flavor of the lamb and couscous.
cod--was served in a bowl with a broth and vegetables, the broth had a little bit of vinegar "punch" to it and the cod was cooked perfectly.
dessert--I don't really remember what we had, my head and stomach were swimming by this point but they really did a nice job with a birthday dessert for her, a sparkler and a candle and a very nice little "happy birthday" written out in chocolate sauce
All in all it was a great meal, came to around $200 after a few cocktails and glasses of wine, we will definitely be back! I highly recommend it.
This brings back memories. We did a road-trip last October: Seattle (Cafe Juanita), Portland (Park Kitchen) and SF (Slanted Door, Aziza). All were really good, but Aziza was outstanding. Ambience, service, cocktails, wine suggestions, the food of course - all the planets aligned. It was one of my all-time favorite restaurant experiences. I can still remember that cod.