My gal and I had a lovely experience for our first visit. We were looking for a NYE menu that was not "special" and so made a reservation at Aziza for they said they were having their regular menu. When we walked in, only a special tasting menu was provided. When we inquired if they were serving their regular menu as well, they said no. So, being that we were quite settled in and happy with our table (a cozy one in the back room) we perused the menu to see what they were offering. We stayed and I am so glad we did.
They offered a 5 course feast, with many options for $50/ pp excluding beverages, tax and tip, which turned out to be a great bargain. With a couple glasses of wine, bottle of water, the whole evening's tab was less than $150.
First course was soup, your choice of green lentil w/cilantro and lemon oils, or sunchoke with truffled creme friache. We tried one of each and they were very different. The lentil was subtle and a little rustic, not quite pureed smooth, the oils floating on top created a lovely scented steam. The sunchoke was bolder and creamy with good artichoke like flavors and a hint of musty mushroom cream.
The house bread basket contained two types, a dark chewy thin sliced loaf type and chunks of a potato type, very yeasty with anise flavor, sesame topped.
Second course, starters that were chef's choice, number varied with your party size. We asked for vegetarian ones and were served an amazingly simple, fresh avocado, curly cress and pink grapefruit salad drizzled with a citrus-shallot vineagrette plus a gratin of the largest lima beans I have ever seen smothered in a reduced tomato sauce, covered with french feta and broiled on top to create a crust. The lima beans were al dente and I don't care for hard beans, but the flavors were stupendous.
We saw other dishes coming out for larger parties that included a meatball, grape and mushroom kebab, med platters with pita, hummus, baba, and yougurt dips.
Third course was basteeya for everyone! These were served as complete pies, sized for the table. Reviewed on this board before, it lived up to it's praise. Crisp buttery filo shattered revealing a thick mixture of chicken, almonds, cinnamon and garbanzos. lightly dusted w/powdered sugar.
Fourth course were the mains divided into 3 categories, vegetables & grains, fish, seafood, & shellfish, meat & game birds... it was very hard to choose! We ended up with a roasted root vegetable couscous and a prawn tagine with preserved lemons. The couscous dish was perfectly executed with a good variety of vegies just beginning to carmelize and the grains stayed moist, seperate and full of saffron flavor. The prawns (4) were extra large, grilled and smoky placed around a stew of winter vegies accented by w/ housemade preserved lemons. Some of the more interesting dishes were cod claypot, cumin-orangescented quail, rabbit with hungarian paprika, bing cherries and parsnip puree, stewed lamb with charred eggplant, and a saffron infused guinea hen, 18 choices in all.
Fifth was dessert, and we totally scored on this one! 6 offerings, most were fruit based, with only one chocolate (choc-cardamon cookie and hot cocoa combo) confection. We chose apples, rosemary caramel, with green apple ice and bearss lime sorbet with goat yogurt granite. The apple plate came with sliced barely cooked apples (they were a little mushy) surrounded by puddles of the rosemary caramel which was inspired, topped with a rosemary scented shortbread cookie and finished w/a scoop of cream that had marscapone leanings but was softened and lighter, the apple ice was tart with perfect apple flavor served in a little side dish so it wouldn't drool into the rest. For the lime/goat combo, a large bowl was persented w/ the sorbet in two quenelles sitting atop a sea of granite, dotted with a candied citrus peel of some sort. The lime was sweet, strong, full flavored ice while the goat was creamy, a tad sour, and light with a pronounced goat flavor. This produced a symphony on my tongue ... yum.
The only down side to the evening (after our initial disappointment with the menu problem) was our waiter and slight problems with the service. The hostess was terrific, friendly and informative. Our waiter on the other hand visited way too often, asking inane questions about how we were enjoying our food at very odd times (like before we had tasted it or after it was finished and sometimes twice during one course). He seeemed very green and was trying too hard. The plate clearer was efficient and polite. We found the pacing too fast, as soon as one plate was finished it would get swept away and the next course served almost immediately. We had very little time in between to savor the experience, except after the meal and before the dessert. Now I understand it was NYE and they were busy with an enormous amount of serving to accomplish, so I am hoping that on a regular night it would be less rushed. This food deserves contemplation!
5800 Geary x 22nd Ave, SF