...to confirm that our dinner lived up to the hype on this board and elsewhere. Husband, Nathan P., and I went last Sat. night many hours after the picnic (yes, we had some time to digest and get hungry again). We had reservations and were immediately seated in a small round booth in the front room. Noise level was very pleasant, even on the quiet side, the entire night. Sorry, no photos since the room was so dim and flash would have been blinding.
Since none of the starters really grabbed us, we ordered the chicken basteeya, black cod claypot, and couscous aziza and shared them all family-style. Basteeya came first since it's a mid-meal course and could easily serve 3-4. Have never had basteeya before, but I liked this version. Ground chicken filling was fluffy, lightened by the eggs and devoid of any moisture yet not overly dry. Phyllo layers were perfectly crisp and buttery. Sweet and nutty spicing kept my palate interested.
The couscous aziza was a good way to sample their various meats, but perhaps too much going on to keep things cohesive. My favorite meat was the chunks of tender stewed lamb, but I wasn't wowed by the sausage or chicken. Shrimp was slightly overcooked and not superfresh IMO. The best part about the dish really was the couscous; each grain was engorged w/ flavor and it was far superior to couscous that I could make at home. Worth ordering on its own next time.
My favorite dish of all was the cod claypot. Fish fillet was nicely portioned, thick, and succulent. Cooked til just opaque and infused w/ the perfume of saffron threads strewn on top. On top a bed of little sliced potatoes and green olives that were buttery, tangy, and had some wonderful pockets of caramelization. Tasted like there was some lemon zest or preserved lemon to brighten the flavors and cut through the richness of the olive oil. I savored every bite of this dish.
We were too full for dessert, but many of them appealed to me, and I hope to explore those when we return. The food and overall dining experience was a treat for all my senses, and I was most impressed w/ the chef's ability to unify spices and not overpower so that the flavors flitted and danced in my mouth. Service was competent and warm. 3 dishes, 2 glasses of wine, 1 cocktail, and 1 mint tea came to around $105 all inclusive. A good value overall.
Note: My husband liked it overall, but found some of the seasoning too sweet for his taste. While probably in keeping w/ tradition, the mint tea was particularly syrupy. If you don't want to do valet, make sure you allot plenty of time for parking in that neighborhood!!
If you're still reading, is there a good Moroccan place in the South Bay (doesn't have to be as modern as Aziza) that does a competent basteeya/bastilla among other things?
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