Thought I'd break my months-long hiatus with a quick update on Aziza, which has become one of my favorite places in SF.
The tasting menu, $39/person, includes five excellent courses: a choice of soups, a selection of appetizers, the bstilla, a choice of entrees, and a choice of desserts.
Saturday night the soup choices were pumpkin and lentil; we have a lot of squash at home, so I had the lentil. It was smoother than other lentil soups I've had, with a base of -- I'm guessing -- tomatoes, lentil puree and lots of spices, plus whole lentils and a pitted date on the side. It was warming and delicious. Our friend was very happy with the pumpkin soup, and it was gone before I got to try it. The appetizers were generous, deeply flavorful and a nice mix of tastes and textures. We got the warm goat cheese in a spiced tomato sauce, spicy meatballs (lamb) on skewers with grapes, and a big platter of 8 different salads and spreads with pita. Except for the skewers, these were all vegetarian, and a great variety. The only element that was a bit out of place was the garnish/salad with the skewers that was red onion and cucumber julienne that had a Southeast Asian vibe--good, but not so Moroccan (but what do I know? Morocco's still on the "To be visited" list).
Next we had the chicken bstilla, which is a favorite of mine (and can be ordered vegetarian if you want). This is minced chicken with currants, pine nuts, cinnamon, and lots of other spices in a filo pastry with powdered sugar. For entrees we chose from the entire menu, rather than limited, prix fixe options. I had the prawn tagine, while Scott and one friend had the Couscous Aziza: couscous with a small piece of chicken, a split sausage, a prawn, vegetables and some lamb stew. Our other friend had the couscous with lamb stew and vegetables. The server also brought a small dish of harissa, which was smoky-hot and great.
Finally, we chose what we wanted from the dessert menu. We were pretty full, but desserts here are absolutely not to be missed. The pastry chef has come to Aziza by way of the French Laundry and Citizen Cake, and she's very talented indeed. Because the savory food is on the rich side, the desserts are composed to balance and complement, rather than overwhelm with gooey sweet stuff. I'm running out of time here, but my apple dessert was delicately, perfectly balanced with rosemary.
The wine list has a good selection of rieslings to complement the food. We had an auslese that was full-bodied and delicious. There's also a full bar.
Okay, one last comment: I love the way the chef uses spices here. The flavors are rich, deep and complex. Great food, especially on a cold night.