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Restaurants & Bars 5

AZIZA: outstanding in every way

Mak esuri | May 6, 200504:28 PM

It's taken me 3 years to get to aziza, but we finally made it last night. With all the word on chowhound about the place, we had to get ourselves there.

We walked in at 10:00pm, somewhat scared that we'd get that late night dirty look from the servers, but just the opposite happened. The hostess was so gracious and offered that we either wait at the bar or sit at our table while we anticipated the arrival of 2 others. We apologized for showing up so late, and we were told that no matter how busy or slow, they really honor that they serve until 10:30 and that we shouldn't worry about it.

We sat at the bar and surfed the wine & cocktail menu, both which are so creative in wording and selection. I had the cilantro kaffir lime-ade & my partner the rhubarb & vanilla. We both took our first sips together and looked at each other in awe. The balance of sweet, sour and the actual flavor of the rhubarb and cilantro were amazing. These were by far the best cocktails we've had in ANY restaurant in the city. They actually taste like what they are supposed to, and all the fruits & vegetables are organic and muddled into the cocktail. We ordered the spreads to munch on at the bar. All 3 spreads were very different in taste and the portions were huge. We had to order more flat bread (twice) because the portion they start you off with doesn't go very far. or maybe it's just that they give you too much of the spreads.

Our friends showed up at 10:15 so we sat right away. We continued with lots of other cocktails -- cucumber fresca, meyer lemon cocktail, morocco mary and lavender & honey and they all were flawless. What's nice is that all the ingrediants in the cocktails went hand in hand with a lot of the flavors in the savory dishes - like harissa, rhubarb, meyer lemon, cucumber.

We didn't get into the wine list because we kept the cocktails coming, but our server suggested to next time try a riesling with the food because it matches perfectly. The same guy does their wine list who does the list at the Slanted Door.

For dinner, we ordered the wild mushrooms in pyllo, steamed mussels in an orange saffron & mint broth (much better than what you get at most french restaurants) and the spinach & feta cigars. The one thing that really stands out for me is that everything tasted and felt fresh. For main dishes we ordered the prawn tagine, best prawn dish I've ever had, the lamb & chicken brochettes & the cod claypot. The couscous is to die for. you will not taste couscous like this in any other restaurant. Our server told us that there is a guy in the kitchen that just steams the couscous all day long. Server suggested trying the squab or rabbit as well, but none of us are huge game eaters, but he did say that the method in which they are prepared, you don't taste the game flavors at all. Maybe next time.

Desserts were also another killer. Janet Dalton who has worked in the bay area for years does is their pastry chef (very impressive) and she works wonders. The rhubarb sorbet was the only dissapointment. It tasted more like a sour cherry sorbet than rhubarb. The caramel custars was awesome as was the almond milk sundae and the chocolate pot as well.

Overall, aziza is outstanding. Our server was top of the line, the decor is sexy and romantic and the food is so good for the reasonable prices. More than anything, we were impressed with how caring and nice the staff was to us. In a professional yet casual manner, they really made us feel at home and take it slow. The server even told us, "don't think you need to rush because you are the last table" and that really made our night worth it. It ended up being a very memorable evening from A-Z.

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