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Restaurants & Bars 5

AZIZA report (long)

brian j | Feb 6, 2006 02:04 PM

My parents were visiting this past weekend, so I wanted to take them somewhere special and uniquely Californian. I'd been hoping to get to Aziza for a while so this seemed like the perfect opportunity. I made an 8pm reservation for last Friday and we arrived on time and were seated immediately in a very comfortable moon-shaped booth.

Upon entering the restaurant I felt an almost immediate sense of warmth and welcome. Dimly lit, but not dark, Aziza is adorned with red glass chandeliers and bulbous light fixtures.

I started things off with a delicious meyer lemon basil drop, a cocktail consisting of fresh meyer lemon, basil, charbay meyer lemon vodka, cointreau and a splash of bubbles. It was as cool and refreshing as a glass of lemonade on a hot summer day. My girlfriend opted for the blood orange & mint smash containing blood orange muddled with mint & lime, hangar one vodka, cointreau and organic cranberry juice. Another tastey beverage option.

Having already perused the menu and read other hounds' reviews, I had a pretty good idea of at least some of the dishes I wanted to order for the table. I placed an order for the mediterranean spreads for the table. All three were delicious, but the roasted pepper and pomegranate was certainly the tastiest and most interesting. The other two spreads were aged balsamic eggplant mousse and yogurt-dill. The grilled flat bread was had been heated up on the grill and was buttery and soft.

While we were waiting for our next dish, we were brought out complimentary mini-cups of soup. We each received our own little cup, and there were two types in all. One was a creamy cauliflower soup which we were all practically fighting over it was so good. And I'm not one to really rave about cauliflower. The other was a lentil soup which was also very good.

Seared day boat scallops with a warm salad of diced vegetables and pine nut-currant vinaigrette was next. I was surprised that we received 4 scallops. Our server said he had requested one for everyone at the table, which made me think that the dish does not usually have 4. The scallops were perfectly cooked with nice carmelized sears on the outside, and supple juiciness on the inside. The accompanying vegetables were exquisitely diced and paired nicely with the scallop and vinaigrette.

For my main dish I ordered the Devils Gulch Ranch rabbit. Fanned out on the plate were thick slices of the rabbit breast which was accompanied by a bing cherry sauce. The breast meat was moist, and not gamey at all. A bit like a tiny chicken breast. The best part however, was the hungarian paprika smothered rabbit thigh. The meat was dark and luscious and the paprika sauce was a wondeful match. This was all sided with some velvety parsnip purée and some colorful baby carrots. This was the first rabbit dish I can remember eating ever, and it was a great one to start with. My girlfriend is not one to really eat rabbit, but she was sneaking bites every chance she could get.

For her main course she ordered the coriander beef stew. The beef was tender and shreddy, and vibrantly perfumed with bright corriander flavor.

My mother has a smaller appetitie so she ordered an the Prather Ranch kefta skewers appetizer as her main. These tiny meatballs were about size of grapes and the skewers also contained grapes and pearl onions. The menu didn't make any mention of lamb, but it the apparently these little gems contain ground lamb in addition to the beef. They were small but delicious. Our server offered to add a few extra skewers to make this appy more of a main, but my mom declined, which I later regretted as I could have easily eaten another few of these. The meatballs were served atop a cucumber "spaghetti" with a yogurty sauce.

My father's main dish was probably the most innovative dish of the evening. He ordered stewed lamb crowned with charred eggplant. The stewed lamb and eggplant had mixed together and molded into a ball on the center of his plate. Around the side there was a creamy saffron sauce which was punctuated by a flavor none of us had ever had, sudaniya oil. Our server said it's a very expensive oil from North Africa, I believe. It's hard to describe, but from what I remember it was somewhat nutty and earthy.

This was easily the best meal I've had since moving out here this past December. The food was all wonerfully prepared and presented. The service was right on. And the ambiance was relaxing and complimentary to the meal. I will definitely be returning here and whole heartedly recommend this place.

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