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Family of 6 report - Aziza - Moroccan

Native SF in Midwest | Mar 25, 2006 10:22 AM

Last night we dined in romantic Morocco at Aziza and saw what all of the fuss was about on the boards. We were greeted by Farnoush, which means many toasts in Farsi, without any of the “oh no, they have a baby” look when we visit romantic restaurants. Max was our server and was spot on in every way. It felt as though we were his only table for the whole night and his resetting and coursing pacing was perfect. Everything was “just so” as he made sure we, as his guests, had every need anticipated as responded to promptly. We arrived at 5:45 and the place was around ¼ full. At 7:00, may arrived and the place was full. When we left around 8:00, there was a large number of people waiting, so please make reservations, especially for a Friday night as we did.

We started by ordering the Moroccan tea which was less sweet than we had experienced elsewhere and was still liked by all. Max asked how strong and sweet we preferred and made adjustments to future pots as he came to the table with more. Once again my son went through 7 or more cups of it with abandon. It made for a rather uncomfortably long bus ride home though. Max asked it we wanted bottled or tap water for the night. I said tap and we received water that had a distinctive hint of cucumber juice that was a surprise for all and liked. I think more places should do this and move away from the lemon water.

Almost immediately a bowl of three breads, olive loaf, traditional Moroccan and an organic whole wheat, along with butter was brought to the table. As a parent, his immediate delivery of something to give to the little ones is always appreciated. The Moroccan bread was particularly wonderful, just the right amount of body and crust.

I ordered and shared the Cucumber Fresca which was every bit as good as other hounds have stated. I rarely drink, maybe twice a year, but this was a good time to try something. It was crisp and light and sweet with a bit of lemon. Everyone had a little sip and liked it.

We were pleased that the soup of the day was the cream of asparagus. It was delicious and a terrific non-sweet taste in preparation for the mean. Everyone loved it and the generous amount of lump crab meat served as a little island in the middle was a nice touch. The amount of cream in this is minimal as most of the liquid is a light stock, and this allowed the subtleties of the asparagus to show through. It was punctuated by the occasional whole red peppercorn which added a nice flash of flavor every so often. We ordered 5 half bowls and shared among the 6 of of us, which was the perfect amount. Full bowls are $8, half are $5 so there is a small premium to pay for this. If your baby likes veggies as ours does, they should like this. Recommended.

Max recommended, as have many hounds, the giant lima beans. I will stand up right now a let everyone know that there is NO ONE that hates lima beans than myself. However these were fantastic! These one inch sized beans are baked in a casserole with a tomato based sauce and a pugent cheese on top. One child said it was like great spaghetti sauce and parmesan cheese over beans. Everyone loved this and although it was a small dish, it easily allowed everyone to have a good tasting sample. Our middle daughter scraped and polished of the final bits with great voracity. The cheese might be a little strong for some kids, but worth testing. Highly recommended.

Next came the avocado and grapefruit salad. This had the potential to be the first item that would be too sweet, but it was not. The grapefruit was yellow, not ruby red as I have had with other similar salads, but it was still wonderful. Nice and light. It came with 5 slices of grapefruit so I would consider getting two if dining with more that 4 other people. Very good and worth getting again.

The meal began to hit its stride with the arrival of the amazing spreads and an extra half order of the grilled flatbread. The taste conjured up images of the diner scene in “When Harry met Sally”… If you go and do not try this, you should not have gone. Three spreads are presented along with wonder flatbread that I could have eaten by itself as a meal right there and been done. The spreads are a yogurt dill light and mildly sour, a pomegranate-based sweeter spread and a darker chickpea-based and more spicy spread. Everyone found a favorite and although we have read that you should layer this stuff on thick, we could bring ourselves to do it as the flatbread was so good, we didn’t want to mask over its flavor. The communal aspect of sharing it is also very nice such as when dining Ethiopian-style or fondue style. Highly recommended for all tastes.

At this point the 2.5 year old put down her fork and asked for the “food sticks”. I think she felt that the food on her plate was exotic enough that she should be using chopsticks instead. We explained things and she moved on with the fork.

Next out was the black cod claypot. This was very well prepared and even my wife, who does not care for fish, enjoyed this. This is definitely a dish to share as there is a large amount of very filling potatoes. The fish was so delicate and light it was actually falling apart as we served it. If you are someone who only likes extremely non-fishy dishes like mahi mahi, you may want to try something else as the fishy taste is evident. The dish is still wonderful and recommended.

The vegetable couscous was my favorite. We have couscous at home with meals and this was wonderful. The presentation was wonderful with a formed base of the grain with a tower of steamed veggies on top. Everyone liked this and if I was dropping by for a quick lunch for one, I think I would order this. This is strongly recommended as a side item for the table to go with virtually any other dish. Not ordering this would be like ordering Chinese and skipping the rice. A must.

The stewed lamb with crunchy eggplant was marvelous, again nothing sweet here. We considered ordering the lamb shank as Max said it was their most popular, but we had read it was sometimes dry and will try it next year. The stewed lamb however did not suffer from dryess as it was as tender as the most tender Midwestern, Sunday supper-after-church pot roast I have experienced. Universally loved by all, except my 8 year old son who has a problem with eating lamb. I asked him if he wanted a “little lamb”, he said “no” and I said, “but Atticus, even ‘Mary had a little lamb’”. Not amused, he passed anyway. The accompanying sauce and purple mashed potatoes were great. This is a good choice for those who wants to feel they are getting something predictable and yet exotic. The lamb flavor predominates and if someone likes leg of lamb or lamb chops, they will like this. The mint tea goes particularly well with this.

As we began considering dessert, we all realized we were all very full. I cannot imagine if we had ordered the prix fixe. There would have been too much food. Max did offer that if we had opted for it, they could split one tasting fee per two children which would have reduced the cost and food to more acceptable levels. However, having been armed by the recommendations of you hounds, we felt no need to follow the tasting formulary.

For dessert we ordered the Ruby Red 3 ways, a wonderful red grapefruit sorbet served with 5 sweet grapefruit slices. This was served in an overly pretentious large bowl suitable for a family-sized salad. The amount was definitely sized for one person, so order two if you have a table of 5 or more if sharing more than a sliver of it per person is the plan. We also ordered the often commented upon “Ode to France” and combination of hot chocolate with cayenne pepper in a cup with a unique marshmallow and then a bowl of absolutely velvety chocolate custard. It was also spiced slightly with cayenne and absolutely magnificent. They were kind enough to send out two, half-filled cups of the hot chocolate which made sharing easier. This was a wonderful treat, and a nice departure from the ever present warm center, molten chocolate cake dessert which seems ever present as finer restaurants. Custard is enough to share and absolutely a must for those who cannot finish a meal without chocolate. We had inquired about the “Candy Store” dessert which we had heard so much about. They apologized that it was not being offered that week as the pomegranates used as a main ingredient were not considered acceptable that week. As a consolation, they brought out a complimentary serving of their fancier with huckleberry sauce and a scoop of cinnamon ice cream which was delicious. The baby loved this, especially the huckbleberries. My son went off the menu and asked just for some plain cinnamon ice cream as this is his favorite and only available during the cold autumn back in the Midwest. They asked how many scoops and he requested 2 but I think wanted to say 4. He loved it and said it was equal to any at home. They did not charge us for his dessert either (maybe 4 scopps would have been better).

Net result, everyone loved it. “Best restaurant so far this trip.”, and “I love this place dad.”, were immediate opinions heard from the youngsters. I whole heartedly recommend the place for food, ambience and service. I cannot imagine saying you have come to San Francisco and say you have dined here and not gone to Aziza. A word of note to families, they staff made us feel supremely welcome as a family and went out of their way to let us know having the kids there was a plus. They do not want to be known just as a romantic place apparently.

In comparison to Tajine in the tenderloin, the two are so different in ambience and style of preparation, you can do both and feel like you did not repeat the cuisine. Both are welcoming and wonderful. Tajine is so small and Mohammed takes orders, cooks it and serves everything. The whole time you can see and talk to Mohammed while he is cooking. It feels very homey, as though you are at someone’s house and they are using mom’s long time recipes. Lots of comfort foods at Tajine.

Aziza is far more upscale and attentive service is a hall mark. Presentation is as much of a concern as the taste and it is evident that some classical culinary training is part of the Aziza kitchen staff’s resumes. Also, if you like cocktails, it must be one of the top on the west coast for their creations. The variety alone could bring people in for many successive visits. Cost is more than twice as much as Tajine and worth it.

Total with tip $172.00

Next up, Kabul in San Carlos where my father lives or the Matterhorn Swiss Fondue restaurant.


Previous posts:
- Fresca on Fillmore - Peruvian:

- Burma Super Star - Burmese:

- Sultan (cancelled) actually Nick's Seafood stand in wharf area

- Tajine - Moroccan

- Bodega Bistro - Vietnamese

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