Aziza, San Francisco
Since my last visit to Aziza—long ago—Chef Mourad Lahlou has earned many awards and accolades, including a Michelin Star in 2010, the first awarded to a Moroccan restaurant. Aziza had been renovated since my last visit. The dining area to the right was dimly lit with modern furnishings. My companions and I were seated at a large table for three with a cushioned bench by the wall and a chair opposite.
We shared the lentil soup and spreads with flatbed starters. The soup had some lentil grains and a tangy lemon aftertaste with a sweet finish, if one of the few medjool dates happened to be in the spoon. The eggplant, piquillo-almond-tahini and yogurt dill spreads were all delicious on toasted triangles of perfectly done flat bread, especially the tahini with the nutty taste of almonds mixing with sweet peppers. The yogurt dill cleansed the palate between the other two.
Our mains were fish—two orders of black cod in a broth with broccolini and sorrel with a wafer of fried fish skin and halibut with morel mushrooms, English peas and saffron. Separated easily with a fork, the moist cod carried the subtle flavors of the broth tinged by the sorrel’s Kiwi tang; a bite of the wafer added a hint of fish and brine. The al dente broccolini provided a contrast to the soft fish and prepared the palate for the next bite.
The halibut was embellished by a clever combination of land flavors—earthy morels and grassy saffron together with the slightly crunchy and sweet taste of peas. It all made for a delicious mouthful.
For desert we shared a Pavlova, a meringue preparation popular in Australia, with strawberry and buttermilk sorbets and fennel tops. The Pavlova was crispy with a soft interior that tasted like sweet cream cheese. The sorbets and strawberries were luscious, especially the buttermilk, with the fennel tops adding a licorice flavor.
We had a bottle of Gris des Bauries 2011, an organic Cotes du Rhone blend of Syrah and Grenache from Southern Rhone. On its own it was a nice blend of spiciness from the Grenache, body from Syrah and berries from both, but may have been a trifle full-bodied for our mains, not a perfect match.
The service staff was helpful, unobtrusively attentive, and couldn’t have been any better. Aziza’s food, service and wine are all superb—a truly enjoyable combined experience. Its Michelin Star is well deserved.
5800 Geary Blvd and 22nd Avenue, San Francisco
Reservations are advisable. Street parking is available with a search; valet parking is available.