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[SF] Aziza


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#1 Carolyn Tillie

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Posted 31 October 2009 - 04:29 PM

I have been lauding the praises of Aziza for several years now. It has been my go-to restaurants for anyone visiting from out of town and has never not impressed new comers and old friends alike.

Since the recent Michelin star, I went back last night with friends. It was one of the first times I haven't ordered the full tasting menu (which has gone from $55 to $62).

I started with a special starter of duck triangles with foie jus and moved into a seared mackeral with vadouvan, wilted greens, potatoes and octopus. I got to taste one of my compatriot's offerings; sardines (which are now cut up and not grilled whole) with fennel and brioche and Humboldt squid with fennel, tomato, and celery.

Besides the prices having gone up, the plating has become considerably more precious. I can see why this is now befitting a Michelin star for the perfect brunoise and stunning sauces. It is very elegant and precise and perfect. And I don't wonder if it hasn't lost a bit of its "chi" for me. It was all very good, yes. But I miss the great influx of Moroccan spices and influence. There are only two or three dishes on the menu that seem specifically Moroccan.

Is Aziza still all that and the bag of chips? Yes. Mourad is getting a lot of attention and will be getting that much more when his PBS show and cookbook comes out. It is just different from whence it came and I long for those days when Mourad was still discovering his path. It was great to be a part of the learning process and see how exceptional his skill has become.

I went back to my very first post on Aziza on eG almost five years ago (and am really sorry the pictures are gone!), but here is a description of the entrées:
  • Hungarian Paprika-smothered Cloverdale Rabbit with Parsnip Purée, Organic Tomatoes, and Alfonso Olives
  • Saffron-infused Hoffman Ranch Cornish Hen capped with House-Preserved Meyer Lemons and Purple Potato Mash
  • Braised Paine Farm Squab with Wine Forest Black Trumpet and Hedgehog Mushrooms on a Thyme-Ras el Hanout Reduction
  • Stewed Lamb crowned with Charred Eggplant in a Ginger Saffron Broth, Sun-Dried Point Reyes Tomatoes, and Sudaniya Oil
I can still remember every single one of these dishes and I really miss these flavors and concoctions. The platings were admittedly large and could be considered sloppy. I most remember the amazing cornish hen with purple mash; the plates were large and the food covered the whole bottom of the plate. Now the plates are large with smaller inserts and the platings are refined and deliberate.

I am just wistful, I guess. Aziza is still an incredibly outstanding restaurant. It is just a different one that I had grown to love and I will always long for some of those flavors I had grown to admire.

#2 robert40

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Posted 31 October 2009 - 05:03 PM

I can recount seeing many restaurants evolve over the years and can relate. It is often bittersweet as sometimes a bit of soul is lost for each mile marker of success gained. Hopefully that is not the case with Aziza.

I enjoyed this recent article linked below.

http://www.sfgate.co.../MN0O19V3B2.DTL

#3 beachfan

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Posted 31 October 2009 - 07:09 PM

Nice post; sorry I never made it there in the old days.

#4 Orik

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Posted 03 May 2012 - 03:46 PM

Great cocktails, very good wine list, skip the food.
I never said that

#5 Orik

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Posted 08 May 2012 - 07:41 PM

To expand a bit - I think the chef here has probably surrounded himself by people who are telling him he's too good for ethnic. This means much of the food is no longer recognizably Moroccan, and that instead you end up getting many dishes that are like those at a weak French 1-star place (oh, wait, it is a one star restaurant), with a few that stand out, like the terrific duck bastilla.

Another issue, and this is one of the things I hate the most about certain restaurants, is that they use luxury ingredients in a superbly offensive manner. For example, a dish is described as coconut panna cotta with russian caviar, but it neglects to mention there are 14 beads of caviar in the dish (I counted) on quite a bit of cold, gelatinous panna cotta... roughly a fifteenth of a teaspoon, you can do the math.

A dish of Wagyu beef - a single slice of stringy, rather bland meat (from some part of the loin, said the waiter) - obviously Wagyu (still visible marbling) but I'm guessing frozen poorly, or otherwise mistreated.

Foie gras - oh, you mean two or three grams in the sauce...

And so on. I can easily believe it used to be better before, as the Hebrew expression goes, they were jumping above their belly buttons.
I never said that