Saturday, December 27, 2014

Aziza

Aziza is a Moroccan restaurant known for cocktails, sous vide skills, and a Michelin star.

The decor was a beautiful deep red, with a lux blue surrounding the bar.  We all loved the bar light fixture, which looks blown out in this pic, but was a really fun shade of blue.


You can see the time and energy they put into cocktails on the bartender's face!


Goorin hats FTW.


Great to have Ryan as an addition to the SF crew.


The beautiful Laws girls.


Their cocktails were all pretty prep-intensive.  This one was a riff on a bloody mary featuring blended red bell pepper, rye, cocchi americano, and bonal.  The other drinks were equally inventive, including one featuring hickory smoke foam on the top.

We all opted for the twelve course tasting menu.  The mark of a truly flexible restaurant and talented chef, they do accommodate dietary restrictions in their tasting menu, which is awesome for the lady.

The first course was labeled "snacks" and was like a set of three amuse bouches.


Glazed carrots with sprouted lentils.


Oyster with cucumber, tumbo seeds, and a bit of green herb on the top.


Lisa had a fried broccolini, almost like a super light tempura, with a brussels sprout and a dab of harissa.  It is amazing to see what you can do with a very simple dish that has been cooked perfectly.


Brown rice cracker egg yolk emulsion with pickled onions and chive (Lisa's).


The same egg yolk, pickled onion and chive as Lisa's but on a cracker made of fried chicken skin.


Sunchoke fritter with brown butter powder and honey -- working the salty-sweet angle hard.  This was amazing and perfectly cooked.


Deep fried potato covered with osetra caviar, creme freche pearls, and micro parsley.


Another Lisa course: grilled avocado with blood orange, heart of palm, and tumbo seeds (a.k.a. vegetarian caviar).


Smoked trout sous vide with cucumber, trout roe, amazing chive oil, and horseradish sauce.   Lisa had a really yummy tomato lentil soup paired with this course, the picture was crappy, but the soup was awesome.


This was one of the big stand-out dishes of the night, and the picture just doesn't do it justice.  Under this blanket of potato puree was a lamb belly chermoula with the most amazing sous vide egg yolk.  It was fully cooked, had a texture of custard yet retained the bright orange color, sheen, and transparency of a raw yolk.  The dish was topped with in-house rice krispies for contrasting texture.


Not knowing exactly how they were going to follow the egg dish, we were a bit leary when the couscous arrived.  This one was vegetarian and featured winter squash, pumpkin puree, cranberry, almond and harissa.  Sometimes couscous is dry and gummy, but this was sweet, soft, and had amazing texture.  We learned this can only come from intense freshness: they make their couscous in house everyday, rolling it by hand.


Basteeya is a traditional moroccan meat pie, and is one of the stand-out dishes on the Aziza a la carte menu.   For the tasting menu, the duck pie was additionally dressed with grape gel, micro turnip and tarragon powder.  It was a delightful set of flavors, and crunchy goodness.


Sometimes vegetarians lose out with tasting menus, and even with restaurant food in general.  That wasn't the case at Aziza.  In fact, Lisa's nettle barley risotto pictured above was one of the other best dishes of the evening.  The shaved apple and fennel garnish on the top was sliced impossibly thin, so it's flavor didn't overwhelm the dish.


Quail, the second main course, was very beautiful.  The play of the electric green chive oil agaisnst the harissa broth balanced by the intense green leaves and pink quail was stunning.


Lisa's second main course was perfectly cooked mushrooms and cipolini onions with more potato puree and parsnips.  At this point, she was already full and crying uncle and so the smaller portion wasn't a big deal.


Beet braised in grape juice with goat cheese and honey.  It was surprising how much the grape flavor still came through after braising.  Goat cheese + honey = heaven.


Apple sorbet, matcha (green tea) crunch, and more impossibly thinly sliced apple that was lightly pickled.  OMG what an amazingly light but flavorful dessert, the pickled apple was the best part.


The second dessert featured a ganache made with olio nuovo (very first pressing of olive oil) ganache on the plate, topped with chicory, malted milk ice cream, almond, and chocolate.   It was nuanced with subtle complexity that you don't usually find in desserts.


Sugar bombs - a wonderfully light fried puff pastry covered in sugar.


Passion fruit gelee with hibiscus sugar coating, a pecan praline, huckleberry financier, and a chocolate truffle.

The night ended with a small takeaway of granola for each person at the table.  The granola was super yummy with a crunch fueled with buckwheat groats, more rice krisipes and a wonderful orange cinnamon tang.

The service was just as wonderful as the food.  Overall, we had an amazing time with great company.