Sunday night my wife I met a friend from another board, Linda, who is a wine maker at Peachy Canyon. We've been online friends for several years. She's been interested in Moroccan cooking and so we agreed to meet for supper at Aziza in San Francisco. Both of us had read great things about the cocktails so we started off with a round. She had something almond based that was pretty amazing. Louise had brandy with ginger and peach, and I had a drink made with kumquat and rosemary. I really thought that showed a chef's imagination, because the terpenes in the citrus and the rosemary matched up in unsuspected ways. The water poured throughout the evening had a subtle flavor of cucumber which was really nice.
The price of the tasting menu had gone up to $95 (last I had seen online it was $75) so none of us were really interested in that, and of course the whole table would have had to go in together.
I had frankly come intending to get the lamb shank, which is served on a bed of farro mixed with marinated dates. I had read the recipe in the Mourad cookbook and wondered how close I could come to reproducing it. I think I can do it now.
At any rate, for appetizers, Linda ordered the flatbread with 3 dips and we got some extra bread so we could share. There was a red dip, basically Muhammara (sweet pureed roasted peppers with nuts and pomegranate syrup) but I think the berbere spice mixture had been added. A brown dip, chick peas, which I think had the chermoula spice mixture added. And a white dip, perhaps yoghurt with onion and mint?? Just a guess. All three were delicious and the flatbreads were a far cry from "pita" -- something dense, I think with semolina flour. I am hoping that flatbread is in the cookbook, we are still on vacation so I can't check. The other appetizer was tasty but very skimpy, amberjack "sashimi" with tiny pea pods and tiny mushrooms, and a smear of ash from burned green onions. Flavorwise, OK, but a bare mouthful when split 3 ways.
For the main course, both Linda and I ordered the lamb shanks, and Louise went for one of the specials, a quail that had been boned and made into a roulade. What it boiled down to was 3 cylinders of meat, basically the size of a wine cork each, with a scattering of baby vegetables. Without half of my lamb shank Louise would have starved...
On this trip we have encountered some remarkable wines which are "not for sale." Linda's wine, Sin Nombre, was one of those. It smelled a lot like a good Barolo, and it was splendid with the lamb. But if you want to taste it you need to go to the tasting room at Peachy Canyon.
Louise had a very fancy dessert with an "egg" of gelato, some cake, and some sweet hibiscus soup. I just had some Moroccan mint tea, and Linda had the kumquat cocktail.
It was a very nice evening, but I think it showed the strengths and weaknesses of Mourad's approach. You can't leave people hungry, you can't give them 3 spoonfuls of something and call it a course, unless there are many courses. In online reviews you can find people who spent $95 on the tasting menu and then had to go find a cheeseburger.
The safest way to order is to get things that you know have been on the menu for a long time. Don't order the special!
Still I have to say the flavors were exotic and intriguing and I plan to cook more from Mourad's cookbook when I get home.
Last edited by Frank Deis
on Thu Jun 14, 2012 1:43 pm, edited 1 time in total.