Kim: I was so excited when we walked into Aziza's dimly-lit bar and dining room. It was beautifully decorated, and transported you right off the bustle of Geary and into a different world. But trouble was lurking in the tranquility. The first sign came when the host ignored us while she argued with a waiter. When she did turn to us, I almost felt like we were imposing on her. But then we were whisked off to our table, and I chalked it up to a minor intrusion. Our waiter promptly came to our table, told us the specials, then breezed away, not to be seen again for about 20 minutes while we desperately tried to get his attention to order our cocktails. Fortunately, once they arrived and we sipped them, we became blissfully happy.
Stephanie: Dude, I totally didn't notice the hostess thing! I was too entranced by all the filmy curtains and deep booths carved into the walls. You know, the booths we didn't get to sit in. However, if I were to judge Aziza by cocktails alone, I would give them full, slightly slurred, marks. I mean, let's face it, their Lavender & Honey gin martini? Golden iridescent perfection that managed to give me full lavender without tasting like my grandmother's perfume. Dr. Mathra's Ginger & Pear drink was similarly wonderful, right down to the skewered candied ginger garnish, and Kim's Preserved Lemon Drop was lovely and refreshing. There are many more cocktails I'd go back for as well -- I mean, how could I not try their version of a Bloody Mary made with balsamic vinegar? Or the Marrakech Express with cardamom espresso? -- but I'd have to go with a full stomach because I don't really intend to eat there again.
Kim: Me neither. Not that the food was bad, because it wasn't. In fact, some of it was really tasty, but the service! I don't know if something was going on that night, but it was probably some of the weirdest and worst service I've had in a long time. Although I have to say it was quite friendly in all of its badness. Anyway, we ordered the cocktails and received them quite promptly, but then had to wait for another 20 minutes before ordering the rest of our meal (at which point we were told we could not order appetizers and entrees separately, they had to go in as one order).
Stephanie: Seriously -- what was that about? I've never been to a restaurant where I was told that they "couldn't" take just our first course order without getting our mains. Anyway, we had pretty much decided what we wanted. That is until Kim made the fatal mistake of asking our waiter what he suggested. When he praised the lamb shank, Kim had the briefest of pauses as she started to rethink her original choice. Now, you'd think that the waiter could have just asked the rest of us what we wanted, since it was clear we had our minds made up and thus given Kim time to mull. Nope. As soon as Kim showed some hesitation the waiter was off and running again. When he finally came back, Kim actually had the balls to inquire about the chef's tasting menu. The waiter rattled off, "You get a starter, a basteeya, couscous, a main, and dessert." Um, dude? Yeah, we could tell that from what it said on menu, but we were really looking for more along the lines of why the tasting menu "highlights the flavors and textures which encompass the entire range of [the] menu." Whatever. We didn't press it. We ordered. Our appetizers arrived fairly quickly and they were all tasty. However, Kim and I did find the carrot soup to be a bit too orangey and sweet for our tastes, but Wendy and Dr. Mathra really liked it. The wild mushroom phyllo triangles were delicious and, except for one of the three being a bit too sweet, the Mediterranean spreads were also yummy. The problem was more the portion size.
Kim: The mushroom pastries were divine: crisp, light phyllo and a delicious medley of mushrooms. The smoky eggplant spread combined with the yogurt spread and the (too few) triangles of freshly grilled flatbread were completely addictive. As soon as they set the dish down, though, we knew we would need to order more flatbread and fortunately we were able to order and receive it very quickly. Still, even with an additional order, we didn't have enough to finish our spreads. We also ordered the kefta skewers, tender little grilled meatballs and grapes on a refreshing cucumber salad. They were also quite tasty. The main dishes came shortly after we finished our appetizers. We decided to order four dishes and more or less share them. Stephanie ordered the grilled rosemary lamb brochettes, and those ended up being my favorite. Sadly, there were only three brochettes, each with two pieces of lamb, which in my opinion, seemed a bit stingy. I ordered the Andulusian Chilean sea bass, which I actually didn't realize was sea bass or I never would have ordered it. (Um, I don't know what I was thinking but the cocktail and all the waiting time obviously went to my head. I must've had halibut on the brain. Bad Kim. But then again, why was it even on the menu?!) I wasn't terribly thrilled with my entrée, but others seemed to like it, even though it was a very small piece of fish for the price. Dr. Mathra ordered the Couscous Aziza, chock full of grilled and stewed meats and seafood, vegetables, and excellent couscous. And Wendy ordered the coriander veal stew, which was good but a bit overly rich for my taste, although she seemed to love it.
Stephanie: More weird service issues occurred when the mains came. The waiter who was bringing our dishes (different from the one who took our order) having previously blown off Kim when she asked for more flatbread ("I'll tell your waiter," he pointedly tossed over his shoulder as he walked away with our empty bottle of Fitou), decided that now was the time to start telling jokes. Dirty jokes. He made an unfunny about halibut that I don't even remember except that it was totally random and then he said, "What do you call a guy that has been circumcised?" Blank looks from all of us. "He's not playing with a full dick." This as he puts down Dr. Mathra's couscous with grilled sausages! People? I'm not a prude but it was just one more weird thing in a whole night of weirdness. And don't even get me started on how hard it was to get paper towels out of the dispenser in the bathroom. Sustainable agriculture issues aside, I really did like the fish. It was light and flavorful and I'd definitely get it again except man, the piece was so tiny! It was like one bite! And not even a big one at that. My dish was the best but then again, I'm a self-named lambivore. The lamb was done perfectly. Dark pink on the inside, grilled on the outside, and lamby goodness throughout. However, as Kim said, not enough lamb. Not enough for one person and certainly not enough to share. The saffron-scented couscous Dr. Mathra got and the portion served with my lamb was exceptional. If I could make couscous like that at home, I'd make it all the time. For dessert, Kim got some atrocious coffee that was so sour it made me wonder if they need to clean their filter, and we all shared a brownie sundae with almond milk ice cream and almond brittle. Again, teeny tiny serving for the price, and I really don't know where the brownie even was. Maybe going to Aziza is like going on a diet. Problem is, I don't like diets.
Posted by KimG and Stephanie