poor scientist. will blog 4 food.

the culinary adventures of a self-described foodie

Holiday Indulgence at Aziza

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When I first started working at my new job (the company shall be called XYZ, henceforth), my boss, knowing about my love of food, piqued my interest by telling me about the fancy XYZ holiday dinners of years past. As it turns out, he’s quite a foodie himself, and picking a venue for our annual holiday party gives him an excuse to sample the area’s finest before deciding on the winner.

This year, the venue was Aziza, a restaurant with its roots in Moroccan cuisine but using Californian ingredients. Moroc-Cali, if you will. I was excited just at the fact that it had a Michelin star; I’ve never been to a restaurant with a Michelin star before. My pre-dining research on Yelp told me that the tasting menu was the most popular item, but I was still unsure of what to order. Luckily, we were going to be served a family style meal, with 3 starters, 1 mid-course dish, 3 main course entrees, and 3 desserts.

Before sitting down, we were offered pre-dinner cocktails. I went for the sangria (not pictured) and TC ordered a handmade cilantro vodka cocktail. Mine was good but his was delicious.

A pre-dinner drink. How civilized.

Next up: our starters. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.

Spreads with grilled flatbread. From left to right: chickpea, yogurt-dill, piquillo-almond.

Beets with persimmon, celery, and charred yogurt.

Chicken wings with kohlrabi, apple, and cabbage.

The chicken wings were my favorite; too bad they were tiny, bite-sized pieces. I could’ve had a whole tub full of these things. They were perfectly seasoned and cooked to perfection. The spreads were super delicious too. I especially liked the flat bread and the chickpea spread, though the yogurt dill was a crowd favorite. The beets were underwhelming, though the presentation was quite lovely.

Next, we had a mid-course dish of duck confit basteeya. OMG. This was the best thing EVER.

Duck confit basteeya with raisins and almonds. This photo sucks and does not convey how awesome this dish was.

A basteeya (or pastilla), is a Moroccan meat pie, traditionally filled with squab or chicken. The outside is made of a crepe-thin phylo-like dough. It was amazing, and definitely the best thing we had all evening. It’s no wonder that the basteeya is the Moroccan national dish (at least, according to Wikipedia).

Well, that was a hard act to follow, but we managed to move forward. The main entrees were:

Branzino (white flaky fish) with celery, chanterelles, and kumquat.

Chicken with date, cipollini, and nettle soubric (the dark diamond shaped things).

Lamb shank with barley, cherry, and saffron.

The fish was good, and again, well-spiced. The chicken was a very interesting presentation, and the nettle soubrics were one of the strangest things I’ve ever eaten. Texture-wise, it was like a dense foam. The lamb was fall-off-the-bone tender. I liked it, even though I’m not usually a big fan of lamb. I especially liked the cherries in with the barley. To be honest, if I had ordered the fish or chicken as my main entrée, I would’ve been disappointed. The lamb was definitely the stand-out amongst the entrees, in terms of taste and portion size.

Finally, the desserts!

Mint Bavarian, with hibiscus, lime foam, and pistachio.

Walnut tart with black sesame ice cream (in an unfortunate shape) and cranberry.

Chocolate mousse with pumpkin ganache, kumquat, and hazelnut cake.

I’ll start with the chocolate mousse. Maybe my expectations were too high, and/or maybe this dish was too complicated, but I thought it was pretty disappointing. I think it would’ve been better with either the pumpkin ganache OR the hazelnut cake, but not both. It was pretty though! As was the walnut tart, which I thought was probably the most beautiful dessert I’d ever seen. The black sesame ice cream was slightly lacking in both taste and presentation (who decided on that shape anyway?!). Finally, the mint Bavarian was the surprise favorite for me. It was a panna cotta-like dessert with a refreshing, mint flavor.

To top it all off, my boss bought several bottles of wine from Rosenblum to go with our meal, and sent each of us home with a box of Godiva chocolates. I went home feeling very full of both food and gratitude.

I loved this family style eating because we got to sample a bunch of everything. Now I know that if/when I go back to Aziza, I’ll order a handmade cocktail, 2 orders of chicken wings, and one basteeya and I’ll be a very happy girl.

Author: Jen

Howdy! I'm a 30-something recovering former academic living in the San Francisco Bay Area. I like to eat, run, and blog, but not usually at the same time.

2 thoughts on “Holiday Indulgence at Aziza

  1. My favorite restaurant of all time. Almost all of the cocktails are spectacular in the way of “I would never imagine this, but it’s still delicious.”

    It’s a shame you missed out on the sardines though. There’s usually some type of sardine dish on the menu, and they are universally incredible.

  2. All of this sounds amazing. How nice to indulge in such excellent food. I really started drooling when you showed the desserts. What a generous treat from your boss as well!

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