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2005

Julie Ross

Marrakech-born Mourad Lahlou took up cooking in California, and it shows. Moroccan combinations of sweet, savory and spicy are everywhere, of course, as in a wonderful bastilla (chicken in phyllo with sugar). But at Aziza, flavors and textures are lightened up, and organic veggies take a starring role: Fluffy saffron couscous with seasonal vegetables is delicious with or without juicy, spicy lamb sausage.

You’ll be tempted to fill up on starters, like chewy grilled flatbread, cinnamony olives and zesty limas with feta. But don’t miss entrees like veal with coriander — it’s a French stew wearing exotic perfume. And plan for dessert, a love affair of spice and fruit. Go for anything ice cream: intense cardamom, surprising lemon basil or vivid nectarine sorbet.

You don’t need libations to feel drunk on ambience, which is another draw. Jewel-like lights, a bazaar of colors and a belly dancer undulating through three rooms work with gracious service and hushed music to make Aziza feel both low-key and lush. If you’re inclined to imbibe, try an Alsatian Riesling, a spicy reds or a cocktail, like the Fez fizz (pomegranate juice with bubbly) — or check out the tea list, which includes traditional sweetened mint.