Aziza (San Francisco)
This Moroccan dinner spot stands out like a jewel in its food-rich but style-poor Richmond neighborhood. Midnight-blue alcoves are set into rounded arches, heavy iron chandeliers hang from wood-beamed ceilings, and diners roost on colorful cushions or sit up on tables along walls of patterned tile. You can’t eat until you wash your hands, and at Aziza a waiter brings an elaborately etched silver pitcher and basin to the table to see that the job gets done. All this fuss is fine and good ? as long as the food’s up to snuff. And it is. The Lahlou brothers, Khalid and Mourad, closed down the well-regarded Kasbah in San Rafael to devote themselves to making sure Aziza leaves a positive impression of their homeland’s cooking. Bastilla, a phyllo-crusted pie, is stuffed with rich saffron-touched chicken, almonds, and dusted with powder sugar. Tender stewed lamb is topped with wonderfully smoky charred eggplant, and a light, lemony couscous is piled high with vegetables or ? better yet ? a cornish hen painted in a lavender-honey and tangerine sauce. Finish off with a glass of sweet mint tea or scoops of creamy yogurt sorbet set on a slushy bed of orange granita, and try to slip out before the belly dancer makes another pass through the room.
5800 Geary Blvd @ 22nd Ave