A while back I wrote about the great restaurant, Outerlands, located in the Outer Sunset District of San Francisco. Outer Richmond is a bit different. First, it is not to be confused with the City of Richmond located north of Berkeley and Oakland and home to the (in)famous Chevron refinery. Outer Richmond lies just north of Golden Gate Park and south of the Presidio and the very toney Pacific Heights, Presidio Heights, and Seacliff (home to the Barber family of the popular radio show of the Second World War, One Man’s Family – if you are old enough to remember.)
Outer Richmond does not lack for restaurants. It is home to many immigrant groups including Russians, Vietnamese, Koreans, Greeks, and Chinese. In fact, some people say that San Francisco’s REAL Chinatown is in the Richmond rather than the touristy version near Union Square. There are whole blocks with nothing but ethnic restaurants, many of them quite good, but none exactly a tourist destination.
Aziza is the exception. A number of years ago, it started out as a Moroccan restaurant serving the traditional cuisine. With time, it has morphed into an upscale California-American restaurant but with Moroccan overtones. And the food is delicious. Aziza has a Michelin star to prove that.
We spent a great evening there in the recent past. One of the secrets of our success was booking an early reservation. The place got very crowded as the evening wore on. On top of that, Aziza sits on the corner of Geary and 22nd, so parking is impossible. You should definitely begin your hunt for a parking space well in advance of your scheduled reservation.
The menu changes fairly often, so you may not have the choices we had, but you can buy the cook book if you want to sample what’s available: Mourad: New Moroccan by Mourad Lahlou, Artisan, 2011, $40.00.
Spreads: eggplant, yogurt-dill, and piquillo-almond-tahini served with flatbread
Not your usual Middle Eastern dips and spreads, although they are clearly based on the traditionals. They are creamy-smooth with distinct but subtle flavorings.
Beets with cabbage, persimmon, cheese, peanuts, and rye tuiles
These days, nearly every restaurant serves a beet salad, but not like this. The beets are roasted and come with the root completely intact, nestled on a soft cheese with purees of seasonal fruits and vegetables. The delicate rye tuiles make a perfect foil.
The couscous is hand-made in house. Ours came with thin curls of fresh pumpkin, delicately cooked pieces of winter squash, and cranberries. Two dollops of harissa were served alongside so you could season to your liking.
The night we were there, the market fish was black bass. It was served with Dungeness crab, which is in season, along with shaved, roasted brussels sprouts and oyster.
Cooked exactly as it should be, it was falling off the bone and wonderfully seasoned. It came topped with shaved tart apple along with fennel, barley, and nettle.
Don’t pass up desserts, because the pastry chef is a James Beard-recognized chef in her own right. We got a medley of bites, all of them delicious. Her version of Turkish delight (lokum) was the best I have ever tasted.
Aziza is definitely worth your making the trip to Outer Richmond. Besides, San Francisco is only nine square miles in size. How long a trip can it be?