Archive for September, 2012


Sunday, September 30th, 2012

5800 Geary Blvd @ 22nd Ave
San Francisco, CA 94121

Good Food : 5/5 | Good Service : 5/5

During a vacation in the California Bay Area, we stopped by Aziza for dinner in San Francisco on our drive from SFO to our hotel. We weren’t able to get a table reservation since it was a Wednesday night, but we were able to do a walk-in and got seated in their back room (which we felt was actually a better experience as only 2 other parties were in a space laid out for 8).

Aziza’s cuisine is advertised as Moroccan-based since the owner Mourad Lahlou was born in Marrakesh. But you’re going to be disappointed if you come to Aziza expecting traditional Moroccan cuisine, as Mourad uses his Moroccan culinary background as a basis to re-invent traditional and Californian cuisine to show that Moroccan food is not just comfort food but can be viewed as haute cuisine.

Since we weren’t sure if we would have another opportunity to stop by again, we splurged and did the chef’s tasting menu, which takes you through 12 individual tastings of appetizers, main courses and desserts of Aziza’s broad range of culinary offerings. We were amazed by the depth and detailed presentation level of the food items we consumed and can see why Aziza has a Michelin star rating.

1. Rice cracker – a deep-fried brown rice cracker crisp topped with yogurt and corn pearls and dusted with milk coffee powder.

2. Tomato – small balls of radish, tomato, almond custard and an okra slice floating in a clear consomme gelee

3. Nettle – 2 caterpillar/faux gnocchi decorated with caviar enveloped by a nettle soup with diced lemon peel pieces

4. Squid – 2 blanched squid fin pieces crusted in an Asian slightly sweet sesame seed crust, decorated with a jalapeno curl that adds a slight heat element.

5. Abalone – a modern interpretation of the traditional Korean ddeokbokki dishi. Small rice stick pieces are enveloped in a subtle fermented black bean paste sauce and topped with thin slices of abalone and scallion. The bean paste has a subtle spice heat that slowly builds.
6. Duck – based on the traditional Moroccan basteeya dish, but stuffed with duck confit meat instead of chicken and accompanied by baby japanese turnips, a yogurt tang creme fraiche and blanched whole marconi almonds. The creme fraiche and almonds take place of the traditional sugar/nut mixture.

7. Lamb belly – baby romaine lettuce leaves, asian pear balls and sweet goji berries compliment the large fatty lamb ‘lardon’ cube.

8. Beef cheek – kohlrabi cubes pickled in yuzu, topped by black garlic cloves. Compliments the slightly salty beef cheek sitting on top of a small pool of au jus reduction.
9. Cheese plate – baby dates hide under nasturium petals, 2 wedges of white cheese, hazelnut shavings and vanilla/maple gelee

10. Passionfruit – very flavorful passsionfruit curd drops, nut sable pieces, milk crisp wafers topped with white chocolate shavings.

11. Chocolate – a Pu-erh tea-flavored milk chocolate smear accompanies ginger chocolate cake pieces. A dark chocolate pool sits under a 2nd cake piece surrounded by a delicate sweet phyllo string nest. And the black current drops add a delightful sweet tart contrast.
12. Mignardises - we understood why gelatin is used these days to create marshmallows, as these egg-based blackberry marshmallows had a slightly savory taste element that unfortunately overshadowed the blackberry flavor & were slightly rubbery. The dark chocolate truffles had a pleasant anise flavor. And the thyme cake squares were dusted with citric acid to balance out the rich cake texture.

Our overall impression – Aziza’s food definitely lives up to the reviews. Service was great – we never felt rushed through our dinner even though we were one of 2 parties that closed down the place. Dishes came out evenly paced/timed, and our waiter had that perfect sense of when to approach us and when to leave us to enjoy our meals. If we have a chance to go back, we’ll definitely do so!

Hunan Springs

Friday, September 14th, 2012

Hunan Springs Chinese Restaurant & Bar
4939 Hamilton Blvd
Allentown, PA 18106

Good Food : 3.5/5 | Good Service : N/A

Having a hankering for Chinese food while in Allentown, I decided to try Hunan Springs based on several Yelp reviews about their chef specialty shrimp. It was late by the time I arrived at my hotel, so it was a takeout order of chef specialty shrimp and an order of homemade dumplings.

For the shrimp, I got 10 large shrimp which were battered, deep fried and then sprinkled with a seasoned salt mixture. According to the menu description, the shrimp were supposed to be tossed with a blend of diced peppers and green onions. But the only item I saw besides my shrimp at the bottom of my container were diced green onions mixed with minced garlic and the seasoned salt. The shrimp were cooked a little on the done side, but they were still edible and not rubbery. Overall, a tasty dish, but it would have been better with the contrast from bell peppers.

The disappointment were the dumplings – you get to choose whether you want them steamed or fried, so I chose steamed. For the type of dumplings that I got, these would have been better fried – a very thick flour skin confirmed that these are hand-made, and the filling was a very dense good-sized portion of seasoned meat ( I assume it was pork since I did not specify, but the filling looks a little red for pork).