There's something about being in another city that inspires eating. On one such recent adventure, a half a day to kill in the bay area quickly shaped into an eating marathon. We've joked about the triathlon of eating challenges (three tasting menus in one evening?) and on this trip, we may not have hit three, but after a 4 P.M. tour through Mission Chinese's menu, an untimely Tartine Bakery pit stop, and drinks at Bar Agricole, our fourth and final destination of the evening would have our stomachs expanding well past decathlon challenge status. We met up with @thedapperdiner (who is well-versed in such eating challenges) at one-Michelin starred Aziza, in San Francisco's Little Russia and were soon joined by @CarinaOst and @Melissa808.
We arrived early to take full advantage of Aziza's amazing craft cocktail menu. Each selection was creative and unique and featured a muddled herb, spice, fruit or vegetable. As we waited for our table to be ready we worked our way through tamarind, concord grape, thai chili, strawberry, parsnip and the almond cocktail (below) made with smoked salt foam and tequila, amongst others.
As we were waiting for our party to be completed, a precursor of green olives and raw almonds glistening in oil (below, left) joined us, as well as almonds crusted with cumin and cayenne (below, right).
We also got a plate of beets, which came gorgeously plated with licorish yogurt, rice crackers and grapefruit (below). An odd combination, but one that worked.
Also from the starters menu was the plate of spreads, white bean, yogurt dill and piquillo-almond, which came with triangles of warm pita-like flatbread (below). The yogurt dill was a clear cut favorite.
The chicken wings spoke to me - not your average bar bites, these juicy morsels of poultry came with gem lettuce, cherry, crispy garlic, and niçoise olive (below).
Angela countered with an order of perfectly cooked octopus with baby lettuce, ramps, slivers of potato, and balsamic (below).
For my entree, I ordered the decadent squab dish, which came with strawberry, salsify, nettle cake, oats, and a foie gras emulsion (below). The bird was succulent and well-seasoned, and the rich foie gras was prepared in such a way that it didn't overwhelm the rest of the dish's more delicate flavors.
Angela was very pleased with her visually show-stopping dish: the sea urchin-encrusted halibut, served with green tomatoes, coconut and ramp greens (below). The halibut was nice and flaky, and all the flavors married together well, although she didn't get as much sea urchin flavor as she would have liked.
At this point in the evening, most of the other patrons had left, so we got to the cruel task of winnowing down what desserts to order. Luckily, the chef kindly sent out all the desserts on the menu to try. First up, the passion fruit cake, accompanied by a lemon semifreddo, beet and raspberry meringue (below). Both very tart and sweet, this was one of Angela's favorite desserts because of its lightness.
The chocolate ganache (below, left) with chicory cream, cocoa nib, licorice root ice cream and date was not as sweet as the description would have us believe, which was a good thing. The white chocolate mousse (below, right) was presented with a green strawberry sorbet, graham cracker and rhubarb, and offered a more subtle flavor experience.
A strawberry dessert with goat cheese cream, hazelnut-bourbon ice cream and praline eluded our camera, but a collective favorite of the table seemed to be the mint Bavarian (below) with its lime-buttermilk granita, hibiscus and pistachio.
But the food just kept coming. We finished off our fabulous meal with some complimentary salted chocolates (below, left) and individual packets of Aziza's granola to save for the next morning (below, right), which was appropriately likened to crack.
Just an absolutely outstanding meal - amazing flavors, beautiful plating, wonderful service. And the San Francisco dining scene gets another win in our books.