Best North African Restaurant - 2003
Although Aziza exhibits most of the classic Moroccan-restaurant characteristics, it isn't your typical North African hangout. Sure, there are belly dancers, and the hand-washing ritual, and the deal where the waiter pours the mint tea into your cup from three feet up in the air. But brothers Khalid and Mourad Lahlou (Khalid has since left) created a venue in which the foods of their native Marrakech are touched with fresh new flavors and accents. Hummus is flecked with sun-dried tomatoes; eggplant is prepared to the consistency of a light, lovely soufflé; bastilla, couscous, and grilled lamb attain an uncharacteristic lightness and zip. Other dishes -- most of them prepared with organic produce and free-range meats -- include braised lamb shank with honey and kumquats, Cornish game hen with saffron and Moroccan pink olives, and yogurt sorbet with orange granita. The arched doorways, plush cushions, and blue-and-white color scheme are lovely, evocative of some sultan's palace on the Mediterranean coast.