Mourad: Perusing the Cocktail List at the New Restaurant in the PacBell Building

Two of Mourad's dry cocktails: the Chrysanthemum and On the Spot.

I had a feeling Mourad would be impressive, but I wasn’t quite prepared for the breadth of it, the glassed-in wine room, or the fact that some male patrons were actually wearing neckties.

The new Moroccan-inflected endeavor by the Michelin-starred Mourad Aziza is a 258-seat stunner, meant for expense accounts. It’s a rarefied complement to Trou Normand, which opened last year on the opposite end of the building’s ground floor and with which Mourad shares an outdoor patio, a meal at the latter being considerably costlier.

[jump] While the note on the $150 tasting menu seems to imply it may change more than once per day, Mourad has bedrock staples: duck, beef, octopus and salmon (all of which could be refracted through any culinary lens) as well as unmistakably Morrocan items such as basteeya (chicken pot pie) and harira (a tomato-based soup). There’s an under-$20-except-for-oysters bar menu with highbrow apps like duck liver with pistachio, cocoa, turnip and satsumas, or a serving of chicken wings with persimmon, mustard and green garlic that’s plated most fastidiously.

It’s a busy bar, positioned in the building’s northeast corner. There are only seven cocktails, nearly all with three or four ingredients. The Chrysanthemum (Benedictine, French vermouth, and Elisir M. P. Roux liqueur) is a perfectly bright and herbaceous without starting a war between hyssop and anise. Nocino’s walnut flavor imparted a bit of sweetness to the otherwise sturdy On the Spot (rye, Nocino, Manzanilla, triple sec), which retained a really heavenly syrupy quality as well. Both came in sherry glasses, and each exemplified a different type of dry cocktail.

They were great to sip on while taking in the surroundings: the carpet inlaid in tile, the scurrying bar staff in their black vests, the re-exposed brick that’s part of the grand skyscraper’s exterior wall, the ostentatious wood sculpture that puts the one at Greens in Ft. Mason to shame, and that second-floor wine cellar (wine attic?) that dominates the space. Although brand-new, Mourad crowd was conspicuously international, which implies that every concierge within a one-mile radius is passing its whereabouts along. Like a statement casino in Vegas or a Miami hotel with its own Art Basel show, it feels like there's a lot riding on this. Mourad’s going to vault straight into the stratosphere.

Mourad, 140 New Montgomery, 660-2500.

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