The entrance to Azza is surprisingly discrete considering it’s located in Midtown, but then again, with its tendency to serve the movie star elite (Richard Gere and Scarlett Johansson) its not so surprising. The Euro-Moroccan vibe, that could have easily been over-the-top, is authentically exotic and worth visiting for the aesthetics alone. This loungy, Casablanca-feel restaurant with gorgeous rugs, silk shantung pillows that rest in the dining banquettes and soft lighting that peeks behind luxuriously draped fabric is ultra sexy. I want my bedroom to look like this.
My dining companion (which, appropriately enough, was my husband) and I started with one of the cocktails. I had a concoction of fig vodka, pomegranate liquor and Prosecco. His choice of libation was a vodka martini with muddled strawberries. Both were delicious.
We were promptly brought out the house-made pita, perfectly crisp on the outside and light and fluffy on the inside, and oil. For starters, we were recommended a savory cigar with goat cheese and spinach wrapped in a phyllo. Not at all bad, but not mind-blowing. The other recommendation was a chicken briouat – another fried concoction in the same type of casing, but contained a light chicken filling and was served with a raisin yogurt dip, most perfectly balanced with subtle hints of raisin that worked well with the chicken.
Service up to this point had been phenomenal (if a bit rushed), even though the room was abuzz with curious patrons. Every one of our questions were answered and every need, fulfilled.
Now, on to the highlight of the meal, the main course: the Couscous Royal. We chose to share the lamb, which the server brought to the table with dramatic presentation. The first dish was lifted to reveal a mound of the fluffiest, steaming couscous that would soon be topped with the tagine of delicate lamb of all varieties and vegetables in a stew of delicate spices that would soak the couscous to perfection. Harissa, stewed raisins and chickpeas – Morocco’s essential accompaniment – rounded out this feast that we lingered over this for a least an hour or two, savoring the flavorful concoctions while they marinated in their goodness.
A bottle of Amazir Beni M’tir from Morocco is the perfect way to pay homage to this country and its host’s for its amazing cuisine, a perfect companion to the meal, aside from my husband.
137 E. 55th Street (between Lexington and Third Avenues)