Mourad Lahlou to Open Moorish-Mexican Amara in Former Aziza

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Amara’s Lou Maldonado and Mourad Lahlou. Instagram photo via @amara_sf.

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The interior of Aziza. Photo via Facebook.

Exciting news: Mourad Lahlou will be reopening the former ~AZIZA~ space, but it will be a new concept, ~AMARA~, spanning the cuisine of Northern Morocco and Moorish influences on Mexico (the name refers to the Moors in Spanish). Lahlou is bringing Aziza’s former chef de cuisine Louis Maldonado (The French Laundry) back on, and they are aiming to open early next year. This will be the first restaurant of its kind in the U.S. Anyone who knows the history of tacos al pastor is familiar with the many Middle Eastern influences in Mexican cuisine, from cooking techniques to ingredients and spices.

The menu will be inspired by abundant family gatherings with dishes to share, like grilled branzino Veracruz with chanterelles, capers, riesling, and Cerignola olives; as well as cumin- and chile-braised lamb shanks with smoked lamb and tomato, and wilted greens; and roasted chicken legs with caramelized bone and ancho chile glaze, yam, mint, and toum (garlic paste).

Pastry chef Annemarie Catrambone will take inspiration from Mexican paleta and ice cream shops and the French influence on pastries in Morocco for her desserts.

The cocktails at Aziza were always something special, and Mourad bar manager J.P. Smith is going to be using aromatic spices and ingredients found in the food menu, as well as freshly squeezed juices and smoky spirits like mezcal and tequila. Mourad wine director Tara Patrick will be assembling a global wine list with 80 selections priced at $40-$80/bottle.

Aziza originally opened in 2001, an homage to Lahlou’s mother, and was the first Moroccan restaurant in the U.S. to be awarded a Michelin star. (Lahlou’s downtown fine dining project, Mourad, has also received a Michelin star.)

The space is going to be undergoing a renovation, but Aziza’s good bone structure will still be felt. Look for some textures, colors, and patterns of Moroccan marketplaces and contemporary touches. Dinner will be served nightly, and weekend brunch will also be on offer. Keep up with the restaurant on social at @amara_sf. 5800 Geary Blvd. at 22nd Ave.