While I was in SF I had the chance to dine with an old friend and the newest San Francisco Chronicle critic Bill Addison. He took me to a restaurant he was in the process of reviewing, Zagora. For more information about the overall experience, and not the food, watch for my posting coming soon to Paper Palate on the Well Fed Network. For Bill’s review go to http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2006/09/22/DDGUAL9HTM1.DTL&type=food
We started with the mamona salad, merguez sausage and chicken bastilla (pictured above). The mamona salad was a nice blend of cinnamony carrots, ruby grapefruit segments and spring greens with vinagrette. Individually the pieces did not stand out, but when eaten together in one bite it was a wonderful, piquant combination. The sourness of the grapefruit cut through what could have been cloying carrots and then was also complimented by the bitterness and saltyness of the salad.
The merguez sausage was flavorful. Garlicky and pungent, it puts many other boring Mexican chorizoes to shame. However, the pairing with olives and hummus didn’t do much to its cause the way the mamona salad did in its combination.
The bastilla was a curiosity in itself. Beautifully constructed, with a nice sprinkling of powdered sugar, it reminded me vaguely of fried ice cream. But then came the surprise inside, chicken with saffron. It’s a combination that I don’t quite understand. But as Bill pointed out, surely out there surely must make earth-shatteringly good bastilla. We also sat and pondered if it was a celebration of liberation from the French, seeing as the name seems to come from bastille.
From there we moved on to the entrees…
We ordered the lamb tagine and some unmemorable white fish. The lamb tagine was tender and sweet from dried apricots and prunes, lacking the “lamb stink” as my family calls it. It had almost taken on beef hock-like traits. It was accompanied by couscous. Bill and I discussed couscous as another dish that neither of us completely understands. It’s dry. It’s in pieces. It doesn’t taste like anything. Yet somehow, I know a lot of people who love it. I’m a sticky rice kind of girl. Couscous is exactly the opposite.
The unmemorable white fish, perhaps snapper, from looking at the menu was cooked properly. But the seasoning didn’t really seem Middle Eastern, much more like Cajun seasoning. I have much experience in that realm, since for most of my childhood my mom would cook catfish or pork chops and season it with good ol’ Paul Prudhomme. It’s probably the reason I have an aversion to Cajun food and gumbo. The snapper tasted like Paul Prudhomme.
The meal ended on a horribly flat note. We ordered hazelnut cake with some kind of strawberry sauce. It ranks #2 in my worst desserts I have ever eaten. Number one was some kind of fruit tart/pie/pastry thing in Germany that had a fragrance that hinted strongly at port-a-potty air freshener. This hazelnut cake was as Bill described like eating a really bad jelly roll. I couldn’t figure how hazelnuts figured into the recipe at all.
Verdict? Go for the appetizers and the lamb. Make the salad at home. And for God’s sake DO NOT order dessert.
1007 Guerrero St.
San Francisco, CA