After Moroccan-American Iron Chef Mourad Lahlou launched his fine-dining restaurant Mourad in 2015- the first-ever Moroccan restaurant to ever receive a Michelin star- San Francisco’s favorite Moroccan restaurant Aziza looked destined for permanent closure. Lahlou shut Aiza down for “repairs” in 2016. “I opened Mourad and it felt like an evolution. Unlike Aziza which was modest in decor, the Michelin star restaurant had an exciting Marrakech night market-inspired atmosphere. Modern lighting, textured walls, tall ceilings, vibrant colored rugs, and a grand main room, were the features of Lahlou’s upgraded Moroccan kitchen. “Mourad took on a life of its own, building its own relevancy in the food world,” said the Moroccan chef.
Even though Aziza didn’t have the same allure of Mourad, it was hard to forget. The original Moroccan restaurant has been a favorite of Bay Area diners who enjoyed its Californian spin on Moroccan cuisine and raved about its revolving menu items like savory lamb shank with honey kumquat sauce and Bastilla, a Moroccan pot pie.
Unlike the chef’s other business ventures, Aziza came with a story and emotional attachment. Lahlou named Aziza after his mother in 2001, however after 15 years of running it, he felt it was time for a change.
If I’m being honest, when I closed Aziza for a remodel, I had a fallout at home with my mom. We ended up not speaking for about the duration of the construction. But when I got engaged, my fiance told me I should go home and make peace with my mom,” Lahlou said. “So I went to Morocco. I saw my mom and it was amazing. Everything was fixed. We got in a really good place. Aziza is a reflection of that. It shows where I am in my life.”
After returning to San Francisco, Lahlou re-engaged in a renovation process for Aziza. He aimed to turn it into a Moroccan-Mexican restaurant. However, with the soul of a strong Moroccan mother, Aziza had an agenda of its own.
“While I was out of the country over the summer, the last of the construction on the location was finished and I thought that was it, I would walk in and see the changes and let go of the past…. I realized Aziza wasn’t dead at all.”
On Oct. 14, 2019, Lahlou will reopen his newly designed restaurant — Aziza. “The choice was never my own,” he said.
The new restaurant will look aesthetically different than the original. “It’s going to be like a greenhouse in the middle of Marrakech.” There will be a bar that seats up to fifteen vs five, the Moroccan inspired arches are gone, and there is also a communal table. You’re walking into a brand new restaurant, with the same soul it had when it was Aziza,” said Lahlou.