Number 50: Cafe Zitouna's Kufta Tajine

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Te Yuan L./Yelp
Cafe Zitouna's kufta tajine, $10.95.
SFoodie's countdown of our favorite 50 things to eat and drink, 2012 edition

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Does it sound like a paradox to say that Cafe Zitouna's kufta tajine is spicy and comforting at the same time? Perhaps. Among the soups, pepper-lashed couscous dishes, and mild, sweet-inflected Moroccan stews on the menu, chef-owner Najib Rebia serves a meatball stew as vivid and soothing as the sunlight that floods the cafe most days.

It's all a matter of the layering of flavors. The golf-ball-sized lamb meatballs, which pulse with garlic and cumin, are buried under a bed of long-sauteed peppers, onions, and tomatoes seasoned with Tunisian spices. In the center are two eggs, which have poached in the mingled juices; their yolks ooze out thickly, just a few degrees short of solidifying. Every prickle of chile or flare of coriander and caraway comes with its own balm -- the sweetness of the peppers, the sateen caress of olive oil. It's humble enough to sop up with bread, and opulent enough to linger in the memory for weeks afterward.

Cafe Zitouna: 1201 Sutter (at Polk), 673-2622, www.sfcafezitouna.com.

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Cafe Zitouna

1201 Sutter, San Francisco, CA

Category: Restaurant

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