I've been wanting to go to Ayza for a while now. I walk by it every day when I volunteer at school and it looked promising, so a friend and I decided to stop there for dinner last night. Ok fine I dragged him there, but he liked it, so there!
First a disclaimer: I went in and introduced myself to the owner and said I write a blog, which could have been mistake number one, just in terms of the fact that this might have really skewed the meal in my favor. Most professional reviewers do not go in with guns blazing and demand spectacular service because that skews the results of their meal to be in favor of the restaurant. I, however, am not a professional, so I don't really think that lowers the marks of my review. It's just something to keep in mind if you want to go there (which I wholeheartedly suggest that you do!). Your experience might be very different than mine, but that's usually the case with restaurants anyhow.
The place is very trendy looking. From their website and walking by the place I somehow got the idea that the inside was much bigger. But the inside of the restaurant is taken up mostly by wine bottles, arranged stylishly above the bar, and the bar itself leaving room for a few scrunched tables and chairs. A few people who wanted to sit inside were turned away for a 30 minute wait, so I recommend trying to get there on the early side if you do want to eat indoors. The lack of seating inside is made up for by outdoor seating with heaters. I went on a rainy night and the umbrellas and heaters were enough to make the experience more than comfortable. I can imagine it would be extremely pleasant on a summer night to sit out and enjoy some wine there. The only idiosyncrasy was the loud house music. I know that when you want to draw in the young hip crowd you play "club music" but I thought the mood might be better served by low-key Latin music or maybe even Jazz.
At first we got some bread and what I like to call "top-chef olives." On one season during "restaurant wars" one team forgot to give their guests a place to put the pits of their olives. My friend and I tried figuring out where we should spit our pits out ("maybe over the fence?" he suggested). That was really the only major thing that surprised me service-wise through the night.
The meal itself was a huge success. We ordered a few appetizers which were very yummy, including some very spicy dumplings, but the highlight was the meat and cheese plate. I discovered recently at my own chocolate tasting how well a combination of flavorful meats and cheeses goes with sweet chocolate and wine. It balances everything out. At Ayza, you can choose between a variety of cheeses and meats to make your platter. I recommend getting the manchego (sheep's cheese) and sopressatta (like salami). They also added guava paste which was sweet, chewy and thick a perfect combination to the meat and cheese. I know that on Top Chef they give chefs crap for putting things on a plate without a coherent theme, but in this case I wanted a little sour, sweet and salty and this dish really came through for me.
Finally, and you know you've been waiting for it, desert!
I forced my friend into splitting some truffles and wine with me. One of the options on the menu is to choose from a variety of Jaques Torres truffles and then choose two flutes of wine from the sweet wines menu. All I can say is DO THIS!! Just do it. You might want cake, or still be hungry, but this is what I came here for and it did not disappoint. (And also even with the disclaimer I'm not sure what they could have done to rig this one. It seems like this would be similar for all the people who go there).
We got Muscado and Maury with Cappuccino Port Wine and Hazelnut truffles. I was happy to discover that even though, or maybe because, the Port Wine truffle had a slightly alcoholic aftertaste, it went very well with the red Maury wine. The Muscado they had was like drinking a fragrant bouquet of flowers (I told my friend it was like drinking perfume, but perhaps this gives the wrong impression). The hazelnut truffle was a little dry and I was surprised when the shell of the cappuchino truffle colapsed in my mouth, but the chocolate was so good with the wine I can overlook some of the technical stuff. And even though I love to hate Jaques Torres, somehow eating their truffles slightly chilled on a cold rainy night with a glass of wine among friends, made them lovely.
Zaf, the owner was incredibly nice and helpful. He was nice enough to split the bill with us, which was a little pricey but totally worth it. And if you're lucky, who knows, he might split the bill with you too. The waitress mentioned that he "does that all the time"
Check out their website for location information, hours and menus.