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MazaUpdate July 2009: Maza is shuttered.

In a word: Pleasant with good nosh.

The specs: #0372
Address, hours & details via Isthmus; reviews at Isthmus, Yelp, Badger Herald, Madison Magazine, QSC, Mad Hungry; menu at menupix; official web site.

JM ate the lamb kabob and soup with a lemonade.
JMR ate the lamb sabzi chalow and soup with a seasonal beer.
Jonathan ate the korma tarkaree and soup with a Coke.
Nichole ate the kabuli murgh and salad with a green tea.
We split an order of bulani.
The bill was about $60, or $15/person, plus tip.
Nichole gave Maza an A-; Jonathan and JM gave Maza a B+, JMR gave Maza a B (see our grading rubric).

Latest Maza news and reviews

Maza, another relatively new downtown denizen, makes guests feel like it's been in town for years.  We caught up with it after a full day of work and stumbled upon a cache of co-eds imbibing some exotic tea.  Other than that, we had the place to ourselves, save a romantic couple who entered shortly after us.  This mix of people reflects the mix of offerings from Maza.

BulaniWe started with a bulani appetizer, which was two bisected pockets of potato and vegetable matter, deep fried. Their best attribute was as a vehicle for the spicy green and/or cooling, minty white sauces. The salad was identical to Kabul's, which is a good thing. The complementary nahn was good, but the oil tasted of canola - it wasn't olive, that's for sure. Some of the admittedly delicious tomato-noodle-bean soup arrived somewhat tepid.

Soup and nahnWe've been at this so long that we sometimes take situations as written. This time our shrewd companion Jonathan asked for a Coke in this Pepsi-touting establishment and, as if by magic, one can appeared. It was a mini-epiphany for the Coke fan(s) at the table.

Sabzi chalowOn to the entrees. The sabzi chalow is never a photogenic meal. Though JMR suspected the chopped, spiced spinach had been of the frozen kind, the lamb was good and tender. Once she tried the leftovers, she wanted to add that they heated up pretty well - the dish kept a lot of the other kind of heat, and the spinach didn't seem as disappointing the second time around.

Lamb kabobsJM thought something in the lamb kabob was vaguely medicinal, perhaps a minty herb.  The mushrooms were done and the green peppers a little overdone, but the lamb was top grade and tender.  The rice was neither fantastic nor terrible.  A good middle of the road dish.

Kabuli murghNichole found a winner in the kabuli murgh, only learning later that rice with carrots, raisins and almonds is an Afghan national dish. This version omitted the common lentils and included plenty of tender chicken mixed in with basmati rice. The rice might have appeared brown, but we theorize it's really just white rice cooked in such a way as to become brown (anyway, brown rice is "an American thing," according to someone who should know). The carrots added a natural sweetness, and every forkful had a good variety of textures.

Korma tarkareeJonathan's korma tarkaree had a nice, spicy tomato-based sauce over potatoes, huge chunks of carrot, green beans, onions, brown(ed) and white basmati, and noodles. He found it fairly well prepared but maybe a little heavy on the starches what with the duet of potatoes and rice.

We suspect we weren't alone wondering whether a single block of State Street, let alone Madison, could support two restaurants in the Afghan niche (even if they are run by the same family). But Maza's modern twist appeals to enough folks that we can see them sticking it out for some time.


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Good stuff. The lunch menu is very affordable. The burani (eggplant) is always good and sometimes terrific. The basic fish and rice dishes are plenty substantial. If given the option of soup or salad with your meal go with the soup. It's a very good and filling vegetarian dish to complement one's meal. I'm not sure Maza is better than Kabul, but it's worth a visit if you enjoy Afghan food. I mean what do we want on State street? More chains or more family-owned international cuisines?

I love Maza! I have never had a bad experience there. It is on my current rotation list of great, inexpensive restaurants in the State Street area. Definitely check out the Murgh Korma, a heavenly chicken stew.

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