THE HIGH-END THE MIGHTY

In comparison, the Arizona lime tart and citrus flan seemed a bit tame.
Arizona Kitchen serves big-time food in a big-time setting at big-time prices. Keep a sharp eye out--I fully expect the more well-to-do Anasazi to come marching back. Windows on the Green, Phoenician resort, 6000 East Camelback, Phoenix, 941-8200. Hours: Lunch, Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Dinner, Tuesday through Sunday, 6 to 10 p.m.

Windows on the Green is as beautiful as everything else at the Phoenician resort, Charlie Keating's onetime playground, now run by the Sheraton folks.

The dining room is beguiling. The main body of the restaurant is circular, wrapped around a spiral staircase. The fireplace crackles with a comforting blaze. Small alcoves off to the side give patrons an option for dining privacy. Gorgeous pots, plates and paintings, scooped up by Mrs. Keating on trips to Mexico and South America, line the walls and shelves. They're riveting, showing just what you can do in restaurant design when you have both taste and unlimited access to other people's money. The Southwestern-inspired food here is just as riveting, showing what a chef with culinary imagination can do when he feeds diners with deep pockets. I do wish, however, that the service could have kept pace with the other dining elements. It's out of joint with the rest of the operation.

I'd call it casually officious: Bola-tied servers with nametags (nametags!) provided robotlike, push-button descriptions of the dishes, made too much small talk and called me "Sir" so many times my wife thought I had been knighted. There must be a middle ground between familiarity and obsequiousness, and the managers of Windows on the Green need to find it. Happily, once the food is delivered, all seems right with the world.

The Southwest game grill appetizer plate is perfection: a fork-tender grilled wild boar chop, chile-infused strips of rabbit loin and three thin slices of venison sausage, accompanied by a spaghetti squash cake. The cracked conch/green cabbage enchiladas are also a knockout. They're cold, and embellished with toasted pumpkin seeds and a sprightly, marigold mint dressing.

And don't hesitate to mop up the sauces with bread. The blue-corn-jalape¤o rolls, marigold mint bread and chile-cheese muffins are addicting, especially if you swab on the prickly pear or red chile butter. The entrees have a Southwestern flair that never gets too cutesy. Windows on the Green's antelope, cured with chile and sugar, is sweet, sharp and smoky, flavorful but not overpowering. It comes with a "tumbleweed" of crisped potatoes and a leaf-wrapped pouch of chayote and black-bean salsa.

The meaty pork tenderloin is just as invigorating, marinated in beer, lime and garlic, and served with an outstanding, chile-poached pear and savory shredded cabbage. Management had the foresight to put a vegetarian plate on the menu, an idea I wish more restaurants would take up. The "Vegetables of the Southwest" platter, the least-expensive main-dish option at $16.75, includes a dainty dollop of pur‚ed butternut squash; a bite-size sweet-potato tamale; a lightly fried chile relleno; a black bean and goat cheese souffl‚; and an avocado wedge coated with tomato jelly. As at Arizona Kitchen, I was least excited by the seafood--in this case, the achiote-rubbed swordfish in a poblano-cucumber salsa. I'm just not convinced that earthy, Southwestern seasonings take seafood to a higher level.

Desserts do take you to a higher level, massaging your eyes as well as your taste buds. (Good thing, too--you don't have to be a lumberjack to still be hungry after appetizer and main dish.) The cajeta crepe, with creamy, caramelized goat milk and fruit, is a delight. Filled with high-powered chocolate mousse, it's adorned with almonds and a curly "raspberry" tail to resemble a hedgehog. The chocolate taco, though, drew the most "oohs" and "aahs." Here, it's a chocolate shell stuffed with vanilla mousse and eye-catching layers of berries, bananas and kiwi that tasted as good as they looked.

Windows on the Green sees itself as a casual place where guests can unwind if they're not up for the resort's ultrafancy dining spot, Mary Elaine's.

But don't let the relaxed dress code and the servers' easy banter fool you. This is serious Southwestern food at serious prices.

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