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Transcontinental Divide: Is there a more interesting restaurant in this city than RoxSand? After a recent return visit, I'd have to say no. By any standard, it's a sophisticated, snazzy-looking place. You can pass several enjoyable minutes staring at the offbeat, attention-getting art. I get a kick gazing at the huge, metal pineapple suspended from the ceiling by the entrance. People-watching never fails. And neither, it seems, does the food. RoxSand Suarez calls her fare "transcontinental." I'd call it positively intergalactic. Many of the dishes sound like what the kitchen at the Timothy Leary Culinary Institute would be turning out. But diners who don't mind risk-taking can count on some tasty rewards for their courage. On what other appetizer list in this state could you possibly find rice tamales filled with curried lamb in a vigorous Thai peanut sauce, barbecued Korean short ribs named kal bi with green tea noodles, and a salad of duck confit with caramelized pecans and Chinese noodles--in a peach vinaigrette? These starters obviously aren't for the buffalo-wings-and-fried-mozzarella-sticks crowd, or for Aunt Edith and Uncle Walter from Milwaukee. But despite their borderline madness, or perhaps because of it, they make eating out fun.

The entrees don't shrink from shyness, either. Chilean sea bass comes expertly cooked to a translucent sheen, coated with a horseradish crust and surrounded by eggplant, artichoke and crisped leeks. The improbably named Be Be the Dish (planet of origin: Krypton?) features grilled chicken bathed in a dark, wine-flavored roux, accompanied by scrumptious wedges of feta-stuffed polenta. RoxSand is also a boon to vegetarians, at least those who aspire to something more creative than a block of tofu topped with a zillion sprouts. Several menu items, like stir-fried rice with Asian veggies and curry sauce, seem designed to lure the one member of your group who always raises a beef about where to eat out. And a small number of "heart-healthy" dishes are available for those who don't have the will power to keep their snouts out of the trough the other six nights of the week. But you don't want to dine here with a party of heart-healthy wimps. That's because RoxSand's desserts are wicked enough to clog your arteries just by standing close to them. In particular, the aptly named B-52 torte can inflict some serious damage. It's rich, creamy chocolate laced with Kahl£a and Bailey's Irish Cream. Chocolate hazelnut cake moistened with Grand Marnier and white chocolate ginger cheesecake are two more exceptional pieces of heavy dessert artillery.

Be prepared to pay for your culinary thrills. A three-course meal at RoxSand will run you about $35 per person, without drinks. Personally, I can save that kind of money in no time--I just turn off my APS-generated air conditioner for 15 minutes. RoxSand is at 2594 East Camelback, in Biltmore Fashion Park. Call 381-0444. Food Fest: That's what they're calling the weekend of August 26 through 28 at the Sheraton San Marcos Resort in Chandler. RoxSand Suarez, Donna Nordin of Cafe Terra Cotta and Norman Fierros of La Pila will be offering cooking classes. The price per couple, which includes a two-night stay, classes and breakfasts, is $235. Call 963-6655 for more information.

 
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