The Lite That Failed

For those truly serious about their regimen, I'd suggest the steamed sea scallops and shrimp entree, lovely critters touched up with ginger, lime, cilantro and bit of chile, accompanied by a flour tortilla and some baby vegetables.

Vincent can work on your sweet tooth without working on your waistline. The sorbets we tried--champagne, kiwi, raspberry--are incredibly intense. There's a fruit bowl as well. However, like Christopher's Bistro, Vincent tempts you with freebie sweets at check time. I can report that the truffles, chocolate-dipped strawberries and minipalmiers will undo all the good you've tried to accomplish over the previous three courses.

Third stop, RoxSand (Biltmore Fashion Park, 24th Street and Camelback, 381-0444), one of my favorite restaurants. But this is not the place you want to do your calorie counting, unless you don't mind counting fairly high.

It's hard to pass by appetizers like the superb b'stilla, braised curried chicken in phyllo, or the gorgeous tempura squid in a zesty olive, caper and anchovy sauce, even if you are watching your waistline. Your best diet bet? It's the baby spinach salad, lovely organic greens teamed with hard-boiled egg and tomato. But make sure you ask for it without the sinful maple-bacon dressing, or you'll hate yourself in the morning.

Our perplexed waiter furrowed his brow when we inquired about low-cal entrees. He steered us to RoxSand's vegetarian dishes. I guess he didn't realize that "vegetarian" is not necessarily synonymous with "low calorie." That's certainly the case here. After all, if mushroom risotto and deep-fried falafel with curried eggplant were diet food, the whole world would be slim. The Egg Noodle platter seemed like the least-caloric meatless option: noodles tossed with Asian veggies, lychee nuts, a few cashews and wilted organic dandelion and turnip greens.

One major drawback, however, is the wickedly luscious Evil Jungle Prince sauce that freshens the dish. It's prepared with coconut milk, which dieters need about as much as Superman needs kryptonite. But the chef accommodated us by leaving off the sauce and serving it on the side.

The waiter also recommended the monkfish. I'm not too sure about the low-cal properties of its zesty oil, lemon and garlic marinade, but I am sure it's a splendid piece of fish.

It's easy for dieters to get shipwrecked on RoxSand's desserts. Even the sorbet is a bit over the top, five enormous fruit-flavored scoops served with wonderful cookies. And when we requested a bowl of berries, the kitchen simply turned us down. At RoxSand, it's tough maintaining your caloric virtue.

That was the story, too, at our final stop, Razz's Restaurant and Bar (10321 North Scottsdale Road, Scottsdale, 905-1308).

Most of the 20 starters here haven't been designed to make you look good in fashionable swimwear. The heart-stopping gnocchi verde certainly haven't--four plump dumplings filled with potato, spinach and chicken, smoothed with a creamy Parmesan-cheese sauce.

But there are a couple of calorie-friendly alternatives. The mixed seafood ceviche is outstanding, put together with shrimp, scallop, octopus and fish. Oysters on the half-shell, gilded with a lip-smacking balsamic cherry-pepper vinaigrette, are to die for.

Despite our whining, Razz's wasn't willing or able to do anything off-the-menu to satisfy our healthful-dining entree request. Our waiter did say the chef could accommodate our meatless whim by leaving out the animal protein of the restaurant's signature Bah Mie Goreng platter. Now, this excellent dish features spicy Indonesian noodles tossed with chicken, pork and shrimp, zipped up with fried plantains and dried cranberries. Asking for a vegetarian version, it seemed to me, makes as much sense as asking for a vegetarian Big Mac.

So we turned to seafood. After much deliberation, the waiter suggested the Pacific Sand Dabs. I guess he didn't remember the rich lemon thyme sauce or the thick mashed potatoes topped with strips of fried onion. This plate is wonderful, but it's not going to get anyone in shape for a Calvin Klein underwear modeling gig.

The bouillabaisse is a better alternative, a seafood stew of mussels, cockles, shrimp, scallops and fish in a tomato broth.

Desserts offer calorie counters several options. The Haagen-Dazs sorbets won't throw your diet completely out of whack, but they won't help. The kitchen did agree to assemble a bowl of mixed berries. And the wine-poached pear ends the meal on a calorie-friendly note.

So--can you eat out at the Valley's finest restaurants and lose weight at the same time? Well, perhaps. But just to make sure, I'd suggest leaving your car at home, and running to and from the restaurants.

Christopher's Bistro:
Vegetable plate
$14.95
Bowl of berries
6.50

Vincent Guerithault on Camelback:
Oysters
$10.00
Grilled Cornish hen
19.75

Spinach salad
$7.95
Monkfish
21.95

Razz's Restaurant:
Bouillabaisse
$17.95
Wine-poached pear
5.00

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