Second Helpings

 Give Me a Pizza Your Heart: No one in America had thought to put exotic toppings on pizza until two decades ago, when Wolfgang Puck pushed the envelope at Spago. Suddenly, pizzas heaped with barbecued Thai chicken, goat cheese and escargots became the rage.

Still, after all these years, the three most popular pizza toppings in America remain entirely predictable. According to Showcase, the trade magazine for the specialty-food industry, pepperoni, mushrooms and green pepper are the three most-requested items.

But elsewhere in the world, it's a different story. In Australia, the preferred topping is calamari. In Germany, believe it or not, it's sauerkraut. The Greeks have a more highly developed sense of taste -- they order pizza with feta cheese and olives. In Guatemala, not surprisingly, the folks like black bean sauce. Don't order pizza with a group of Russians. They want pizza topped with sardines, mackerel, salmon and onions. In Hong Kong, everyone asks for Szechuan chicken pizza. In Malaysia, they enjoy curry and mutton. And you'd have to be mighty hungry to order pizza the Polish way -- with cabbage and sausage.

C-Fu, Part II: The Valley's second C-Fu Gourmet opened a few weeks ago in swanky digs at the intersection of 32nd Street and Lincoln Drive. Folks expecting a clone of the Chandler operation -- one of the best Chinese restaurants in town -- are in for a surprise.

The original C-Fu looks like a Chinatown restaurant -- cavernous, spartan, utilitarian. Knowledgeable Chinese-food lovers flock there because they get the kind of dishes you'd find on Grant Street in San Francisco or Mott Street in New York. And prices are ethnic-restaurant friendly.

The new place, however, is clearly aimed at another demographic. The room is a lot more luxe, with almost a fine-dining look. This is where the nearby Paradise Valley crowd could take its visitors out for a Saturday-night meal.

The dishes, too, reflect the shift in emphasis. Although the Phoenix C-Fu, like the original, features seafood so fresh it's swimming when you order it, the menu is significantly smaller at the new outlet. You won't see hot pot dishes; you won't see exotic soups; you won't see salt and pepper squid; and you won't even see barbecued pork.

You will see, however, un-Chinatown dishes like stuffed mushrooms, Chinese chicken salad and ahi tuna. You can even get "Mongolian ostrich" served on a bed of crispy rice noodles.

Another eye-opener: prices. Almost everything on the Chandler C-Fu menu has only one digit to the left of the decimal point. Not in Phoenix. Except for a couple of rice and vegetable dishes, the entrees at this branch will put a dent in your wallet. Chicken with snow peas is $6.95 in Chandler. It's $12.95 here. Sweet and sour shrimp is $7.95 in Chandler, $19.95 at C-Fu II.

Of course, it's possible that although the dishes have similar names, the 32nd Street C-Fu gives you some added bang for your added bucks. I'm looking forward to eating here and finding out.

Suggestions? Write me at hseftel@newtimes.com or New Times, P.O. Box 2510, Phoenix, AZ 85002.

 
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