Best New American Cuisine (2001)
When chef Jeffrey Beeson took over tiny Convivo this year, a great thing just got better. The setting in this modest place off a strip mall parking lot is casual, but the eats are all glamour -- American classics goosed up with unexpected flavors. Local produce is a star here, and we get our daily vitamins with the Convivo Collection, an ever-changing assortment of grilled vegetables that might include leeks, red pepper, Japanese eggplant, carrots and zucchini, delightfully paired with garlicky hummus, salami, barley salad and pecan-crusted goat cheese. Appetizers are adventurous -- an edgy house-cured salmon nesting with crispy fried ravioli in a pineapple butter sauce with peppery nasturtium leaves, for example. Entrees are outright excitement, such as coconut-crusted ahi tuna topped with fried calamari and slicked in plum-marigold-mint vinaigrette alongside soba noodles. And for dessert, our favorites are the guajillo chile-squash flan in fragrant cinnamon syrup, or a fudgy ancho-chile brownie. With food this stunning, we're more proud than ever to say that we're American.