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Best-kept Restaurant Secret Phoenix 2001 - Cholla

Cholla

Cholla

524 N. 92nd St.

Scottsdale, AZ 85256

480-850-7736

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The most we've ever won gambling is a free drink or two. But our luck definitely turned when we discovered this hidden treasure tucked in the far back of a local gaming hall. Cholla is an upscale restaurant with all the elements of a sure bet: complimentary valet parking, a comfortable setting, polished, unobtrusive service and noteworthy cuisine. After dinner, there's another bonus: live entertainment in the cushy lounge adjacent to Cholla.

Appetizers are awesome, such as crispy fresh-grilled asparagus with prosciutto and shredded phyllo napped in a zippy citrus vinaigrette; sweet lobster and shrimp puff pastry on a lush fire-roasted red-pepper cream; or fat chile rellenos with forest mushroom duxelles and smoky Gouda corn sauce.

Entrees challenge our established "name" restaurants, with specialties like pan-roasted pheasant married with cabernet cassis (black currant), roasted shallots, cranberry-apple conserve and vegetable couscous. The veal chop is out of this world.

Kicking back with coffee and sinful desserts, it's almost impossible to believe we're just a few feet from frenzied gamblers in this clubby dining room (just 10 tables or so), with a soaring, leaded-glass wall that separates us from the slots.

Oh, and the final score? The casino doesn't charge any tax. On a meal that averages $85 for two -- an easy tab at Cholla -- we figure we've won an extra glass of Teifen Pinot Grigio. Now that's real luck.

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