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BEST FRENCH RESTAURANT Phoenix 2003 - Christopher's Fermier Brasserie

One of our friends is a chef, living in that fresh food capital, Berkeley. She came to visit, and we took her to dinner at Christopher's. Months after that meal, she still raves about the incredible truffle-infused prime sirloin she ate, the tender meat served with fareki (a Middle Eastern grain), shallot confit and rich red wine bone marrow sauce. She still swoons over the decadent soup of wild mushrooms and foie gras, the frisée salad with lardons, poached eggs and sherry vinaigrette. If there were a restaurant like this in her hometown, she keeps repeating, she'd eat there every day.

So how lucky are we, because we can eat this fantastic French food every day, for lunch, dinner, and even late night (the place serves until midnight seven days a week). Christopher's has kept us thrilled since chef Christopher Gross first opened this comfortable, elegant bistro in 1998, and we swear, he just keeps getting better. Chalk it up to the simple grace of his Gallic classics, emphasizing artisan ingredients from local and regional farmers. Salmon is smoked in-house, most dishes are prepared in a wood-burning oven, and the traditional French touches are all there (fantastic wine list, an extensive cheese program).

And ooh la la -- the desserts! Parnassienne of chocolate mousse has no equal. Christopher's, c'est magnifique.

Readers' Choice: La Madeleine French Bakery & Cafe

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