Second Helpings

Buddy, Can You Spare $250,000? If there's a venture capitalist out there looking to invest some big bucks in the restaurant business, I've got some ideas.

Despite this town's phenomenal restaurant growth, there are three niches that could use filling.

First: an upscale, gringo-friendly Mexican seafood restaurant. This concept has so much going for it, I'm almost tempted to try it myself (armed with someone else's money, naturally). The Valley's Mexican seafood places--think of San Carlos Bay, Restaurant Sinaloa, Rocky Point Restaurant--do a good job. But they're low-rent restaurants, in off-the-beaten-path locations, which conduct much of their business in Spanish. None is likely to attract tourists or the Saturday-night Scottsdale trade.

Imagine, though, a Mexican seafood restaurant with white linen tablecloths, English-speaking servers and mouth-watering, south-of-the-border ocean specialties: seafood cocktails, pescado Veracruzana, Seven Seas stew, grilled Guaymas shrimp. Diners leery of too much ethnic adventure will be at ease, and still get to enjoy a genuine regional cuisine. And, unlike tacos, burros, chimichangas and other deep-fried, lard-filled dishes, Mexican seafood won't drive away the hordes of Valley calorie counters. It seems like a can't-miss concept to me.

Second, we could use a North African restaurant. Just about every big town in America has one. But ever since the Moroccan closed a few years ago, there's been no place to get b'stilla, honey-glazed lamb or couscous. Set up some plush cushions on the floor, put the maitre d' in a fez, hire some belly dancers and entice people to make an evening of it.

Next, maybe a courageous entrepreneur will consider opening an Indonesian restaurant. The Valley may be ready for a new ethnic cuisine that isn't too exotic. Anyone who's ever had rijsttafel (it means "rice table" in Dutch--Indonesia was once a Dutch colony) is unlikely to forget the incredibly fragrant scents. As the name suggests, the central element is a large bowl of rice, which is surrounded by smaller bowls of delicacies--satays, curries, seafood. It could be a winner.

B.F.I.T. R.I.P.: Last August, I reviewed a then-new place in Mesa called B.F.I.T.--Best Fajitas in Town. They weren't. It seemed to me the place served insipid Southwestern/Mexican fare.

Upset with my assessment, the manager wrote a letter to the editor (which we printed) attacking my "brazen, illiterate review." Among his other pointed phrases: "He does not know his food history"; "lack of Southwestern culture"; "lack of critical technique"; "arrogant."

When you're a professional critic, you have to be able to take it as well as dish it out. It comes with the territory.

So I still don't plan to respond. However, I will point out that, according to the phone company, B.F.I.T has had its phone permanently disconnected.

Our Daily Bread: Life in the southeast Valley is about to get better. The Arizona Bread Company is opening a second branch in Ahwatukee at 4025 East Chandler Boulevard, in the Safeway plaza. Bread will come from the Shea Boulevard store, but the new place will be baking pastries and muffins on-site. Call 706-4188.--Howard Seftel


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