The Chinese have long considered mushrooms to be aphrodisiacs. After tasting the seductive 'shrooms at Morton's, you may well agree.

Morton's takes an exotic blend of crimini, oyster, shiitake and portobello mushrooms, sautés them in a heady garlic herb butter, and serves them steaming in a ceramic crock. We get high just off the aroma, and melt when the mushrooms meet our mouths.

So toss away that book on how to meet chicks. Remember, guys: Girls just want to have fungi.

Garlic custard?!

Leave it Chef Donna Nordin to come up with something as innovative as this mystical, addictive flan. Impossibly silky, this breathtaking use of the stinking rose is abloom with mellow garlic. Served warm, the custard wobbles and shimmers as you poke it with your fork, then ladle great smears on thick, chewy pieces of the jalapeño cheese bread served alongside. Top it with sweet-'n'-spicy pepper salsa in vinaigrette, and dust the whole thing off with a sprinkle of herb-roasted hazelnuts. It's a taste explosion.

Now if Nordin could just create a breath mint-flavored mole sauce . . .

If you're sneaking off for an intimate dinner with someone you're seeing on the sly, under no circumstances should you order the antipasto platter at Va Bene Ristorante Italiano. The minute your server ferries the gigantic appetizer platter out of the kitchen, every eye in the house will be on the table where you're sitting with your no-longer-inconspicuous other.

An unbelievable bargain at less than $9, this enormous starter plate overflows with basil-flecked fresh mozzarella slices, properly salty prosciutto shavings, garlicky grilled eggplant rounds, marinated whole mushrooms, tomato, and grilled onion, eggplant, zucchini and green pepper.

On the other hand, envious diners will probably be so busy ogling your mouth-watering orgy of pre-dinner treats that they won't give you a second look.

The disturbing image of frogs on crutches won't go away, even years after seeing Kermit battle an evil fast-food frog-leg czar in the original Muppet movie. The vision is resurrected at Bistro Provence, which serves the legs intact, showing knobby knees and all.

It takes just one bite, however, to get over it. The amphibian flesh is firm, vaguely sweet and positively glowing with garlic marinade.

And Bistro Provence has a delicate hand with battering -- these gams are barely drifted through flour to offer a hint of crunch instead of the overwhelming crust found elsewhere. A half-dozen legs twirl like an Esther Williams revival in a pool of buttery, garlic-rich tomato salpicon. No crutches needed here; these legs stand on their own.

A long time ago, buffalo roamed the vast prairies of the West. Until someone killed most of them. Today, most people have to see their buffalo at the zoo.

But you can also find the beefy beast on the menu at the Arizona Kitchen, served in delicious glory. This buffalo is so good, it almost makes you understand why entire herds were once made into lunch meat. This buffalo, of course, is farm-raised -- it never knows it was born to run free.

The Kitchen takes a huge, juicy slab, slaps it on the grill and lays it in a pool of glamorous Cabernet vanilla bean chile negro sauce next to lip-smacking sweet-potato pudding.

The Kitchen's buffalo isn't just the other nice meat. It's a delicious little bit of the Old West, served in one of the state's oldest resorts.

The Middle East is famous for its soothing dips, and ZakeE serves its hummus with creamy finesse.

Owner Sal Alqardahji takes pride in this dish, and it shows in every silky bite of garbanzo beans, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil and tahini (sesame seed paste), served with pita bread scoops.

ZakeE means "very delicious" in Arabic, Alqardahji tells us. We've got to agree.

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