Most restaurants get cranky if you play with open flame at your table. At Arisoo, they actually encourage it. Okay, so it's a grill set into the table, powered by a gas burner, so you can cook thin strips of meat to your liking, but still, it's leaping flame.

Pyro or no, anyone who loves Korean food will be enraptured here. Deaji bulgogi is a treasured thing -- sliced pork, marinated in a nuclear red pepper sauce, to be grilled, then wrapped with lettuce, garlic, jalapeos, and a bit of salty mung bean paste. We also romance gal bi (short ribs), bul go gi (thin-sliced beef) and sometimes heu mit gui (beef tongue), the meat soaking up the rich aroma of soy-based sauce. Entrees are all the better with appetizers of bin dae duk (pancake) and man du (pot stickers). Or supplement with chap che, stir-fried noodles, or dol sot bibimbap, a sizzling stone pot of rice, beef and veggies.

Arisoo's a grill we'd be proud to introduce to our parents.

Rawhide Steakhouse & Saloon
What's a cowboy steak, unless it's made by real cowboys? At Rawhide Steakhouse, the place is swarming with 'em -- manning the mesquite broiler, plucking guitars onstage in the dining room, and shooting each other to pieces in faux showdowns outside on Main Street.

We think Rawhide Wild West Town is a kick, with its dirt street, boardwalks, haunted hotel, general store, "widowmaker" mechanical bull, covered wagons, clown days and more. The star of the show, though, is Rawhide's steaks. Surprise -- the kitchen's under the direction of celebrity chef Michael DeMaria (Michael's at the Citadel), and his finesse shines in beefy flavor. Choose your cut: 16-ounce cowboy T-bone, 12-ounce New York strip, 10-ounce top sirloin, 24-ounce porterhouse, 14-ounce rib eye, or the slightly more dainty tender filet. Steaks come with all the fixin's -- tossed garden salad, all-you-can-eat cowboy beans, a daily side dish, and ranch toast. For Rawhide's cowboy steaks, we say "Yeehaw!"

The bar at Eddie's is pretty enough to eat, all fashion and fun in a "Moroccan living room" kind of style, with plush chaises and overstuffed chairs. But much better to chow down on are the best nibbles in town -- sumac-grilled lamb chops with mint hummus, spicy "mo' rockin'" shrimp with chewy honey dough balls, and Sonoran crab cakes with spunky red-pepper aioli, to name a few. But our hearts really beat faster for the horseradish mashed potato-stuffed shrimp with cactus pear and five-peppercorn ranch dip. Our eyes brighten as we alight on crispy chicken-stuffed spaghettini egg rolls with spicy peanut sauce. And we practically melt for golden-toasted seafood ravioli, slicked with apricot-voodoo glaze. With such superb starters, at Eddie's we never want to finish.
Ruth's Chris Steak House
This, friends, is serious steak. Only the finest aged, corn-fed, USDA Prime beef bred in the Midwest makes it to the tables in this elegantly appointed place. Ruth's Chris' beef is never frozen, so you always get exceptionally tender and flavorful meat. Steaks are hand-cut at the restaurant and served in huge portions -- 12 to 22 ounces -- because a larger cut retains more of its natural juices during cooking. The beef is richly marbled -- those ribbons of fat mean a beautiful, buttery taste explosion. The steak literally calls to us -- broiled in an 1,800-degree oven and served on a plate heated to 500 degrees, the meat sputters and sizzles merrily, making a sound that's more Pavlovian than any bell. Whether it's the filet, rib eye, New York strip, porterhouse or massive cowboy cut, Ruth's Chris has a permanent stake in our future.

Coup Des Tartes
Jamie Peachey
Some chefs treat the fusion concept as license to pair unnatural foods. Sushi schnitzel? Not for us, thanks. Then there are chefs like Natascha Ovando-Karadsheh, who takes classic dishes and marries them with select surprises, for tastes that are inspired but not weird. The handwritten menu changes nightly, depending on available ingredients and the chef's mood.

At Coup Des Tartes, we're impressed with such dishes as pork tenderloin, taken a little Jamaican with jerk rub, a little Southwestern with peach salsa, a little French with chèvre mashed potatoes, and all American with sautéed spinach. Lamb shank takes on a Moroccan flair with Indian spices, harissa-spiced vegetable ragout and dried fruits atop couscous. And we've never had such divine Alaskan halibut, drizzled with fresh basil oil, and stunningly served with Absolut Citron-spiked risotto, teardrop tomatoes and spinach. Freebie plates of French olives and a BYOB policy make dinner here even more special.

When we were kids, we couldn't stand liver. Then we discovered foie gras, and now we can't get enough. Of course, this isn't just your everyday liver, but a type that's been a prized delicacy since Roman times. The goose variety that's served here has been force-fed until the bird's liver weighs as much as two pounds. Bad news for the goose, good news for us.

Though Valencia Lane changes its menus with the seasons, its foie gras shows up regularly, and is always prepared simply. One of our favorite preparations here has it expertly seared, partnered with a few thimbles of flavorful pineapple chutney, dots of tart 100-year-old balsamic, and a little hill of radish sprouts. It's a remarkable explosion of complementary textures and flavors that has us licking the plate. Long live Valencia Lane's liver!

For such a big city, we sure don't have much in the way of ultra-luxe restaurants. Maybe we're too laid-back. (Jacket and tie? Surely you jest!) Or maybe no one's been brave enough to take on Mary Elaine's, our grandma of gourmet. This is the swankiest of swank, with rich European decor, white-glove service (even purses get their own little stools to sit on), and gorgeous views of the southern Valley. It's expensive -- appetizers for $29, entrees for $60, and desserts for $20 -- but no other restaurant can compete with its modern French cuisine. We're delighted, from a beginning of two ounces of Caspian beluga caviar through chteaubriand of buffalo with grilled Sonoma foie gras, or caramelized Maine sea scallops with arugula ravioli and white bean purée, right through desserts that leave us gasping. Yes, we do have to dress at Mary Elaine's. But we'd wear pink bunny suits if it got us a table.
Slices
It's 1 a.m. on the weekend, and the bars have closed. We're hungry -- and nothing helps soothe a martini-molested belly like pizza. No problem; we've got Slices, serving until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. We could scarf a whole pie, but would probably regret it in the morning. Instead, we'll go by the slice, selected from a variety of 19-inch rounds. We order piece by piece; these suspects are unusually large and filling, and often just one or two slabs will do us. Thin-crusted and tasty, the slices are salvation to our overimbibing -- a potato, bacon and Cheddar concoction, baked eggplant with roasted red pepper, chicken parmigiana and the best: meatball pizza. Sometimes you've just got to grab a slice of life and savor it.

Salt Cellar Restaurant
Evie Carpenter
The Salt Cellar, despite its funky, underground setting (careful navigating those dark stairs, particularly if you've been washing down your pre-dinner oysters, clams, shrimp or mussels at the bar), is completely serious about bringing us only the freshest, best-quality aquatic fare from around the globe. In fact, its comfy ambiance is one of the reasons we're hooked. Who needs frou-frou fittings with a multitude of daily market selections such as Canadian king salmon, Hawaiian mahi-mahi with macadamia nuts, Cajun-spiced halibut from Anchorage, stuffed mountain trout from Idaho, or our personal favorite: the three-pound, live Maine lobster? Or stuff your mouth with the Cellar's whole Dungeness crab or Alaskan king crab legs. The Captain's Choice selections add more adventurous treats such as shrimp San Remo on fresh garlic basil pasta, and teriyaki ahi on fresh orange habanero pasta. No matter the mood, we always "sea" something we like at the Salt Cellar.
Ichi Ban Japanese Restaurant & Sushi
It's a fantasy we keep returning to: stuffing ourselves to the gills on quality seafood, without taking out a loan on our house. At Ichi Ban, it's certainly easy to fill up, selecting from hundreds of aquatic items at this buffet-style sushi and seafood fest. But we feel a wave of relief when the bill comes: just $13.95 at lunch, and $20.95 at dinner. The reality is that even with the low tariff, Ichi Ban doesn't cut corners on its catch. Pale pink albacore tuna, bright red maguro, silky salmon, buttery hamachi, cooked shrimp, flaky kani, red snapper, scallop and eel make for sensual sushi. More substantial choices include baked salmon, snow crab, marina clam soup, scallops, baby octopus and sautéed fish. Finally -- substantial seafood that doesn't cost us a c-note.

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