Three to consider:
Bistro Panino, 4139 West Bell, 978-8500. The talented Swiss chef whips up tasty continental fare that would cost almost twice as much if this place were east of 24th Street. Try veal saltimbocca, pork loin or homemade spinach ravioli, topped with portabella mushrooms and Gorgonzola cheese. Another big plus: The first-rate breads and desserts are made in-house. The French almond cake and Linzer torte are especially noteworthy.
North Valley Grill, Arrowhead Towne Center, 75th Avenue and Bell in Glendale, 979-3430. There's no getting around the mall location. But North Valley Grill's homespun grub will take your mind off the setting. Grilled portabella mushrooms with crumbled blue cheese is an appetizer gem. Meat loaf and ribs are winning entree choices. The thick, tender double pork chop, coated with a maple glaze, is stunning, one of this town's best models.
Charlie's Grill, Sheraton Crescent Hotel, 2620 West Dunlap, 371-2747. It's a business hotel, not a fancy resort. But this hotel restaurant offers premier west-side dining in a swanky setting. The grilled shrimp cocktail is a marvel, while the vegetarian quesadilla makes a pleasant pre-dinner nibble. The fish, beef and pasta entrees are all well-crafted.
Book Notes: Elin Jeffords spent about 15 years reviewing restaurants for New Times and the Arizona Republic. Now she's come out with a new book that will probably be nesting under many Valley Christmas trees this holiday season.
Dine-In, Dine-Out Cook Book ($14.95) compiles 140 recipes from 35 local chefs. Got some extra time? Try to duplicate RoxSand's heirloom potato strudel with shiitake Cabernet sauce, or the Chaparral Restaurant's formidable lobster bisque. Need something fast? Check out Tucchetti's spinach-artichoke cheese dip or Cafe Patou's salmon with carrot juice.
Even if the only thing you ever plan to make for dinner is reservations, the book can be helpful. That's because it comes with $10-off coupons, good throughout 1998, for most (but not all) of its participating restaurants. Among the choices: Aldo Baldo, Baby Kay's Cajun Kitchen, Bill Johnson's Big Apple, Bistro 24, Cafe Patou, Hops! Bistro and Brewery, Old Town Tortilla Factory and Remington's. Use just two coupons and you'll more than make back the cost of the book.
Back to the Drawing Board: About a year ago, the Pointe Hilton at Squaw Peak rolled out its new Lantana Grille, which featured "Foods of the Sun." The concept failed to catch fire, and now it's been jettisoned. Ernst Springhorn, former chef at Gabriel's, was in line to take over and introduce his own menu of traditional American favorites. But the partnership dissolved before it could be cemented. For the moment, Lantana Grille remains rudderless.
Suggestions? Write me at [email protected] or New Times, P.O. Box 2510, Phoenix,