Cafe Reviews

SECOND HELPINGS

Sea Fever: Today's review of Il Pescatore got me thinking about ethnic seafood. If you're looking to go beyond grilled salmon or sauted scallops for more provocatively prepared ocean fare, check out these places: * C-Fu Gourmet, 6438 South McClintock, Tempe, 831-8899. Perhaps the Queen of Valley ethnic seafood. Most of the menu is still swimming when you order it. Depending on the season, expect to find lobster, clams, scallops, tilapia and crab cavorting in the holding tanks. The kitchen prepares them in exquisite Cantonese fashion. * San Carlos Bay Seafood Restaurant, 1901 East McDowell, 340-0892. About as good as Mexican seafood gets in the Valley. Seafood cocktails are a specialty--octopus, abalone, oyster, shrimp. For dinner, check out pescado Veracruzano: red snapper drenched with olives, onions, peppers and tomatoes. * Justin's Ragin' Cajun Cuisine, 13416 North Cave Creek Road, Phoenix, 404-2900. Sure, Cajun food's ethnic. Try baked stuffed corvina, crayfish touffe, soft-shell po-boy and blackened catfish. Alligator, too. * Mary Elaine's, (Phoenician resort) 6000 East Camelback, 941-8200. The chef specializes in fish with a Mediterranean accent. There's John Dory with black truffles, daurade with a sweet lobster curry and turbot with orange-cardamom sauce. Bring money--entrees average about $30. Cheese It: Franco Fazzuoli, proprietor of Franco's Trattoria, called me about a problem. His restaurant is well-known for its signature opening touch: shaving hunks of imported Parmesan cheese and pecorino Romano off big wheels, and bringing them to the table with a basket of fresh bread. It's a winning, and expensive, move. According to Franco, though, some customers are abusing his generosity. Not only are they asking for seconds and thirds (and not ordering appetizers), some are asking for it as a postprandial cheese course, and as a substitute for dessert. Franco's options? Charging folks for additional servings, or raising menu prices by 50 cents or a dollar to cover cheese gluttony. Neither alternative is very consumer-friendly. Maybe a menu advisory would do the trick: "Please, one serving of cheese per table." In the meantime, when you go to Franco's, don't say "cheese" more than once, unless you want to see a grown man weep. Unchain My Heart: Lone Star Steakhouse, a fabulously successful and utterly charmless chain steak restaurant that invaded the Valley with two branches this year, is setting its sights on the fine-dining end of the steak-house niche, according to industry trade paper Restaurant News. No word yet about what the new restaurants will be called, or when they'll start up. Right now, the upscale chain steak market is dominated by Ruth's Chris and Morton's. (There are two Ruth's Chris in town; Morton's will be here next year, at 32nd Street and Camelback.) At the moment, steak houses are riding high, as people "reward" themselves for nutritional correctness by gorging on slabs of meat when they eat out. If you ask me, Lone Star stock promises to be a lot more appetizing than a Lone Star dinner.

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Howard Seftel