Cafe Reviews


Happy New Year: Did you make a killing in derivatives in 1994? Spill hot McDonald's coffee on your lap and collect a cool half-million? Vote Republican?

If so, you'll enjoy celebrating at these gourmet Valley resort restaurants. Arizona Kitchen, Wigwam Resort, 300 East Indian School, Litchfield Park. An exceptionally imaginative menu, drawing on the bounty of the Southwest. From home-baked Indian fry bread studded with jalapeos to the guajillo-chile-flavored ice cream topped with crushed-pistachio-and-vanilla-bean salsa, this kitchen doesn't let up.

Chaparral Restaurant, Marriott's Camelback Inn, 5402 East Lincoln, Paradise Valley. Classic dishes, classically prepared. Start with a velvety bisque d'homard, lobster soup with a puff pastry cap, topped with a bit of cräme frache and caviar. The magnificent beef Wellington and lobster thermidor are as good as they get.

Marquesa, Scottsdale Princess Resort, 7575 East Princess Drive, Scottsdale. If you put a gun to my head and demanded to know my favorite restaurant, this would probably be it. It offers a gorgeous setting, and gorgeous fare from the Catalan region of Spain. Paella, sarsuela de marisc (seafood stew), pan-roasted rack of lamb and a combo of veal tenderloins and breast of duck keep me panting.

Did you close on your new house before interest rates jumped? Survive company layoffs? Here are some spots for the disposable-income crowd. Christopher's Bistro, 2398 East Camelback, Phoenix. Sophisticated food, sophisticated service in a sophisticated room. Tantalizing bistro favorites like veal chop, braised lamb shank and shallot steak. Plus a great wine-by-the-glass list and chef Christopher Gross' formidable desserts. Havana Patio Cafe, 6245 East Bell Road, Phoenix. Yanqui, come here. Hearty, well-crafted dishes from Cuba, Latin America and Spain. Frituras de camarnes (shrimp pancakes) get dinner off to a fast start. Boliche mechado (Cuban pot roast) is luscious. Try it with a side of congri, red beans and rice zipped up with smoked ham and onions. Marco Polo Cafe, 7027 East Camelback, Scottsdale. East meets West at this nifty, refurbished storefront, which blends Italian and Chinese cooking. Grilled filet mignon, with broccoli and snow peas in hoisin sauce, is outstanding. And keep your eyes out for the special of baby lobster tail meat and rock shrimp, wokked in olive oil and folded into Chinese noodles. Quit your job to work for Sam Coppersmith? Bet the Cardinals to win the Super Bowl? Plot your 1995 recovery here. Mike's Golden Crust, 15820 North 35th Avenue, Phoenix. Greek-Italian food with homemade flair. Chicken Myconos, sauted breast with sun-dried tomatoes, artichokes and feta cheese, is wonderful. Some of the best pizza and subs in town, too. Pearl of Asia, 5025 North Seventh Avenue, Phoenix. Topnotch Vietnamese dishes that you won't find anywhere else. Try chao tom, shrimp ground to a paste and shaped into an oval ball around a stick of sugar cane and deep fried. Tasty Kabob, 1250 East Apache, Tempe. Authentic Persian food, prepared by authentic Persians. Fragrant kebabs should please even unadventurous carnivores. But platters like baghali polo--dill-infused basmati rice, with lima beans and lamb shank--will transport you right to Teheran.

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Howard Seftel