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Aiming higher than the spate of casual Vietnamese eateries lining Colonial Drive, Oviedo's Saigon Flavors certainly has the sultry mood, decorative panache and intimate space that sets it apart from its downtown kin. Deep reds and cool blues with wall cutouts housing assorted objets d'art, including four beautifully painted renderings of Vietnam's four regions, lend to a mood of refined tranquility. So why mar the serenity by situating a hostess stand in the dining room? It's not so much the stand's placement as how it serves as a congregating ground for owner Charlie Tang and his staff, who use it as a forum for idle chatter. Buckling to one's boredom is commonplace in the service biz, but for a restaurant bent on raising the bar, such behavior takes a bit of shimmer off the surface. Both our meals here began with a conscious effort to turn a deaf ear to the chitchat and to nourish our senses with our eyes and mouths.

And with corpulent gòi cuôn, we were able to do just that. Summer rolls ($3.50) of the grilled pork, lemon-chicken and meatball varieties restored some of the luster, but it was the grape leaves stuffed with marinated char-grilled beef that really shone. A slight charring of the leaves themselves only enhanced the flavors, but a dip in the homemade sweet-and-sour sauce wasn't just unnecessary, it vitiated the essence. If you must, a drop or two of the red pepper chutney provides the proper zing.

Poring over the 50-odd 'chef's specials� and entrees, we were steered toward the canh chua cá ($12.95), a fish soup made sweet by pineapples and sour by the addition of tamarind. Our obliging server proceeded to spoon some rice into a bowl, on top of which he ladled a piping-hot broth teeming with tilapia fillets, bean sprouts, okra, tomatoes and peppermint. The surprisingly harmonious and texturally symphonic soup would be even better the next day, we were told, and sure enough, the balanced but bolder broth proved gratifying the following night.

One of my favorite places in town to enjoy a good cheap bowl of pho is Viet Garden, and the fact that Tang owned that restaurant back in the '90s had me salivating at the thought of sampling the liquid meal here. While good, the pho ($7.50) with beef eye-round, flank and meatballs seemed deficient in fragrant star anise, and the lack of depth and complexity in the broth had us compensating by adding more Thai basil. On the noodle front, we opted for another of the chef's specialties ' an artfully presented, albeit safe, plate of crispy combo noodles ($11.95) crowned with plenty of shrimp, beef, chicken and a host of vegetables from bok choy to water chestnuts stir-fried in an unremarkable brown garlic sauce.

If potent Viet coffee with condensed milk ($3.50) doesn't sweeten your tooth, deliciously mild and runny flan ($2.95), as well as the fried banana flambé ($4.95) served with sesame- specked coconut ice cream, certainly will.

While you won't find the profligate aggregation of dishes at Saigon Flavors that you would in the humble eateries on Colonial Drive, you won't find the third-world prices either. But if Viet Garden was any indication, Tang will make this work. His restaurant may not even be the size of Ho Chi Minh's hothouse, but Tang's ambitions may be just as big.

While you won't find the profligate aggregation of dishes at Saigon Flavors that you would in the humble eateries on Colonial Drive, you won't find the third-world prices either. But if Viet Garden was any indication, Tang will make this work. His restaurant may not even be the size of Ho Chi Minh's hothouse, but Tang's ambitions may be just as big.

Sooner or later there comes a point when the old standby meals you make at home get boring. Always the same -- the chicken, the spaghetti, the macaroni and cheese. What you need is an adventure, and it's as close as the shelves of Saigon Market

Walking through the aisles is like a trip to another culinary planet. Here you'll find red perilla, a licorice-flavored leaf eaten with sashimi, and Chinese rehmannia root (used by herbalists to treat fatigue). Bins of sapota fruit and artful strings of sataw (called stinky beans, and for a reason) share space with winter melon that gets cut open, filled with shrimp and baked. There's a whole aisle of fish sauces, and hard-to-find black rice vinegar that's sweet enough to use alone on a salad.

Walking through the aisles is like a trip to another culinary planet. Here you'll find red perilla, a licorice-flavored leaf eaten with sashimi, and Chinese rehmannia root (used by herbalists to treat fatigue). Bins of sapota fruit and artful strings of sataw (called stinky beans, and for a reason) share space with winter melon that gets cut open, filled with shrimp and baked. There's a whole aisle of fish sauces, and hard-to-find black rice vinegar that's sweet enough to use alone on a salad.

And grab a can of my favorite sweet, gelatinous, mutant coconut balls -- just to say you have 'em.

As mainstream tastes grow more adventurous, perhaps it was inevitable that a swanky sushi restaurant would arrive on east Aloma Avenue, next door to a bowling alley.

Despite sounding like a play on the word "psycho", Saikyo Sushi Bar and Grill takes its name from a combo of "Saigon" and "Tokyo," a reflection of the owners' backgrounds. Eventually Vietnamese cuisine will join the menu, but for now it's all Japanese. And there's a varied selection to satisfy palettes that prefer raw or cooked dishes. Friday and Saturday nights are busy but lunch hasn't quite caught on, as we discovered on a weekday visit.

Despite sounding like a play on the word "psycho", Saikyo Sushi Bar and Grill takes its name from a combo of "Saigon" and "Tokyo," a reflection of the owners' backgrounds. Eventually Vietnamese cuisine will join the menu, but for now it's all Japanese. And there's a varied selection to satisfy palettes that prefer raw or cooked dishes. Friday and Saturday nights are busy but lunch hasn't quite caught on, as we discovered on a weekday visit.

One of the owners formerly worked as an architect in Vietnam, and his designs have transformed the place impressively from its previous lives. An arched wooden footbridge leads from the parking lot to the front door, and a garden pond is on the way. Inside, the feng shui is enhanced by soft colors, subdued lighting, a small "tatami" seating area and a gleaming sushi bar.

One of the owners formerly worked as an architect in Vietnam, and his designs have transformed the place impressively from its previous lives. An arched wooden footbridge leads from the parking lot to the front door, and a garden pond is on the way. Inside, the feng shui is enhanced by soft colors, subdued lighting, a small "tatami" seating area and a gleaming sushi bar.

There is nothing complicated about the menu; it's a to-the-point collection of sashimi (fish served raw) and sushi (vinegared rice garnished with seafood and/or vegetables), with some sukiyaki, teriyaki and tempura entrees thrown in.

There is nothing complicated about the menu; it's a to-the-point collection of sashimi (fish served raw) and sushi (vinegared rice garnished with seafood and/or vegetables), with some sukiyaki, teriyaki and tempura entrees thrown in.

Sushi rolls are plumply sliced. The "French roll" ($6.95) is wrapped in a crepe that covers shrimp, crab, avocado, cucumber and cream cheese. Dabbed with tingling wasabi paste, it has a lot of impact. We also loved the crunch of fried soft-shell crab, deliciously blended with asparagus and onions in the "spider roll" ($8.95). Inside there was an unexpected orange blaze of smelt eggs.

Sushi rolls are plumply sliced. The "French roll" ($6.95) is wrapped in a crepe that covers shrimp, crab, avocado, cucumber and cream cheese. Dabbed with tingling wasabi paste, it has a lot of impact. We also loved the crunch of fried soft-shell crab, deliciously blended with asparagus and onions in the "spider roll" ($8.95). Inside there was an unexpected orange blaze of smelt eggs.

Tempura fans will find territory to explore in the deep-fried "Sanibel roll" ($6.95) with salmon and asparagus bonded by cream cheese. The vegetable tempura dinner ($8.95) is a filling assortment of sliced sweet potatoes, onions, peppers, broccoli tips and mushrooms. The dish is oily, which weighs down the otherwise light presentation.

Tempura fans will find territory to explore in the deep-fried "Sanibel roll" ($6.95) with salmon and asparagus bonded by cream cheese. The vegetable tempura dinner ($8.95) is a filling assortment of sliced sweet potatoes, onions, peppers, broccoli tips and mushrooms. The dish is oily, which weighs down the otherwise light presentation.

Pork teriyaki ($12.95) benefits from the sauce -- light, never clingy -- that's washed over the grilled strips of tenderloin, dusted with sesame seeds. Entrees come with steamed rice and a choice of soup or salad. Go for the miso soup; it's satisfying and aggressive, spiked with scallions and tofu cubes.

Pork teriyaki ($12.95) benefits from the sauce -- light, never clingy -- that's washed over the grilled strips of tenderloin, dusted with sesame seeds. Entrees come with steamed rice and a choice of soup or salad. Go for the miso soup; it's satisfying and aggressive, spiked with scallions and tofu cubes.

Service was professionally low-key. We had a sense of space, yet our requests were met in a timely manner. Saikyo Sushi Bar and Grill may just go the distance in a location that's been a revolving door for Asian restaurants.

The first mall food experience I remember is slurping down an Orange Julius after buying my very first pair of pegged, zipper-on-the-bottom jeans. My obsession with the jeans didn't last, but I can't say the same for the fabulous string of selections I discovered thereafter at the mall: bubblegum-flavored popcorn, See's gourmet lollipops, bourbon chicken … the list goes on.

Nothing, however, compares to what's cooking in a corner of the Florida Mall: Salsa Taqueria and Tequila bar. Here, I sipped my very first glass of amaretto-infused tequila for dessert, which blew the pineapple Julius away for best beverage at the mall.

But let's rewind. Before I even entered the colorful and cavernous restaurant, I sampled the chips the hostess was giving out at the entrance. Hungry shoppers were lured in by the dozens, and I could see why. As the homemade chips delicately crackled between my teeth, I knew I had to have more – a lot more. In fact, I didn't stop until three bowls of guacamole ($3.95) were polished off. It was creamier than usual and tingled the tongue with fresh lime, serrano pepper and hints of cilantro.

Queso fundido ($6.50), a rich blend of manchego, asadero and Monterey Jack cheeses, was swaddled in fresh handmade flour tortillas and was proof that bread and cheese is a universally adored pairing. Tortilla soup ($4.95), creamy from the blending of corn tortillas with hearty chicken broth, was bright and refreshing. Among the flavors to shine in this soup were guajillo chiles, a common dried pepper in Mexico, but a difficult-to-find ingredient in American markets.

The taco sampler ($10.95) was an array of flavor and texture. If one were eating a spectrum of color, this is what it would taste like; it started with a light citrus-marinated chicken, then moved through marinated beef, roasted pork with pineapple and sweet onions, grouper with fruity pico de gallo and slaw, roasted mushrooms, and poblano peppers with queso fresco. I was overwhelmed with the mixture of surprise as the tastes ran from sweet and fruity to fragrantly spicy to pleasantly mellow to creamy and back again.

One of the best things about Salsa Taqueria is the just representation of capsicums on the menu. Look no further to expand your knowledge of peppers: bell, smoked jalape'o, chipotle, serrano, guajillo and poblano, to name a few.

The Mexico City enchiladas ($11.95) are a mix-and-match of choices: There's chicken, beef or shrimp, but also be prepared to choose from yellow, poblano, guajillo or tomatillo mole, all spectacularly delicious. My favorite, the guajillo, seemed heavy at first, but woke the mouth with a little zing and a lot of tang after the first bite. Among three sandwich selections, we tried "torta Havana" ($8.50), thinly sliced pork loin, ham and avocado on pleasantly light, toasted bread. The addition of chipotle sauce made the flavors come alive.

For dessert we ordered the tres leches ($3.95), of course. Tres leches is one of my current kitchen experiments, and I made one the other day that looked like a deflated balloon. Luckily, Salsa Taqueria's fared better, but was more like a tiramisu drenched in fruit puree than the silky, milk-soaked genoise that captures my recent affections. (Note: I invite … no, beg those with good tres leches recipes to please step forward and share.) So, after our delicious meal, I was ready to go try on some jeans – no zippers on the bottom this time.

Judging from the packed parking lot, we thought we were about to experience Steaks "R" Us. And since we spotted quite a few "Jeb!" and Confederate flag bumper stickers, we weren't quite sure what else to expect. A gaudy marquee announced Sam Seltzer's Steakhouse to the traffic on State Road 436, and a small group of fiberglass cow statues greeted us at the front door.

And so we found ourselves lining up with hundreds of other carnivores at the restaurant that bills itself as "the biggest steakhouse in town." Steak World might be a better name. The smoking section alone seats about 110 people, and the restaurant holds a total of 375 customers. On a busy night, it's almost like visiting a Disney satellite attraction, where hundreds of animatrons sit neatly at tables, chewing politely on their red-meat fix.

And so we found ourselves lining up with hundreds of other carnivores at the restaurant that bills itself as "the biggest steakhouse in town." Steak World might be a better name. The smoking section alone seats about 110 people, and the restaurant holds a total of 375 customers. On a busy night, it's almost like visiting a Disney satellite attraction, where hundreds of animatrons sit neatly at tables, chewing politely on their red-meat fix.

The seating is arranged into dining clusters through a series of rooms, so at least you aren't elbow-to-elbow with the masses. After scanning the appetizer menu, we chose the deep-fried onion blossom -- of course. It's required eating in a steakhouse, and it seems like every restaurant trots out the same basic version these days. Here, it's called "Sam's wild onion rose" ($4.95), and it was not bad at all -- crisp and crunchy, not greasy a bit, served with a peppery horseradish-Thousand Island dressing.

The seating is arranged into dining clusters through a series of rooms, so at least you aren't elbow-to-elbow with the masses. After scanning the appetizer menu, we chose the deep-fried onion blossom -- of course. It's required eating in a steakhouse, and it seems like every restaurant trots out the same basic version these days. Here, it's called "Sam's wild onion rose" ($4.95), and it was not bad at all -- crisp and crunchy, not greasy a bit, served with a peppery horseradish-Thousand Island dressing.

"Sam's wings & ribs" ($6.95) turned out to be drummettes and ribs, but they were fall-off-the-bone tender, glazed with a sweet barbecue sauce. In fact, they were far more tender than my 16-ounce rib-eye ($13.95), which the menu promised would be "exquisitely tender" but wasn't. My guest's 10-ounce filet mignon ($14.95) was the best thing we had that evening. It was cooked properly medium, with a hot, pink center. Our dinners came with a choice of salads and sides, and our favorite was the garlic mashed potatoes. The creamed spinach was excruciatingly bland.

"Sam's wings & ribs" ($6.95) turned out to be drummettes and ribs, but they were fall-off-the-bone tender, glazed with a sweet barbecue sauce. In fact, they were far more tender than my 16-ounce rib-eye ($13.95), which the menu promised would be "exquisitely tender" but wasn't. My guest's 10-ounce filet mignon ($14.95) was the best thing we had that evening. It was cooked properly medium, with a hot, pink center. Our dinners came with a choice of salads and sides, and our favorite was the garlic mashed potatoes. The creamed spinach was excruciatingly bland.

If you have room for dessert, there is a great "chocolate explosion" ($4.50) that features a triple-whammy of cake, mousse and brownie, dunked with hot fudge sauce and topped with vanilla ice cream.

If you have room for dessert, there is a great "chocolate explosion" ($4.50) that features a triple-whammy of cake, mousse and brownie, dunked with hot fudge sauce and topped with vanilla ice cream.

Our waiter was on the ball, obliging every request and checking on us frequently, which couldn't have been easy considering how fast the place filled up. Sam Seltzer's is a notch above the more generic steak shacks, but it's also handy for those times when you don't want to part with the monthly power-bill allowance to feed your craving at Ruth's Chris Steak House or Del Frisco's.

Some images naturally evoke romance – not the Harlequin variety, but a more decadent version made up of long, luscious nights of freedom and beauty, love and passion. For me, this fantasy is colored in a tropical patina that conjures Havana in the 1950s, something the Samba Room also effects. OK, so you're not exactly sitting oceanfront at a deco hotel sipping mojitos: You know you're in a suburban strip mall that sidles up to a sinkhole. But you don't really care because you're having fun, eating good food, and the atmosphere is convivial and very romantic.

Samba Room's change of ownership back in 2003, from Carlson Restaurant Group (TGI Fridays) to E-Brands Restaurants, has done it justice. E-Brands has a careful hand in the kitchen and a wonderful way of creating ambience.

"Would you like to sit inside," the smiley hostess asked, "or out by the lake?"

Inside was festive and enticing with loud Latin music and brightly colored Diego Rivera-esque murals. Airy white curtains, so gossamer that every draft becomes a tropical breeze, bring life to the darkest corners. But it was a beautiful night, so we chose to dine outside by the lake. We sat, sipping cocktails beneath white rattan paddle fans, and peered inside at larger parties crowded around tables, talking loudly, laughing, engaged in each others' company under russet-orange lights. This is what you call casual elegance.

We started with an order of Samba ceviche ($8.95), which mixed market-fresh fish, shrimp, red onions and colorful peppers in a lime marinade. Pleasantly tangy, the dish swelled with flavor, balancing acidity and salinity. My mouth never puckered with displeasure. The roasted hominy on the side added satisfying texture to the delicious dish.

The empanada sampler ($7.95) consisted of both sweet corn and pork varieties. Surprisingly, we liked the nontraditional sweet corn because it had fuller flavor and more filling. Both of the delicious sauces served with the empanadas were delicate fusions. Listed as "sofrito" (annatto-infused lard with vegetable garniture) and "aji amarillo" (a lemony capsicum from Latin America), they were modern streaks of emulsified flavor, distant cousins to the traditional varieties, running down an edge of the plate.

For my main course, I tried Spanish paella ($25.50). Tiny red strands of saffron spattered the mound of rice laced with calamari, shrimp, white fish, chicken and some of the biggest mussels I've ever seen. The deep, earthy, subtle perfume of saffron followed the dish out of the open kitchen into the air. Half of a Maine lobster was the crown jewel of the dish.

My partner got the pork barbacoa ($18.95), marinated and roasted in banana leaves. Unwrapping the leaves, he found a tender piece of pork nestled under a blanket of sweet, citrusy barbecue sauce.

We were intrigued by the shiitake mushrooms al ajillo ($3.95) that spectacularly showcased traditional Asian mushrooms in Latin garlic sauce.

I was about to burst when the espresso tres leches ($6) and guava cheesecake ($6) were delivered. I ate half of the excellent Kahlua-spiked tres leches before switching plates for a bite or two of the zesty cheesecake. The server brought café con leche ($4.50) to end our meal, and we sat looking over the still Florida water, slowly sipping the creamy, sweet coffee.

"We should plan a trip to Cuba," I said, as we walked under industrial fluorescents across the vast suburban parking lot.

'Eighty percent of everything you see here is authentic,â?� says Charlie, our greeter for the evening at Sanaa, the newest dining option at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge.

'Sanaaâ?� is the Swahili word for 'work of art.â?� The comfortable, earth-toned restaurant, sited in the Kidani Village, is patterned after an African spice market. Charlie, according to his name badge, is from Johannesburg, South Africa. So far, so authentic. The cloth draping the walls and ceilings? Authentic. Most of the artwork and knickknacks? Authentic.

Naturally, Charlie's scripted claim led me to wonder what around here wasn't African in origin, but he handed us off to our server before I could get a journalistically satisfying answer. As in all things Disney, it's often best to just go with the flow. Thankfully, that's not hard to do. Disney has food service down to a science, and it would take one far more curmudgeonly than I to let that mystery 20 percent spoil dinner.

Sanaa is billed as 'the art of African cooking with Indian flavors,â?� and while I'm no expert on African cuisine, I do know Indian flavors when they across my plate. And that is largely what will cross your plate at Sanaa. The appetizer sampler plate ($14.99) featured potato and pea samosas, pulled duck with red curry sauce and a few pieces of roasted cauliflower. With the exception of the duck, indistinguishable from pulled pork, it was all Indian-light; nothing too spicy or challenging here.

Our server, whose name tag indicated that she hailed from the exotic land of the University of Central Florida, painstakingly explained the workings of the on-site tandoor oven, after which it would have been almost rude not to order something from it, which we did. And it was a wise decision. The tandoori chicken ($17.99) featured moist, perfectly cooked chunks of yardbird, a small bowl of rich, tangy, yogurt-tinged dipping sauce in which to dunk them, and a bed of basmati rice. It proved satisfying, if a bit small for the price.

From that same oven came 'Indian-style bread serviceâ?� ($8.99), a sampler of naan, paratha and paneer paratha accompanied by your choice of three dipping sauces. I've had lighter, tastier Indian breads at any number of I-Drive establishments, and the sauces ' mango chutney, tamarind chutney and cucumber raita ' were flavorful if just a little too sweet, likely a concession to the American palate.

We also ordered a dish called, plainly enough, 'slow cooked in gravyâ?� ($18.99), again a sampler of two out of three options: beef short ribs in red gravy, chicken with red curry sauce or shrimp in green curry. I chose the beef -' falling-apart tender, but the gravy was too close to barbecue sauce for my comfort -' and the shrimp ' large and succulent in a mild green curry sauce that left me wanting more ' and along with a generous portion of basmati, it was more than I could eat.

Dessert was a float-off-your-spoon'light chai cream mousse ($5.49) and a pot of robust, pressed Kenya AA coffee ($6.29), one of the strongest and most distinct flavors of the whole meal.

Sanaa's limited menu options, somewhat muted flavors and detailed atmosphere make for a safely exotic experience. It is, as my dining partner put it so aptly, starter Indian food. If you like it, don't let your culinary adventure begin and end there.

A chance to sit under the stars on a warm December night is worth the tolls and endless construction. The Sanford Wine Company, located in the severely underrated historic district, boasts an international wine list that includes classics from Spain, Italy, France and the western United States, and more obscure vintages from Canada and Eastern Europe. With over 100 wines to choose from, even the staunchest white zinfandel devotee will trade in that sophomoric rosé for a sophisticated riesling.

Sanford Wine Company is as much dive bar as it is wine temple. There are over 40 micro-brewed and specialty beers both on tap and in bottle, sourced from Poland to Portland. Try Florida’s own Honey Amber Rose beer ($3.50), brewed along the Indian River, with hints of rosehips and orange blossom honey.

Unpretentious surroundings and ESPN-beaming flat-panel televisions defy the example of the trendy wine bar and encourage more discussion of onion rings than opera. In fact, the Wine Company forgoes so-chic seared-tuna appetizers in favor of snappy bratwursts (perfect paired with a glass of Elyse 2003 Le Corbeau from California) and meaty burgers (the dark fruit, leather and tobacco of the Italian barolo makes for a classic combo). A variety of cheeses is also available, and the knowledgeable waitstaff can pair camembert with the perfect cabernet.

The wine bar hosts wine and beer tastings, live music, lectures, and block parties throughout the year, making it an epicenter of the North Central Florida social structure. Taking wine from insurmountable pretension to cool modesty is a formidable task, but the Sanford Wine Company accomplishes this without sacrificing dedication to high-quality beverages. This temple to fermentation is as friendly to the diehard Mondavian as it is to the most urbane oenophile.

What's in a name? That which we call Sazon 436 by any other name would smell as savory. Yes, I'll admit, the moniker of this little Puerto Rican eatery in unincorporated Winter Park conjured up an image that proved not to be factual. I expected a simple, casual eatery that may or may not have been defined as a 'hole in the wall,â?� but Sazon 436, as it turned out, was anything but. A spotless interior sparked by a black-and-white checkerboard floor, looked over by harmonious still lifes and candlelit tables, lent the interior a cozy parlor chic. The scene is at once simple and dignified, and much the same can be said about chef Moises Izquierdo's dishes.

After celebrating one year in business, owner Carlos Guzman and his wife Maritza Sanz decided to close for a month, partly in celebration of the anniversary and partly in celebration of their daughter's wedding. But they also spent some of that time accessorizing the dining room with black and red linens, extending the wine list and flying Izquierdo up from Puerto Rico to introduce subtly contemporary twists to a bill of fare comprised of Boricua comfort staples.

'Kingâ?� prawns ($9) drizzled in a delightful guava beurre blanc sauce lacked the regal girth, but the starter was as straightforward as it was satisfying. I just wished the king prawns were crowned with a splash more of the sauce ' it tempered the saltiness of the shrimp. Avocados stuffed with shredded chicken in tomato sauce ($7) weren't awe-inspiring, but the fruit was firm (not mushy) and the tomatoey chicken accomplished the task of whetting our appetites for the mains.

The fried red snapper ($18) will certainly elicit a visceral response from sensitive diners. The fish, served whole, is propped upright and curved mouth to tail, but it's the golden, crisp flesh flavored with minced garlic that easily made this dish the highlight of the night. Small complaint: The bed of sautéed spinach didn't look as fresh as it could've ' consider a bowl of cilantro-spiked green rice ($5) instead. 'Atti's Famousâ?� braised short ribs ($15), named for the owners' granddaughter, was yet another dish in keeping with Izquierdo's simple-yet-spirited approach. Chunks of tender, fatty meat fell off the bone effortlessly, and along with a purplish mound of mashed starchy yautía (a root vegetable similar to taro), made for a plateful of culinary consolation.

A glass of white wine passion sangria was sweet refreshment, but I had the sneaking suspicion that the grapes, pears and peaches were canned. The cinnamon stick, however, added a nice aromatic touch.

Just as aromatic was the yaya papaya ($4), a circular pound cake with hints of coconut smothered with diced caramelized papaya. If your teeth are not so sweetly inclined, chef Moises' cheesecake ($5), glazed with guava, is spot-on and begs to be enjoyed with a café con leche ($3) or, rather, leche con café ' our cordial waiter served us a cup of heated milk along with a small decanter of hot coffee. A little gimmicky, but we enjoyed the reversal nonetheless.

The 2008 menu with 'all the greasy good stuff,â?� like mofongo and fried tostones, will make its return in the coming weeks, says Guzman, after which Izquierdo will head back to Puerto Rico. Let's hope he leaves a bit of his legacy in the kitchen before taking off.

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