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    A few weeks ago, I mentioned how chefs in this city haven't ventured outside the frontiers of traditional Indian cookery, opting instead to stick to conventional, time-honored plates. Well, things have taken a turn for the better thanks to Shabber Chowdhury. The U.K.-trained chef (by way of Bengal) is raising the bar for Indian cuisine in Orlando, and it's about bloody time. His restaurant, Tabla, poses a more ambitious undertaking than any other Indian restaurant in town. Chowdhury's brand of "Indian fusion" transcends the humdrum, but food alone does not a good restaurant make. There are clear deficiencies in the service, and the kitchen isn't beyond reproach, but let's give credit to Chowdhury and proprietors Anshu Jain and Abhay Goel for bringing Indian fare to a level of refinement heretofore unseen in Central Florida.

    The interior, though tastefully appointed, doesn't befit the sophistication of the fare. The focus is on the food, and most dishes on the lengthy menu are handled with aplomb. Chili pakoras ($4), for example, are a South Asian take on jalapeno poppers and exhibit a remarkable touch with hot oil. Anaheim peppers are stuffed with cheese, coated with panko and deep-fried to a greaseless crisp, as are the quartet of dense, bite-sized samosas ($5), generously stuffed and drizzled with tangy tamarind chutney.

    Skewered chicken shashlik ($8) held much promise; that is, until I came across a few morsels of uncooked bird. Instead of taking the dish away, my server asked me to check the other pieces. I did and came across more uncooked chicken. The plate was finally taken away, but when the bill came, I was charged for the dish. On two separate visits, I got the same well-meaning yet woefully inexperienced server, who didn't seem to know anything about the menu items. A third visit proved better, but a knowledgeable wait staff would really elevate the experience.

    Thoughtfully executed mains underscore Chowdhury's approach to East-West fusion and get matters back on track. Kesari murgh ($12) marries homemade pesto and saffron sauce in an aromatically colorful union that upstages the cheese-stuffed chicken breast. Lamb do piazza's ($15) heady curry is made all the more assertive with cinnamon sticks, shaved almonds and strings of fried onions. Doughy sesame-seed-flecked tabla naan ($3) makes an ideal utensil for sopping up the cultivated curries, as does rice jazzed with cashews, saffron and cardamom.

    For meat-lovers, the mixed tandoori grill ($32) is a gorgeous presentation fit for the most ravenous of rajahs: tender marinated lamb chops served with mint-yogurt chutney; breadcrumb-coated, fenugreek-essenced chicken cubes; perfectly charred pieces of wonderfully seasoned shola lamb kebab; flawless chicken tikka; and a fiery red fillet of sour, tangy tandoori kingfish. Meatless wonders include paneer Akbari ($14), Indian cheese stuffed with cashews in a luscious tomato sauce, as well as flavor-before-fire paneer tikka masala ($14).

    Even desserts, the bane of Indian restaurants, continue the razzle-dazzling. Toffee pudding cake ($6), sided with stracciatella gelato and garnished with a passionfruit-glazed betel leaf, is a particular highlight. Mango sorbet, coconut gelato and hits of ginger pack a refreshing punch in the "cold n spicy" ($6), while addictive malai kofta ($6) dumplings are given a sweet twist with a chocolate filling. Caramelized Kashmiri chai custard ($6), while intriguing, failed to inspire.

    What does inspire me, though, is chef Chowdhury and his determination to march forward to the beat of his own tabla - the notes of familiarity and innovation set the standard for neo-India

    Tanqueray's
    One of the few bars downtown you can depend on for live music every night, Tanqueray’s provides all the funk, jazz and blues you can handle, including a talented crop of locals like Thomas Wynn or RJ Harman performing regularly.

    I’ll admit, I wasn’t exactly salivating at the thought of dining at a restaurant catering to that oft-forgotten demographic of aging golfers and their silver-coiffed spouses. The Tap Room at Dubsdread, after all, is on the grounds of Orlando’s oldest public golf course; more than a few of its patrons are as well-worn as the ancient golf shoes encased in the display behind the hostess stand. The whole joint is made out of wood, including the ceiling, and the rustic touches and Shaker-style furnishings play up the historic angle. But the restaurant exudes a relaxed swagger – casual, yet unrelenting in its quest for perfection.

    In comparison to 19th holes at other public golf courses in Central Florida, the Tap Room is on a whole different playing field. Offering a mix of bar-and-grill bites and gourmet fare, the kitchen unquestionably takes pride in its efforts, plating simple, impeccably prepared dishes. To wit: creamy chicken vegetable soup ($4.95), a chowder-like potage with corn and potatoes that made it a struggle to pass up a second bowl. The soup was a special of the night, but should they offer it on your visit, do yourself a favor and order two.

    I was looking forward to sampling the jumbo lump crab cake, but they had evidently run out of crab, so I opted for the tenderloin steak flatbread ($11.95) instead. Cubes of medium-rare beef weighed down a long rectangular sleeve of crisp flatbread flavored with caramelized onions, wild mushrooms and a layer of mozzarella. Not a bad choice at all. I missed the berry compote more than I thought I would while enjoying baked brie ($12.95), though slices of pineapple, cantaloupe, melon and red apple, along with a small cluster of seedless red grapes, offered a properly fruity complement. The buttery-soft baguette was worth half the price of the dish alone.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the simply grilled onaga ($24.95), a ruby-red snapper from Hawaii noted for its soft, slightly fatty flesh. The generous puck of liquefying lime-dill butter atop the ample fillet proved to be the sole fault of this special, but it’s a nitpicky charge. Fluffy yellow rice and perfectly grilled asparagus accompanied the dish. If you’re a meat-and-potatoes man, the pot roast ($15.75) won’t disappoint. The slow-roasted slab of beef is enveloped by a wonderfully thick moat of peppery gravy, with potatoes, carrots and celery added to the comforting mix.

    Desserts are all made in-house and supply toothsome coups de grace. Shaved rinds add a touch of class to simply divine key lime pie ($4.95), while even the most ardent of chocoholics will be hard-pressed not to feel buzzed from the thick, rich chocolate cake ($5.95).

    Service could use a bit of polishing: I can see how the bucolic view lends to a leisurely pace, but letting 10 minutes pass before taking a drink order is just plain shoddy. That, coupled with a front of house I found to be somewhat harried, can dampen the mood and may keep the Tap Room from being a destination for the city’s fooderati. Yeah, the short game may be a little off, but the kitchen, thankfully, has its act together. That’s more than enough to keep the Tap Room in the game.

    When judging Mexican food, it helps to have some ex-Californians in your camp. So when I headed over to the Taquitos Jalisco near MetroWest, I called on the most suitable contender I know – my mother. This is a woman of the belief that you can't grow up in Los Angeles without knowing what real Mexican food tastes like. So she dragged us to a veritable shack on the corner of Melrose and Vine weekly, and it was there that my relationship with Mexican food began. Today, my Mexican connoisseurship flourishes except for one problem – there are so few true Mexican restaurants in Orlando. With Mom's approval, Taquitos Jalisco is now on my shortlist.

    For those on the west side of town, the sizzling platters and the mariachi band at the flagship Taquitos Jalisco in Winter Garden (1041 S. Dillard St., 407-654-0363) are still wildly popular and worth the drive. But the new Hiawassee Road location opens up the restaurant's authenticity to a new audience.

    One of the things I love about a Mexican restaurant is the instant-gratification factor: Sit down to a basket of chips and bowl of salsa and start eating. Unfortunately, chips and salsa, like the breadbasket, often fall under the obligation curse. Salsa should taste magical – the alchemy of plump ripe tomatoes, fresh green cilantro, spicy peppers, sweet onions and the hand of someone special – and Taquitos' does. I couldn't stop piling it onto their warm chips and popping it all into my mouth.

    When I opened the menu, my eyes immediately fell on the enchiladas ($8.25), and there was no resisting the pull of childhood temptation. These three soft corn tortillas were stuffed with Mexican cheese – briny, stretchy and tangy all at once – and then set in a sea of delicately smoky enchilada sauce. My husband, also a former Californian, ordered three delicious tacos ($5.99): the carne asada (grilled beef), the pollo (chicken) and, my favorite, al pastor (marinated roast pork.) My mother went for the mole poblano ($8.99), and it was undoubtedly one of the best I've had in town. The deftly layered spices were balanced, the top note being chocolate; Taquitos Jalisco's mole coats the tongue like a soft piece of velvet.

    We all remarked on the tastiness of the refried beans, another dish that many Mexican restaurants treat as an afterthought; this kitchen has it mastered. We finished our meal with a smooth and lush flan ($2.75).

    Here's a definite sign of the true Mexican restaurant: Menudo is featured on their weekend menu. Only an authentic Mexican restaurant would venture into the strange and tumultuous land of dishes made out of a cow's stomach lining. A Mexican friend once told me that menudo is the best cure for a hangover – I vowed to come back on a hung-over Saturday.

    Taquitos Jalisco knows that simplicity is the name of the game in good Mexican cooking. Fresh, quality ingredients are mashed and molded and smoldered into something transformative. They make you feel like whoever made them enjoyed an afternoon in some outdoor Mexican kitchen grinding spices, roasting peppers, hanging out with family, living the simple life. Mom totally agrees.

    Kevin and Laurie Tarter expand their culinary empire within the confines of the Edgewater Hotel's ground floor, also home to their Chef's Table. Small plates take on Big Easy flavors with liberal doses of spice; smoked fish dip, boudin balls crowned with runny egg yolk and Asian beef skewers are stellar, and sublime sauces elevate both shrimp & grits and chicken livers. Dessert shooters satisfy without oversating.


    Teaser: Kevin and Laurie Tarter expand their culinary empire within the confines of the Edgewater Hotel's ground floor, also home to their Chef's Table. Small plates take on Big Easy flavors with liberal doses of spice; smoked fish dip, boudin balls crowned with runny egg yolk and Asian beef skewers are stellar, and sublime sauces elevate both shrimp & grits and chicken livers. Dessert shooters satisfy without satiating.

    The extreme makeover underway at Pointe Orlando has given rise to a number of upscale chains inside the sprawling entertainment complex – Tommy Bahama’s, Capital Grille and the Oceanaire Seafood Room to name but a few. But the latest, a grand whitewashed edifice at the very heart of the Pointe, sits like the Parthenon atop an Acropolis of tourist dollars, its aim to attract the hungry to its temple of Dionysian, not Athenian, feasts.

    And vacationers will, undoubtedly, eat this place up. The platters of Greek and Mediterranean specialties are first-rate, but the food takes a back seat to the atmosphere which, for the most part, resembles a Mykonos discotheque more than it does a quaint Aegean taverna.

    Here, ladies who are not so big, nor fat, nor Greek, gyrate atop tables to thumping beats; belly dancers perambulate around the octagonal dining room urging dorks to dance; and the raucous clapping, napkin-tossing and repetitive shouts of “Opa!” distract even the most focused conversationalists. A place to dine on a first date it’s not, but for birthdays and celebrations, there’s no better place.

    Dinner began with a 20-something waiter clad in black scurrying to my table with mortar and pestle in hand. In it were a few simple ingredients – chickpeas, garlic, thyme and olive oil – which I was encouraged to mash into a rustic chunky hummus. Quite the clever (and labor-reducing) tactic to get diners immediately immersed into the Opa experience, but, more importantly, the hummus and warm pita bread made for a uniquely fresh complimentary appetizer. Such appetizers (or meze) comprise half of the enormous menu, a concept not unlike that of Spanish tapas. The keftedes ($4), a hot meze plate of three broiled balls of ground beef, were an herbaceous trio thanks to the liberal usage of oregano. The meatballs are served naked but, surprisingly, they didn’t need a starchy accompaniment.

    A flutter of napkins rained down on my table just as I took a bite of saganaki cheese ($9). It seems that the servers are prone to random yelps of “Opa!,” necessitating a chuck of serviettes. Nevertheless, the big salty slab of fried kefalotyri cheese was enjoyably chewy, and a splash of lemon provided a righteous zing. To my amazement, the cheese, layered with metaxa brandy, wasn’t flambéed tableside as part of the spectacle. “The servers just aren’t experienced enough yet, and I don’t want to run the risk of patrons leaving with singed eyebrows,” the owner openly confided.

    There’s no chance of such a conflagration with the mussels and ouzo ($8). The mollusks were huge, and the tomato-basil-oregano sauce was huge on flavor. The licorice essence of ouzo, however, wasn’t as pronounced as hoped; in fact, I could barely taste it all.

    Most of the entrees are borne out of the wood-fired grill, but if you’re a sucker for moussaka ($12), the version offered here was just average. Layers of roasted eggplant, potatoes, ground beef and béchamel couldn’t compensate for the lack of seasonings, plus the dish was served tepid. The meat platter ($23) is truly a carnivore’s delight, but when mine arrived sans gyros, I was duly compensated for the oversight with complimentary shots of ouzo. “Opa!” indeed. Back to the platter, the soft, luscious cube of beef tenderloin was as good as I’ve ever tasted; I just wish they’d serve more than one cube. All the meats – pork loin, c

    You've experienced this scene before. An absurdly attentive waiter with a thick Italian accent keeps returning to a flabbergasted customer's table, bearing plate after plate of delicacies in quantities no ordinary diner could possibly deserve.

    Got it? It's a bit in Albert Brooks' great film comedy Defending Your Life. ("You like pies? I'm a-gonna bring you nine pies.") Now, Altamonte-area gourmands get to experience the fantasy for real with the opening of Terramía Winebar/Trattoria, restaurateur Rosario Spagnolo's follow-up to Winter Park's Allegria. And as in Brooks' vision, the beautiful excess starts with the very first course.

    At least it does if you opt for the trademark "antipasto Terramía" ($8.50), the first in a series of lucky orders we placed on a recent visit. We were beyond pleased with the initial plateful of warm-up foods, which ran the gamut from succulent roasted peppers to an octopus and-cucumber medley that was delightfully chewy. But no sooner had we conquered that formidable array than our waiter arrived brandishing a second platter of bruschetta with a variety of toppings, including savory chopped mushrooms and a terrific corn polenta with a full-bodied, cheesy flavor. We glanced toward a table to the immediate right of the front door, where all the available antipasto items were laid out for perusal. The sight made us worry that we'd be fending off new arrivals until kingdom come. Where would we find room for the nine pies?

    It was all we could do to dig into the "insalata Terramía" ($5.50), whose sun-dried tomato vinaigrette turned out to be that sought-after miracle of salad dressings: oily in taste but not in texture.

    We recovered in time for the entrees. We noticed that our chosen pasta dish, the homemade tagliolini with grilled shrimp and cherry tomatoes ($14.50), was served in a tortilla shell that struck us as more south-of-the-border than Mediterranean. Our waiter, acknowledging the incongruity, said the flaky horn of plenty was mostly "for show." (Eat it anyway.)

    The tasty dish arrived on two plates, simply because we had mentioned our desire to share our meal. Impressive. Similar bifurcation was visited upon the roasted chicken breast ($13.50), whose embellishment with Parma prosciutto and fontina cheese enhanced its mouth-watering moistness. In each case, the "sharing plate" could have passed for a full order.

    That aura of lavishness persisted unto dessert, with the berry cake ($5.95) overflowing with fruit. The creamy cannoli ($5.95) was separated into portions of about two bites each – perhaps in recognition of the dining axiom that, all other things being equal, folks don't feel so guilty about wolfing down food that comes in sections.

    The excellence of the service was codified during the coffee course, when our waiter took it upon himself to replace the saucer right out from under our cup, merely because he noticed that it had been defiled by spilled beverage. Yeah, that sort of thing can just ruin a dinner.

    If you can manage to avert your gaze from your plate at any time during your meal – and somehow, we managed to – you'll notice that Terramía's interior design makes the most of its location in an Altamonte strip mall ("just past Pebbles," a voice on the phone had clarified – talk about being unafraid of the competition). Laid out in an L-shaped arrangement that makes the halves of the seating area nearly invisible to each other, it's lit predominantly by low-hanging, red-hued fixtures that impart a mood of cozy intimacy. The room is dominated by a large wooden bar bearing bottles upon bottles of the vino that accounts for 50 percent of the establishment's identity. (Confused? Check out that name again.) But there's still room in the corner for a musician to wheeze background melodies out of everybody's favorite instrument, the accordion. (Look carefully, and you may notice that the music doesn't always stop exactly when he does. Technology: It's a good thing.)

    Still, authenticity is a big issue at Terramía. Our server hailed from Naples, which he proved by reciting the day's specials in a dialect so old-country rich that we could just about make out the base ingredient of each concoction. Not that it mattered; we got the impression that taking a chance on any given menu item would have yielded equally satisfactory results. Maybe he was just asking if we liked pies.

    The story of the churrascaria starts in the high plains of Brazil, the Pampas, where land is rich and soil fertile. It became tradition for the ranchers there to host feasts to celebrate their bounty. Especially enjoyed were the plentiful meats from animals that grazed the land. The cowboys, or gauchos, developed an out-country method of barbecuing fresh cuts of beef, pork, chicken and lamb on skewers over open-pit fires to bring out intense flavor and aroma. This churrasco cooking style was soon adopted by restaurants across Brazil, evolving into the popular steakhouses they are today: no menus, just an array of roasted meats on skewers brought around to the tables for guests to graze upon. "Rodizio" is the name for this type of service – it's like a buffet, only they keep bringing the food to you until you say, "Enough."

    Texas de Brazil elegantly brings the churrascaria to Orlando. Started by a Brazilian family in Texas, the chain has been around since 1998 when they opened their first restaurant in Addison, Texas. Now there are eight restaurants around the country and in Aruba, including Orlando. Preserving the churrascaria's roots while upscaling the experience, Texas de Brazil uses rich but rustic design elements – heavy wrought-iron doors push open like horse stalls, riveted metal adorns the bright walls and ceiling; copper bowls of fire sit aside gorgeous sprays of fresh flowers.

    Pleasure and overindulgence are the rules here. The music is loud, the colors vibrant. The smell of garlic and wood charcoal waft through the room like a pair of lovers dancing the samba. Walking past the sprawling salad bar that rounds out the meaty main course, one is overwhelmed by the sense of abundance: Fresh items such as carrots, celery, tomatoes, spring greens and cucumbers lie next to specialties like fresh buffalo mozzarella, shrimp ceviche, green beans with walnuts, artichoke and raisin mélange, and mushrooms sautéed with wine and garlic. And there's a huge section dedicated to Latino favorites, such as succulent black beans, garlic soup, tender rice, farofa and yuca.

    Back at the table, they dropped off cinnamon-sprinkled sweet fried plantains, garlic mashed potatoes and a small disc that looks like a coaster – one side green, the other red. In keeping with rodizio custom, the green signals an onslaught of servers to bring oversized skewers of top sirloin, Brazilian sausage, roasted lamb, chicken wrapped in bacon, Parmesan-encrusted pork, filet mignon, pork ribs, flank steak and at least six other cuts of juicy, scrumptious morsels, including the unforgettable garlic-marinated picanha. If there were an Olympic category for cooked meats, Brazil would win with this heavenly beef rump cut. Feeling full? Turn the disc to red, and they'll give you a break, so you can head back up to bar.

    The churrascaria meal fits well in the low-carb diet craze, but I wouldn't set foot in one without downing at least a half-dozen pão de queijo (Brazilian cheese rolls). And there is enough starchy yuca in the place to carb-load an army. Actually, all food groups are tastefully represented. Dinner is $39.99 per person and worth every hard-earned penny for the excessive amount of quality cooking it buys you. So come with an appetite, and remember: Brazil is known as a country of gorgeous people who like to frolic in scantily clad fashion – they must be on to something.

    Irish Grill & Pub offers happy hour 2 p.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Saturday. Weekly events include poker, trivia, and live music.

    Don't expect the warm, quirky architectural vibes that seem to go along with Irish pubs when you visit newly opened An Tobar (which means "the well" in Gaelic). It's built into the side of the Sheraton Orlando North in the office-complex jungle near the I-4 Maitland exchange. (If you're approaching from Lake Destiny Drive, you'll see the hotel before you see the pub.)

    But by no means is this establishment a Bennigan's-style watering hole strung with green paper shamrocks. In fact, two dozen Irish craftsmen were flown in to work on the relatively upscale project. The result is a series of design vignettes that are welcoming and relaxing.

    The entrance is inspired by a Dublin streetscape, with mock Victorian shop fronts and a real Irish green "telefon" booth. Inside, the seating areas include a "library" of leather volumes and portraits of Yeats and Wilde. The "Victorian railway" area has old-fashioned luggage and travel paraphernalia; and the "Victorian snug" sanctuary recalls the days when women smoked in secret. An occasional seanachaoi (storyteller) invites people to gather around the fireplace, and the two-story bar is a great spot to sip a Bass ale while listening to acoustic musicians.

    Some items on the menu might sound arcane but are actually fairly basic comfort food. "Boxty" ($7.95) is a traditional peasant dish – a fried potato pancake capped with meats and vegetables. The "Irish breakfast" ($8.95) is substantial enough for dinner, with rashers (bacon), sausage and pudding, as well as fried eggs, tomato, baked beans and soda bread. Potato leek soup ($3.50) is served in an Irish soda-bread bowl, and the shepherd's pie ($9.25) is layered with beef, onions and mashed potatoes.

    There's nothing particularly Irish about other items except their names: Fried onion rings are dubbed "Tobar oglalla," and "Galway wings" come with familiar blue-cheese dressing.

    We started off with "potato skins from Tobar Naomh Sean" ($4.25), which came topped with bacon, corned beef and Swiss cheese. They were enticingly tender beneath their crisp edges. Large wedges of "Gaelic fries" were speckled with herbs and offered with a splash of malt vinegar. "Shannon salmon" ($12.95) is bright and juicy, soaked with lemon-dill butter. It's presented simply with tender "red bliss" potatoes and vegetables. And the "cottage pie" ($9.50) is a homey casserole of chicken, carrots, sweet peas and onions in a rich sauce, topped with mashed potatoes.

    The bar offers the usual suspects: Guinness, Harp, shots of Bushmill's whiskey. An Tobar's combination of able service, a full dinner menu and professional setting makes for an ambitious step up from most other local Irish pubs.

    Even if you're one of those chow-time populists whose bullshit sonar starts pinging whenever a "name" chef opens another high-concept, decor-forward eatery, you'll feel your cynicism melting away upon contact with Todd English's bluezoo, the upscale seafood restaurant -- sorry, they prefer to call it "coastal cuisine" -- newly located in the Walt Disney World Dolphin Hotel.

    A motif of mannerly sophistication asserts itself the minute you're welcomed by the courteous reception staff and led past the glowing blue bar to your table. The darkened dining area -- coolly stylish yet far more comfortable than the typical modern-art project masquerading as a restaurant -- is peppered by overhead fixtures with sculpted waves that simulate the feeling of being "under the sea" (to employ the Disney vernacular). The hostess places a napkin in your lap -- letting go at exactly the right moment to forestall a cry of "Hey, now!" -- and you're off to the submarine races.

    A motif of mannerly sophistication asserts itself the minute you're welcomed by the courteous reception staff and led past the glowing blue bar to your table. The darkened dining area -- coolly stylish yet far more comfortable than the typical modern-art project masquerading as a restaurant -- is peppered by overhead fixtures with sculpted waves that simulate the feeling of being "under the sea" (to employ the Disney vernacular). The hostess places a napkin in your lap -- letting go at exactly the right moment to forestall a cry of "Hey, now!" -- and you're off to the submarine races.

    On a recent visit, our waiter proved knowledgeable, outgoing and endlessly patient, even when we took a seeming eternity to decide on our order. Even his belief that just about everything on the menu merited some usage of the adjective "phenomenal" came off as endearing rather than obnoxious.

    On a recent visit, our waiter proved knowledgeable, outgoing and endlessly patient, even when we took a seeming eternity to decide on our order. Even his belief that just about everything on the menu merited some usage of the adjective "phenomenal" came off as endearing rather than obnoxious.

    As it turned out, he was awfully close to correct. We started with an order of lobster chive dumplings ($13), big and filling, with tender lobster in a wonderfully flaky shell (though the mango pico de gallo, green lentils and red-curry "spill" was a pleasant challenge to our waiter's assertion that almost nothing on the menu is particularly spicy). The salad of roasted beets ($9) quickly earned plaudits for its superior greens and avoidance of an over-oiled texture.

    As it turned out, he was awfully close to correct. We started with an order of lobster chive dumplings ($13), big and filling, with tender lobster in a wonderfully flaky shell (though the mango pico de gallo, green lentils and red-curry "spill" was a pleasant challenge to our waiter's assertion that almost nothing on the menu is particularly spicy). The salad of roasted beets ($9) quickly earned plaudits for its superior greens and avoidance of an over-oiled texture.

    As an entree, the "fish grilled simply" ($29) was a must-have, both as an example of the lower-priced range of the menu and because it sounded downright spiritual. ("Grill fish simply, so that others may simply grill fish.") From among the day's choices, we selected the mahi-mahi -- not the most adventuresome option, but we're the people's paper, remember? The fish was wonderful in its oaken flavor, and we thought we had landed a real trophy -- until we sampled miso-glazed Chilean sea bass ($32), whose buttery consistency (and hint of maple, we thought) made it slap-the-table delectable. We immediately doused our mahi-mahi with the accompanying sauce of warm crabmeat, Dijon mustard and chives (one of three sauces offered) in a vain attempt to achieve parity.

    As an entree, the "fish grilled simply" ($29) was a must-have, both as an example of the lower-priced range of the menu and because it sounded downright spiritual. ("Grill fish simply, so that others may simply grill fish.") From among the day's choices, we selected the mahi-mahi -- not the most adventuresome option, but we're the people's paper, remember? The fish was wonderful in its oaken flavor, and we thought we had landed a real trophy -- until we sampled miso-glazed Chilean sea bass ($32), whose buttery consistency (and hint of maple, we thought) made it slap-the-table delectable. We immediately doused our mahi-mahi with the accompanying sauce of warm crabmeat, Dijon mustard and chives (one of three sauces offered) in a vain attempt to achieve parity.

    An experiment with side dishes yielded mixed results: The spicy shrimp cole slaw ($6) impressed with tender shrimp and a peanut dressing that balanced richness with dashes of the slightly spicy Chinese radish daikon. But the "shake & bake fries" ($6), topped with grated Parmesan and crushed garlic, was no more than the sum of its ingredients. The dessert of warm chocolate cake ($10.50) was prepared with malted cream and cocoa sorbet, yet in a blind taste test, it could have been confused with an ordinary fudge brownie. Still, given the excellence of the entrees and the ambience, complaining that bluezoo's supplementals were inconsistent would be like attending a "Lord of the Rings" movie and coming out disappointed that the trailers didn't look like much.

    An experiment with side dishes yielded mixed results: The spicy shrimp cole slaw ($6) impressed with tender shrimp and a peanut dressing that balanced richness with dashes of the slightly spicy Chinese radish daikon. But the "shake & bake fries" ($6), topped with grated Parmesan and crushed garlic, was no more than the sum of its ingredients. The dessert of warm chocolate cake ($10.50) was prepared with malted cream and cocoa sorbet, yet in a blind taste test, it could have been confused with an ordinary fudge brownie. Still, given the excellence of the entrees and the ambience, complaining that bluezoo's supplementals were inconsistent would be like attending a "Lord of the Rings" movie and coming out disappointed that the trailers didn't look like much.

    When it was time to settle up, we noticed that we had mistakenly been charged for two sides of fries. Our waiter promptly corrected the error, and while he was at it, he also comped us for the cake, which he felt had taken too long to reach our table -- a classy move that fit the overall excellence of the entrees, the ambience and the service. The prices won't make the place a weekly destination for most folks, but splurging whenever you can afford to is great way to feel like king of the sea.

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