Places to dine at in the Southwest

Bistro 24. This sophisticated bistro's "Entrées Par Trois" option lets you choose one ingredient (beef or tuna, say), then taste three different side-by-side preparations of it. Playing a favorite was never so much fun. $$$$; call for hours. The Ritz-Carlton, 2401 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix; 602/952-2424.

Cazadores. The terrific sangria and fountain-filled patio are two good reasons to check it out. A third: the Tapas Tower ($25), heaped with nine cold items, from roasted artichokes to salty shavings of Serrano ham with melon. $. The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, 7575 E. Princess Dr., Scottsdale, AZ; 480/585-4848.

Havana Café. Take a seat on the patio, then settle into some tostones (twice-fried plantains) and a mojito. For a tour of Cuba's soulful cooking, make a meal of several appetizers. Knockouts include the shrimp pancakes and bacalaitos (salt-cod fritters). $$. 4225 E. Camelback; Phoenix; 602/952-1991.

Sassi. The wood-fired oven is the soul of this just-opened southern Italian restaurant. Comforting fare in small portions is the order of the day. Look for the arancini (crispy rice balls) and the meatballs braised in white wine. $$$; closed Mon. 10455 E. Pinnacle Peak Pkwy., Scottsdale; 480/502-9095.

Sea Saw. "Tapanese" is chef Nobuo Fukuda's word for his Japanese take on tapas ― think appetizer-size portions of salmon cured with mint and lemon-lime zest, or grilled lamb in a coconutty peanut sauce. $$$$. 7133 E. Stetson Dr., Scottsdale; 480/481-9463.

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