Places to dine at in the Southwest

Melissa Castleman

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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