Globetrotting Southwest

Abiquiu melds international ingredients and Mexican standards with sensational results

Speaking of dessert, when it came time to order, with all those tingly taste sensations singing in our mouths, we were over the top. So we made a mistake, ordering the gold tamale of Valrhona chocolate with roasted almonds, gold leaf and sour cherry sauce. Our waitress tried to warn us but we were undeterred, flying high on visions of who the hell knows what. It was basically a $6 candy bar, sort of like a long, fudgy Fig Newton, flecked with gold (which doesn't belong anywhere near dessert and made me remember I need to see my dentist). The sour cherry sauce, though, was a big hit spooned straight into the mouth. The more sophisticated diner might prefer it over, say, a polenta pound cake.

Now don't get me wrong. The place is somewhat precious and you don't get the big plates of food the words enchilada and tamale conjure up. And it's pricey: Dinner hors d'oeuvres run $5.50 to $8.25 (with American sturgeon caviar available at $22.50 per ounce), entrŽes $10.50 to $22.50 for Maine lobster "Gallegos ranch style" with pinto beans, corn brioche stuffing and lime butter.

There also is the disturbing presence of people, probably flown up from L.A. for the day, who look suspiciously like noneaters. But hey, it's a different niche and they're competing with Stars, not La Rondalla.

Will I go back? You betcha. I have my eye on the crisp enchilada of filet mignon with cowboy chile sauce and wild mushrooms followed by the pecan pie tamale with chocolate chile ice cream. Hi-ho silver and turquoise!

Abiquiu, 129 Ellis, S.F., 392-5500. Open Mon-Sat 11:30 am-3 pm, Sun-Wed 5-10 pm, Thurs-Sat 5-11 pm.

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