In 2004, Compound Chef Mark Kiffin was a James Beard nominee for Best Southwest Chef. It's easy to see why. This Canyon Road establishment has a distinctive flair to its cuisine: Country club meets regional meets continental. A favorite starter is the "Simple" Salad, with crunchy organic butter lettuce, Humboldt Fog bleu cheese and homemade sesame crackers. A Tuna Tartare appetizer, served with

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cavier and lemon, also epitomized the restaurant's gift of elegant preparation. The Compound has a knack with meat, judging from the waiter's recommendations one evening. Sometimes a veal chop isn't just a veal chop, particularly if cast-iron searing enters into its preparation. The herb-crusted Alaskan Halibut wasn't quite as big a hit, although its sides-hericots verts, yellow wax beans, with a roasted chaderelle salad-were exquisite. Foregoing the always-tempting liquid chocolate cake was hard, but it paid off with the muscat-fig crème brulée. Finally, the service at The Compound is every bit as elegant as the menu. Servers are attentive and astute-particularly with wine recommendations.

653 Canyon Road, 982-4353. Lunch Monday-Friday, dinner

nightly. $$$.

SFR Pick:

"Simple" Salad.