Scouring the canon of what's accepted as the world's great literature will tell you that there's a fine line between sex and death. It's not just the cycle of life that philosophers and authors have been circling in the essays and novels of the ages, there's something-if we're being honest-about the very edge of pleasure that takes us toward the Grim Reaper.

Le petit mort

, anyone? What we're getting at, precisely, is the way one small bite of the Harris Ranch grilled beef tenderloin at The Compound makes our eyes roll back into our heads and our fingers grasp clumsily for purchase at the table, much in the manner of someone who is about to die. But in the scope of our experience, pulling each bit of loin, limned in foie gras hollandaise, over the teeth and across the tongue as it pools below the roof of the mouth, is much closer to sex than death. Vegetarians will fare no worse with the housemade herbed gnocchi or something along the lines of Alaskan halibut or Columbia River salmon. The tenderloin is a staple, while most other items are subject to a seasonally shifting menu. The Compound used to be home to Republican Party conventions and a coat-and-tie-required atmosphere, but these days people of all political persuasions and fashions come for James Beard Award-winning chef Mark Kiffin's food. They congregate at the casual bar, nosh from the lunch menu, dine in the gorgeous courtyards or faint at the sight of the wine list in the upscale dining room. The choices are yours, but our preference is for sex over death.

653 Canyon Road, 982-4353,


Lunch Monday-Friday; dinner nightly. $$$