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  • Bien Shur (30 Rainbow Rd. NE., at Sandia Resort & Casino; tel. 800/526-9366; www.sandiaresort.com): Unforgettable views and finely prepared cuisine create an outstanding experience at this restaurant atop Sandia Resort. For entrees, the rack of lamb with a garlic mint au jus is excellent.

  • The Compound (653 Canyon Rd., Santa Fe; tel. 505/982-4353; www.compoundrestaurant.com): This reincarnation of one of Santa Fe's classic restaurants serves daring contemporary American food in a soulful setting. Such delicacies as monkfish chorizo with watercress or grilled beef tenderloin with Italian potatoes will please sophisticated palates -- and probably simpler ones, too.

  • SantacafĂ© (231 Washington Ave., Santa Fe; tel. 505/984-1788; www.santacafe.com): This restaurant, my all-time favorite, borrows from an international menu of preparations and offerings. The minimalist decor accentuates the beautiful architecture of the 18th-century Padre Gallegos House. One of the best dishes is the Alaskan halibut with English peas and saffron couscous.

  • Geronimo (724 Canyon Rd., Santa Fe; tel. 505/982-1500; www.geronimorestaurant.com): Set in the 1756 Borrego House on Canyon Road, this restaurant offers brilliant flavors in a serene adobe atmosphere. The elk tenderloin here is Santa Fe's most prized entree.

  • The Shed (113 1/2 E. Palace Ave., Santa Fe; tel. 505/982-9030; www.sfshed.com): The Shed, a Santa Fe luncheon institution since 1953, occupies a rambling hacienda that was built in 1692. The sauces here have been refined over the years, creating amazing flavors in basic dishes such as enchiladas, burritos, and stuffed sopaipillas. The mocha cake is renowned. Its sister restaurant, La Choza, is just as good, with a similar menu.

  • De La Tierra (317 Kit Carson Rd., Taos; tel. 800/828-TAOS or 575/758-3502; www.elmontesagrado.com): Located at the ecoresort El Monte Sagrado, this elegant restaurant serves imaginative regional American food. The pan roasted east coast cod served with truffle Persian potatoes is delectable. An expansive wine list completes the experience.

  • Joseph's Table (108-A S. Taos Plaza, Taos; tel. 575/751-4512; www.josephstable.com): Located on Taos Plaza, this font of creativity serves delightful dishes with plenty of flair. Try the steak au poivre over mashed potatoes with a Madeira mushroom sauce.

  • The Bluffs (3450 E. Main St., Farmington; tel. 505/325-8155): Wooden partitions topped with glazed glass shaped like towering bluffs surround diners at this restaurant serving sandwiches and salads at lunch and steaks and seafood at dinner. The turkey bacon club is amazing, as are any of the angus beef steaks.

  • Blackjack's Grill (1133 Grand Ave., Las Vegas; tel. 888/448-8438 or 505/425-6791): One of the region's most sophisticated restaurants, Blackjack's serves tasty steaks and seafood in a festive atmosphere, especially on the patio, where diners sit under elm trees. My favorite dish is sautĂ©ed beef medallions with garlic mashed potatoes.

  • Double Eagle (2355 Calle de Guadalupe, Las Cruces; tel. 575/523-6700; www.double-eagle-messilla.com): Continental cuisine is alive and well behind the walls of this historic hacienda located in Las Cruces. The decor is lush and dramatic -- chandeliers hung with Baccarat crystals -- and the food is richly traditional. Steaks are the way to go.

  • Diane's Bakery & Cafe (510 N. Bullard St., Silver City; tel. 575/538-8722): Diane Barrett, who was once a pastry chef at La Traviata and Eldorado in Santa Fe, has brought refined flavors to the little mining town of Silver City. Come here to feast on sumptuous baked goods and sophisticated meals such as rack of lamb.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.