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Photo by Christopher Gardner

Rolling in Dough: Faz Sunnyvale's exhibition kitchen offers views of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean masterpieces in the making.

Mediterranean flavor maestro Faz Poursohi brings his touch to Sunnyvale

By Christina Waters

Ablaze with the sort of low-key glitz and sensuous detail that only lots of money and imagination can produce, the new Faz Sunnyvale is one of the best-looking destination dining arenas yet unveiled in the South Bay.

The former Bentley's has been transformed into a shimmer of mahogany and cherry wood curves that hug Faz's sexy split-level seating and exhibition grazing counter like a starlet's sheath. A daring color scheme that roams the Mediterranean palette from gold to purple is so attractive that every patron feels instantly glamorous. At least we did on our recent visit to the sprawling complex of interlocking dining chambers.

A polished granite island decked with hors d'oeuvres plus jars of enormous garlic globes and other edible exotica separates the intimate bar from the main dining area. It's at once huge and yet, thanks to creatively banked seating areas and sculptural pin spots suspended from the high ceiling, somehow cozy.

In the past decade, Faz Poursohi has been busy making a name for himself with reasonably priced, brilliantly flavored foods long on Riviera/Middle Eastern and rotisserie concept. And this new menu reflects the chef/entrepreneur's gastronomic gusto. Breaking into our private cache of warm rosemary focaccia and wood-smoke-perfumed pita bread--all wonderfully drizzled with the house olive oil--we surveyed possibilities ranging from the signature Mediterranean platter to various pizzas, pastas and spit-roasted specialties.

Though the wine list concentrates on well-priced California premiums, we selected a bottle of Côteaux du Languedoc Chateau La Roque 1993 ($21), a bold, berry-bright blend of red grapes from the Southwest France countryside. It worked nicely with our first courses of Faz's alder-smoked salmon ($6.96) and the superb Mediterranean platter ($7.95).

Our server--who changed our silverware arsenal no less than four times throughout the meal--brought us individual platters, large spoons and extra forks so that we could create our own little fantasies out of the silken salmon and capers. We added dolmas so tender, so piquant that they re-defined the genre, and portions of elegantly light hummus--dusted with toasted sesame seeds--and minty tabouli. The tomatoes crowning the center of the main platter were deeply ripe and heady with a basil vinaigrette. A nest of four types of Mediterranean olives proved intense flavor counterpoint.

But the crowning achievement of this splendid appetizer proved to be the creamy eggplant confit, laced with crunchy sweet pine nuts and topped with an amazing garnish of caramelized onions. The dish existed to dazzle our taste buds and show off what Faz is all about.

Had the meal ended at this point, we would have gone home with stars in our eyes. But it continued into a beautiful display of house-made ravioli ($10.95), stuffed with parmiagiano and romano cheeses and topped with earthy sage butter and deeply flavored marinated tomatoes. The delicate flavor of the soft interior almost disappeared against the bright sage and tomato accompaniments, but the pasta exterior was soft, ethereally light and expertly cooked.

Another entree, a grilled venison special ($18.95), proved much more aggressive. Rare slices of the delicious game fanned out under a saucing of red wine, demi glace and plump cherries from the locally renowned house of Olson. With the venison was a soft mound of rustically mashed potatoes--terrific--topped with fat cloves of roasted garlic. Long slender green beans, tossed in olive oil, Parmesan and garlic, lay alongside, every bit the equal to the tender, rich venison. This was one of those moments for which big red wine was created.

Flawless service, sophisticated ambiance and great, huge, winning flavors had made lifelong Faz fans of us in only a few hours. We finished up with cups of excellent espresso ($2), prettily served with twists of lemon zest and a bowl of hard brown sugar cubes.

A shared dessert of the ubiquitous chocolate pecan torte, which seems to be making the rounds of major restaurants lately, provoked cries of chocolate bliss from my companion, though I was disappointed to see the promised warm caramel sauce arrive at our table already separating into granular coolness. A minor flaw for such a polished new restaurant. With Faz firmly tucked into the heart of Sunnyvale, even the corporate skyline of Silicon Valley seemed to twinkle a bit brighter.

    Faz Sunnyvale
    Address: 1108 N. Mathilda Ave., Sunnyvale
    Phone: 408/752-8000.
    Cuisine: Mediterranean, California grill
    Ambiance: Boldly beautiful
    Entrees: Moderate, $10.95-$18.95
    Hours: Daily, 6am-10pm
    Extras: Full bar, tea room, banquet facilities

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From the Dec. 14-20, 1995 issue of Metro

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