Family Fare

Meet The New Neighbors At Two Doors.
By Rebecca Cook

TWO DOORS, A new restaurant south of the University of Arizona on Sixth Street, attempts to add a touch of class to the college district. It offers elegant sit-down meals (complete with linen tablecloths) and food that can't be slapped between two buns or smeared across pizza dough.

Chow Formerly Hutch's Bar, Two Doors is owned and operated by the same family: Marcia Hutchison and six of her children. You might remember her and her late husband "Hutch" for their role in revitalizing Bisbee with their renovation of the Copper Queen Hotel, The Brewery, The Pythian Castle and the Castle Rock Apartments.

This time the Hutchison family has taken on both a challenging location for fine dining and a charming older building which, upon entering, throws you back to the start of this century, when lots of dark wood and a Victorian motif were "in." An overhead trellised patio at the rear, complete with burbling fountain, offers pleasant outdoor dining in mild weather.

Chef Jody Miller, formerly of Presidio Grill, Jerome's and the Arizona Inn, has pitched in with the owners to fashion a concise menu demonstrating creative innovations on more common dishes. Soups, salads, sandwiches and entrees are well represented with variations unlikely to be found elsewhere.

For example, a Caesar salad at Two Doors is made with romaine lettuce, croutons and parmesan cheese, as per usual, but tossed in a rare egg-less dressing.

Although Two Doors' menu is by no means exhaustive, lunch nevertheless offers a range of possibilities including soups, salads, sandwiches and pasta dishes.

We began one meal with a split order of the spinach salad ($3.50), a tender bed of greens tossed with slivered apples, pecans and crumbled goat cheese drizzled with a light raspberry vinaigrette. As I found with other dishes at Two Doors, this salad was good without being particularly remarkable.

One gray, soggy day the soup du jour, a Manhattan clam chowder (cup $2, bowl $3), sounded inviting; but when it arrived lukewarm, with an adequate but undistinguished mix of clams and unskinned potato chunks in a tomato broth, there was nothing especially savory about the whole.

All sandwiches at Two Doors are served on either sourdough or focaccia and come with the house salad--dark mixed greens, cucumber, red onion, red bell pepper and small squares of bread tossed in a delicate vinaigrette. (I haven't quite figured out the value of soggy bread as opposed to crunchy croutons in my salad, but I'll keep you posted if I have a post-review epiphany.)

The chicken paillard sandwich ($6), on focaccia this day, consisted of moist, tender chicken breast with a sautéed melange of sliced mushrooms, watercress and shallots. At the risk of sounding finicky, I have to say the watercress, with its stringy stems and slightly bitter flavor, never won me over.

While Two Doors offers a small selection of hearty dinner entrees, including braised short ribs, New York strip steak, chicken roulade, garlic-lime shrimp and salmon filet with tomato-corn coulis, it was the pasta dishes that sounded most intriguing.

The angel hair tossed with bay scallops, chopped tomato, asparagus, lemon, fresh basil, garlic and a heavenly broth of fennel, white wine and red wine vinegar was a great success, with every ingredient vibrantly flavorful.

Another pasta winner was the farfalle, bow-tie pasta tossed with sautéed pieces of dark chicken, lots of garlic, lemon juice, fresh rosemary and cream. Here again, the flavors sparkled, especially the lemon.

In addition to the pasta dishes, another fine-tuned aspect of Two Doors is the desserts.

A Snickers cheesecake, smooth and dense with a subtle marbling of chocolate and peanuts throughout, was a delight, as was the pear cake, which consisted of caramelized pears served over warm, homemade gingerbread and accompanied by a generous dollop of whipped cream. A spiced apple cake with a cream cheese frosting and a swarthy chocolate fudge cake will also challenge your waistline.

Two Doors. 1028 E. Sixth St. 882-6676. Open 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Closed Sunday and Monday. Full bar. V, MC, CH. Menu items for lunch $2-$6, for dinner $3-$15. TW

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