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Don’t let Star Canyon fool you. You will be tempted to pigeonhole it as just another well designed Tex-Mex joint, run by some highfalutin celebrity chef, looking to cash in on some good write-ups in national food magazines. The surroundings featuring cowboy memorabilia — some real and some whimsical — may throw you for a moment, especially when you notice the detail and expense that went into the design. But even after those considerations — amplified by the ubiquitous “gift” display at the entrance — you will think that Mexican, or Texican, or nouvelle Southwest snorin’ Sonoran food is not your mood tonight. So you will be tempted to pass and you will be making a big mistake.

Another temptation is to compare Stephan Pyles’ cooking and style with that of Mark Miller of Coyote Cafe fame. But while Miller’s food pushes the chile envelope, Pyles’ innovates in subtler ways. Both stress Southwestern ingredients combined in unthought-of ways — with just enough European technique to sometimes confuse and always dazzle the dining-out public and those who write about them. A good example of their differing flavor philosophies is found in the way they each treat cornbread — one of the humblest of foods. At Star Canyon, the famous star-shaped cornbread is brought warm from the oven, strong with blue corn flavor and a bare pepper edge that accents, without overwhelming, the texture and taste of the primary ingredient. At the Coyote Cafe the cornbread, as well as most of the food, is kickier, smokier, and no less good. I guess it depends on your mood.

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