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Shell Game 

Lobster is the lure at Sans Souci.

The savvy staffers at Sans Souci, one of downtown's most enduringly popular Mediterranean dining rooms, have long known that weathering hard times means cooking up incentives to draw diners through the door. So several times each year, chef du cuisine Ben Fambrough and his staff come up with special culinary creations to do just that. Now through November 23, for example, lobster is the lure, and the smart-and-sassy fare on Fambrough's "lobster specialties" lunch-and-dinner menus is more than worth a visit.

After all, who knew there were so many things to be done with a lobster? Beyond grilling it, roasting it, and turning it into bisque, Fambrough (a Johnson & Wales grad with a gift for arranging pure, straightforward ingredients into ephemeral layers of fragrance and flavor) transforms the versatile crustacean into a delicate nutmeg-scented sausage, for instance, which he pairs with a salad of tender lettuces in a champagne-mustard dressing. Alternatively, he cloaks it, along with baby artichokes, chanterelles, asparagus, and leeks (and a touch of vermouth cream), in a robe of crunchy phyllo. He drapes it, together with succulent shrimp, atop a mound of pumpkin-almond risotto. He presses it into service as a pizza topping, joined by French fontina cheese, oven-dried plum tomatoes, caramelized onions, and a whoosh of pesto-infused ricotta. He layers it, napoleon-style, between baked wontons, then sets the creation adrift in a tongue-tingling, vanilla-bean-infused tomato sauce. And when he's done, each dish is an edible work of art, as appealing to the eye as to the palate.

Appetizer prices range from $5 to $10, lunch entrées from $10 to $15, and dinner entrées from $22 to $31. The lobster-fest menu supplements but does not supplant Sans Souci's everyday menu of Mediterranean-accented beef, pork, lamb, and seafood. The restaurant is at 24 Public Square, in the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel; call 216-696-5600 for reservations.

Free Boo-ritos . . . Readers who haven't yet decided upon suitable garb for their annual Halloween bash, take note: You can find both inspiration and free food at your local Chipotle Mexican Grill this Friday, October 31. The catch? You've got to dress up like a burrito -- in a mummy-style swaddling of aluminum foil. Assuming that you agree to disguise yourself as lunch, you can then saunter (or hop, or be carted), in full regalia, into the nearest of the region's dozen Chipotles (including the newly opened one at Legacy Place in Lyndhurst) and score yourself a freebie. Trick or treat, indeed.

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