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October 26, 2004, 12:00 am
Nothing in Santa Fe is really, really fancy, but Tulips is easily one of our more grown-up feeling restaurants, with its calm hush that engenders deep conversation and discourages giggles. It's easy to feel serious over the inventive, appealing menu that demonstrates a commitment to seasonal ingredients and a creative touch. The Vietnamese chilled green chile lobster spring rolls, for example, have a whole bunch of unusual things going on even without the passionfruit dipping sauce and sprout salad. The carefully conceived combination of flavors and textures makes this an appetizer you'll remember. Another interesting first course is the grilled duck breast enchilada with a red chile cherry glaze. Tulips makes great use of chile and fruit combinations. The multiculturalism extends to the entrées-try a wonderful New Zealand elk tenderloin with a red chile raspberry sauce and a three-cheese risotto. A well-marbled buffalo rib eye comes with luscious roasted garlic buttermilk mashed potatoes and an ancho plum sauce. Dessert lovers: Don't miss the sampler for two. Five mini-portions of everything from strawberry-rhubarb cobbler to chocolate mousse stops all conversation in its tracks.

222 N Guadalupe, 989-7340. Dinner Tuesday-Saturday. $$$.

SFR Pick: Fruit-chile sauces, elk tenderloin.