Calling this place small is like saying that Tom DeLay is kind of an asshole–an understatement of epic proportions. To make matters worse, the roof sprung a leak (despite it not raining), and the restaurant had to block off a couple of the booths. That brought the total seating capacity to about ten–and that was only if the white-haired gentleman in the ascot sat in my lap. Having no other choice but to eavesdrop on our neighboring tables, it became obvious that most of the diners were local regulars. Kind of an expensive joint to make a regular stop, but this is from the guy who thinks a formal supper is a meal that includes a parsley garnish and at least two items not made from a tuber. The decor is what I’d call casual modern, although I’m sure there’s some real term, for that kind of cold, slate thing that turns otherwise square spaces into chic hotspots. Far from a hotspot, the joint is cool enough to make you not feel too bad about dropping some coin. The menu is small and apparently rotates on a regular basis depending on what’s fresh, but this night was filled with firsts for me. I actually ordered a salad with pears in it–something that would normally make me gag on my own tongue. It turns out that caramelized pears are hardly pears at all, and when you pair them with stilton cheese, all sense that you’re eating a disgusting, mealy fruit is all but obliterated. For my main meal, I had a nice piece of salmon in bearnaise sauce (which makes most anything taste good), and a really amazing corn souffle. The dish was super-simple, but tasty and very fresh. For dessert I decided to carry through the leavened bready thing theme, and got the chocolate souffle, which was awesome, of course. Overall, this was a nice little neighborhood restaurant with a nice staff and homey feel–despite the somewhat cold decor–that could be a good place to drop in on a Thursday night if you just happen to have some extra money before payday burning a hole in your pocket. [MF]

242 E 81st St.