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WHAT a world. What a world. Nothing is easy in the gastronomic scheme of things. Especially if you try to figure what makes a restaurant a "new" one. Take the case of Scott's Fine Dining, for example. Its name used to be Cloud Nine and though a few menu modifications came with the rechristening, the ownership has stayed the same.

So we dispense with a provisional rating (X) and consider the place a veteran on the dining scene. (In fact, a reader once told me the (X) made him think of steamy movies.) And this is, come to think of it, fair enough. This restaurant -- no matter what they call it -- continues to do nicely.

It's an interesting looking spot, by the way. The words "sophisticated" and "spare" describe the decor but there are luxurious touches like silencer pads under the white tablecloths and good looking silver and glassware. The maroon napkins are fan folded.

The menu is spare and luxurious, too. Note the emphasis on lighter dinner entrees which have become so popular in recent years. Oriental Chicken ($10.95 and the Companion's Choice) featured stir-fried chunks of breast meat and vegetables which had been marinated in soy sauce. It was a satisfying dish.

But we noticed that the soy added a strong salty taste -- keep this in mind when ordering.

My entree, The Good Earth Vegetable Grill ($8.95) featuring tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, sweet green peppers and artichokes, was served on a big bed of white and wild rice. It looked good; the aroma was enticing. It's a funny thing about vegetables, though. Strange as it may seem, they are not all that easy to cook, or, let's say, cook properly.

When it comes to a melange (like the Good Earth) there's a definite gauntlet thrown down. The challenge: to keep each vegetable distinct, in flavor and in texture.

Did the Good Earth succeed? I hereby award a Gentleperson's "C" in this regard. (Maybe C-plus. It's Christmas.) The real texture interest and crunch was provided by the slices of raw carrot that attractively bordered the dish; the rest of the vegetables were uniformly soft. But certainly the general flavor was good. And it was a huge portion.

A side dish of lightly creamed new potatoes was a delight. And the House Salad was simply great -- a wide assortment of raddichio, greens and raw vegetables were nicely set off with a Poppyseed Dressing.

Raves go, too, to the Caesar Salad ($2.50), mixed tableside. This is potent stuff with plenty of strong garlic flavor. And a rich Tomato Soup with Chives, a special of the evening was a triumph, too. Just zinging with the richness of fresh tomato.

The bread accompanying both salad and soup was the major disappointment of the evening. It looked tempting enough as it arrived hot at table, a buxom little loaf made from a combination of grains. But it turned out to be dry and tasteless. We were also served a creamy champagne sherbet between courses. This is called an intermezzo.

Do not get the idea, please, that only light fare is offered at Scott's. There is plenty of rich food should the mood and the appetite seize you. Much of it features what Manhattan and California food writers likes to call "Pacific Rim" flavor. Veal Marco Polo maybe ($12.95)? Ginger, oriental vegetables, sesame seeds. Lamb Chops ($16.95) pointed up with Dijon mustard, honey and ginger.

For pasta fans, there's Crab Fettucine with parmesan cheese ($12.95); for beef fans, Porterhouse Steak ($15.95).

And desserts are hefty, too. They are rich and torte-like, presented on a tray. We abstained but you need not.

What's wrong with Chocolate Mousse Cake after Grilled Vegetables?

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