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French flair ; Simple and chic, Tabree's food is imaginative

Ahhh. Summer in the city. What could be better than a fine meal in sylvan surroundings? Case in point: Tabree, near the city intersection of Elmwood and Bryant. This restaurant, owned by Bryan and Tara Bryndle (hence the name), offers a tiny sophisticated indoor dining room. At this time of year, though, its main glory is the extensive patio out back, heated and equipped with side wall tarps to use if necessary -- let us all pray that the owners have made the nasty-weather investment in vain.

Did I say sylvan? That is the word, all right. This most urban of spaces, surrounded by brick walled apartment houses and within hearing of city traffic, manages to have an utterly leafy feel.

The menu? Basically French -- simple food with chic accompaniments. Examples: Roast Chicken comes with herbed warm, potato salad and parsley emulsion ($21). The Roast Pork Tenderloin ($24) is served with Leek Bread Pudding. There's even a New England-style Lobster Roll ($17), but this particular roll is filled as well with Boston Bibb lettuce and red onion confit with the usual frites on the side -- try to find that on an island off the coast of Maine.

We may have been in a woodsy setting, but it was plenty bright enough to be recognized. Along came an unordered evening special appetizer Seared Foie Gras, resting on a toasted brioche with locally grown lavender/sweet corn relish. But that's not all.

It was also set off by strawberries and maple syrup. Sweet, smooth, tart and piquant all on one plate. And, of course, the foie gras itself. Silky, rich, luxurious -- the usual adjectives apply.

We chose other apps, as well. Diver Scallops ($13) looked as if they had returned to the ocean, resting as they did on a delicate sea of green celery root puree -- the spicy apricot and blood reduction alongside added a complementary note. The Duck Confit ($13) served on greens and fennel was also good although it didn't quite reach the same high notes of flavor and texture. (I'm not about to complain.)

So here come the entrees (after we had already indulged in too much of Tabree's excellent bread, unfortunately).

Nice 'n garlicky Shrimp and Linguine Provencale with tomatoes, white wine, shallots and spinach ($20). And a noble Fruits De Mer ($31) a goodly assortment of lobster hunks, scallops, shrimp, mussels and fish in a white wine spike fish broth seemed perfect for a summer night especially as we were drinking sparkling Lucien Albrecht rose.

It was one of the many tempting summer wines on the wine by-the-glass list, mostly French and well priced, too.

Profitroles for dessert ($6). Those cute little cream puffs were napped with chocolate sauce and tasted just fine. Beware of choux paste in hot weather though. Slightly humidified, the shells were just a tad soggy and heavy. We ate them anyway, of course. And went home happy.



3 1/2 stars (out of 4)    

WHERE: 423 Elmwood Ave. (844-8477, Fine imaginative food served both inside and out -- on a glorious patio. (Excellent) wine and beer only. Credit Cards: American Express, MasterCard, Visa.    

FAVORITE DISH: Diver Scallops with Celery Root Puree    

NEEDS WORK: Food is of fine quality.    

PRICE RANGE: Entrees from $21 include sides and garnishes.    

SERVICE: Excellent    

HOURS: 5 to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday    

WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Most patio tables are difficult    

PARKING: On the street    

RATINGS: Stars reflect the overall dining experience at the time of The News' visit -- including service, ambience, innovation and cost -- with greatest weight given to quality of the food.

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