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Fiftyseven Fiftyseven

I. M. Pei, architect of the Four Seasons Hotel in New York City, likes granite blocks, symmetrical spaces and soaring heights. When he designed the hotel's restaurant and bar, he deemed that the rooms for drinking and eating should bear a relationship to the entire building. Fiftyseven Fiftyseven, dramatic and sweeping in size, is filled with eye-catching details–inlaid tables and floors and mosaic patterns in the fabric, plates and on the walls.

Despite the restaurant's formal look, many of the patrons are casually dressed. The menu, however, is a study in serious eating featuring both prix fixe and à la carte dinners and begins with a lovely assortment of breads, the best of which are addictable house-made Parmesan crisps. A starter of sautéed melt-in-your-mouth foie gras with tender portobello mushrooms and sweet caramelized onions, accompanied by glasses of white port wine is the signature appetizer and one that Executive Chef Susan Weaver is justly proud of. We were also impressed with the marinated gossamer slices of swordfish napped with sour cherry citrus vinaigrette. The slightly saline fish combined well with the sweetness of a dried cherry garnish, a most imaginative presentation.

For entrees there were meaty racks of lamb and veal served with interesting side dishes like hearty potato pot pies made of flaky pastry encircling slices of creamed potatoes. Lamb in a red wine reduction was paired with crispy onions and sauteed spinach. Flageolet beans and roasted sun-dried tomatoes were plated with the veal.

Warm fig tart with apple caramel sauce and lemon crème brulée were satisfying and not overly sweet finales. Cookies from the restaurant's own kitchen hit the spot, too.

Fiftyseven Fiftyseven Restaurant and Bar, 57 East 57th Street, New York, NY 10022. Tel. 212-758-5757. Open 7 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. for breakfast, lunch and dinner. A three-course prix fixe dinner is reasonable. A la carte menu is moderately expensive.

Winter 1995-96