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Wine Gallery: Restaurant offers more than just good wine

WINE GALLERY

72-27 Austin St., Forest Hills

540-17171

In the 1970s we were enamored with wine, and the wine bar became the in thing. In 1972 the Wine Gallery opened in Forest Hills, the first wine and cheese restaurant with a full bar.

The look was warm and romantic - very European. It had antiques and stained glass panels for the bar top and handmade collage top tables (the owner then and now, Irene Georgiades, was an art teacher) and interesting art and bric-a-brac. It was a fixture on Austin Street for 20 years. Then it closed.

In 1997, there was a rebirth at practically the same address. The tabletops are the same. There are a sofa and coffee table, and feathered masks on the wall. The atmosphere is sultry - conducive to unwinding at the day's end. It is supper 'til 1 a.m., and come September, there'll be brunch on Sunday.

The menu features some of the old favorites streamlined for Year 2000 clientele. Our supper began, of course, with glass of wine, a delicious merlot and a featured chardonnay. A crusty onion soup followed. It was light but flavorful with a gruyere crust. The soup of the day was zucchini, served chilled in an oversized martini glass with a smart black rim.

The Wine Gallery sampler with homemade mozzarella sticks, chicken tenderloins, hot wings and potato skins served with honey mustard, bleu cheese dressing and marinara is a great munchy. Ditto the cheese assortment (select any two) with fresh fruit, pepperoni and crackers.

We shared the salad of the evening - exotic field greens with French goat cheese, artichokes and tomatoes. The dressing tasted Japanese-style, and we learned it was a balsamic vinegar and soy sauce vinaigrette.

We fell for the grilled basil infused portobello mushroom served with garlic mashed potatoes, tomatoes, sauteed seasonal vegetables (sliced carrots and broccoli flowerettes). The menu promised "a pink vodka sauce on the side." It never arrived.

Marinated grilled steak, similarly accompanied, was to have "a burgundy mushroom sauce on the side." But no dice. Both entrees were served attractively on glass plates, and were very good even if lacking the finesse of sauce on the side.

At a table for one overlooking Austin Street, the grilled chicken breast sandwich served on a brioche roll with tarragon mayo and a field salad looked inviting. Nice to have a sandwich option at supper. And there are wraps of marinated beef strips, chicken breast or vegetables, as well as a variety of burgers including a veggie burger. Coeur alla creme for dessert - cream, ricotta and cream cheese, sugar and lemon juice - was unbelievably light with strawberry sauce (excellent) and a fanned strawberry ( perfect touch). Chocolate mousse cake, a tradition since 1972, tiramisu and cheesecake are all homemade delights.

Who's in the kitchen? For one, Gorgiade's son is at the CIA and pops in and out. Come September, brunch at $14.95 sounds great. Start with champagne, bloody mary, mimosa, screw driver or wine. Homemade breads, muffins and pastries. Then a choice of soup of the day or an exotic field green salad. Then stuffed brioche French toast with beandysnap apple; garden vegetable frittata with brie cheese; eggs Benedict on smoked salmon with homemade french fries or potato cake; stuffed souffle omelet (choose two fillings: tomato, onion, peppers, cheese, mushroom, bacon) with homemade french fries or potato cake; rolled smoked salmon in a hard boiled egg white with dill oil and sieved yolk, cream cheese and a potato cake or the Wine Gallery burger with homemade french fries. Dessert and coffee.

That's for me.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Small. Charming European setting. Open from 5 p.m. 'til 3 a.m. seven days a week. Soups and wraps, starters and munchies, salads, burgers, entrees and delectable homemade desserts. Brunch Sundays starting September. Satisfactory service.

CHEF'S CHOICE

Wine Gallery Sampler (homemade mozzarella sticks, fresh chicken tenderloins, hot wings and potato skins, served with honey mustard, Bleu cheese dressing and marinara)...$9.95 Cheese Assortment (served with a selection of fresh fruit, pepperoni and crackers. $9.95 Chicken Continental (lightly breaded cutlet baked in butter sauce and topped with Muenster cheese)...$11.25 Veggie Slammer (portobello mushroom, veggie burger and artichokes served with salad-with melted cheese $1.00 extra)...$9.95

Food: Contemporary American Setting: Warm European Service: Satisfactory Hours: Seven days 5 p.m. - 3 a.m. Sunday brunch starting September. Reservations: None Parking: on street Dress: Casual; Takeout: Yes Off premise catering: Yes Private parties: To 50 Credit cards: All major (except Discover) Noise level: Can be high Handicapped access: Yes

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