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Stove: Irish pub grub meets Paris in Astoria

The space Stove occupies is long and lean and austere in its decorations. The first third or so is taken up by the bar. The walls are white with a few antique mirrors and some Celtic runic calligraphy to add interest. Garden seating is available in the summer.Declan Cass, Stove's Irish chef and owner, was educated at Rockwell Catering College, a school renowned for its classical French training. It shows in the menu. Pub grub like shepherd's pie and fish and chips comfortably cohabit with the likes of rosettes of sole with crabmeat stuffing and fish veloute with Pernod essence. Americana is represented by barbecued ribs or pork chops with bourbon apple compote. Homey meets haute. Seafood vol au vents with sherry Newburg cream sauce evoked youthful memories of our introduction to French food. This retro preparation heaps a generous serving of mixed seafood into a light, crispy p‰te feuilletee (puff pastry) shell slathered with the rich creamy sauce. It's good that there are no calorie counts on the menu. How is it that people could get away with eating this stuff in the '50s, and yet Americans are so much fatter now? Maybe the French paradox is that extreme enjoyment of food burns calories.Pate maison with toast points and Cumberland sauce, an equally indulgent hors d'oeuvre, betrays the chef's Anglo proclivities with its sauce. The spare-rib starter was our only disappointment. We are barbecue purists. Although tasty and meaty, the ribs were overdone. The meat was falling off the bone too easily for our liking and lacked smokiness. The accompanying cabbage and carrot salad was a nice crunchy contrast to the ribs, though. With a little more tweaking this dish could be right. The classically prepared Caesar salad was up to snuff.The entrees carry on the twin themes of the mundane and the sophisticated. A lamb stew was earthy and satisfying. Our Anglo-Irish dining companion asked for some beets as a condiment, a British custom. The request was graciously satisfied. At the other end of the spectrum, the rosettes of sole with crabmeat stuffing and fish veloute with Pernod essence were as elegant as the stew was homey. The stuffing was more crab than stuff, and the presentation charming. A special, volaille (chicken breast), was stuffed with sage-breaded stuffing, wrapped in bacon and sauced with a rosemary demiglace. The well-rendered bacon augmented the succulence of the chicken without making it greasy. The stuffing, more Brit than French, was enjoyably aromatic. Of the batch of tempting desserts, sherry trifle seemed to be Stove's signature. Served in a wine glass, we first thought we were seeing a lot of some exotic new cocktail going by. What it is is a trifle of sherry and fruit-syrup-suffused cake taking up most of the room in the glass, topped with fruit and cream. Not as gooey or sweet as many over-the -top desserts tend to be, it still made for a festive ending to a lovely meal.The Bottom LineStove serves up contradictions of the most agreeable kind. You can eat and drink as if you were at a terrific Irish pub, or at an upscale French bistro. When indulging in the former, try a pint of Smithwick's (pronounced 'smith-icks'), the chef's hometown brew. The prices are as unassuming as the surroundings. They serve dinner every day except Monday, as well as Sunday brunch. On Sundays, we hear that they serve an Irish breakfast that really kicks. This is a neighborhood joint worth traveling to if it doesn't happen to be in your neighborhood. Stove Restaurant and Bar45-17 28th Ave.Astoria, NY 11103718-956-03672Cuisine: Anglo-Irish-French-American, plain & fancySetting: Small, modestly modernService: Friendly & obligingHours: Dinner TuesdayÐSunday, Sunday brunchReservations: RecommendedAlcohol: Full barParking: StreetDress: CasualChildren: WelcomeMusic: NoTakeout: YesCredit Cards: YesNoise Level: AcceptableHandicap Accessible: YesA Sample from the MenuPate maison É $8.95Vol au vent É $11.95Caesar salad É $5.50/side, $8.95/fullLamb stew É $16.95Rosettes of sole É $16.95Shepherd's pie É $10.95Sherry trifle É $6

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