Henry A. Kissinger and George P. Shultz, former secretary of state and current secretary of state, sat side by side Saturday night in the Mayflower Hotel's ballroom. They chatted. They smiled. The sight was . . . heartwarming.

And it was in keeping with the occasion -- the third annual Washington Heart Ball, a black-tie dinner to benefit the American Heart Association.

This year's honorees included three cardiologists: Dr. Jorge M. Garcia, chief of cardiovascular surgery at the Washington Hospital Center; Dr. W. Proctor Harvey, professor of medicine and director of the Division of Cardiology at Georgetown University Medical Center; and Dr. Edward Hawthorne, dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Howard University. The fourth honoree was Kissinger.

Why you, Dr. Kissinger?

"[Secretary of Defense] Cap Weinberger asked me to come."

But didn't he show up?

"No, he didn't show up. He's traveling. I had a heart operation earlier this year, maybe that's it."

Kissinger stood in a corner of the vast reception room and met the 500 guests who came in from the cold to eat le poulet de grain a l'orange -- chicken with an orange sauce; no red meat for this hearty crowd. After the entre'e, and before the dessert, the awards were dished out. First to the physicians, then to Kissinger.

"I'm here as a substitute, but I don't take second place, or first, in my admiration for Henry Kissinger," Shultz began when presenting the award to Kissinger. "It's a little hard to follow Henry at the State Department, even though he's a few secretaries removed, but his influence is still there. I remember that it took me a few months to realize a Kissinger bypass was not a sophisticated bureaucratic plug . . .

"He is a man of tremendous intellect and also a man of action . . . He is a marvelous individual and a great public servant, in or out of office. I value him as a great personal friend and supporter."

The plaque given to Kissinger read, " . . . for his contribution to world peace and the betterment of mankind." The two shook on it.

It was Kissinger's turn to speak to the group of doctors, medical professionals and politicians, which included Secretary of Health and Human Services Richard S. Schweiker; Swedish Ambassador Wilhelm Wachtmeister; and Philippine Ambassador Benjamin Romualdez.

"When the secretary was discussing stories told in the White House in the old days," Kissinger said about Shultz, "it reminded me of an occasion when one of my ex-colleagues said to me, 'We're right behind you on this,' and that was one of the most frightening . . . "

The crowd burst into laughter.

"All of these kindnesses are appreciated," Kissinger said, referring to the award, three American Heart Association cookbooks and a box of Godiva heart-shaped chocolates he had been given. "Especially when the cardiac unit of General Hospital in Massachusetts voted to expel me after 10 days of residence."

Then Kissinger took on the White House.

"I want to clear up something that was printed in a newspaper not long ago. An article said that I'm friends with George Shultz just to make myself look important. I licked that problem of making myself look important before George Shultz. I used to read in the paper when there was going to be a state dinner and I'd take the last tour of the White House, sneak into a closet and change into my tuxedo. That's how I got to know Office of Management and Budget Director David Stockman . . .

"Once I got the hang of it, I'd go with the press corps to something they call a photo opportunity. That's how I heard this story: President Reagan was standing with former Secretary of State Haig. He said, 'Al, you have no idea how much fun it is to be president,' and Al said, 'Oh, yes I have.' "