JUST WHEN DINERS have learned to check the date on a review tacked to a restaurant wall, it seems that isn't enough. You'd better check the name of the restaurant, too. Chela's, the little Mexican carryout in Bethesda, displays two favorable reviews on its wall. But they're of San Antonio, a spinoff of Chela's, not of Chela's itself.

EARLY BIRD CATCHES SUNSET -- It's called Sunset Dining rather than an Early Bird Special at Windows in Rosslyn. And it is not what everybody would consider a bargain dinner. But for Windows (which has its own rave reviews to put on its wall) this three-course dinner for $19.95 is a substantial price reduction. First course is salad or soup (no ordinary salad or soup, but the likes of squash soup with cinnamon cream and toasted pine nuts or spinach salad with goat cheese and warm bacon-onion dressing). Then comes an entre'e of fried trout, cornish hen or Windows' famous nouvelle pizza. And dessert includes pumpkin cheesecake, pistachio-chocolate torte or cre`me brule'e. The fixed-price special is available weekdays 5:30 to 7 p.m.

CORNED BEEF WARS -- Hofberg's, Washington's hometown deli, has challenged Carnegie, the newly imported deli from New York, to a contest. Pointing out that Hofberg's (in another location and with other owners) is a couple of decades older than the Carnegie and in its heyday had four branches including one in New York, Hofberg's asks to pit its products against Carnegie's in a judging by this restaurant critic. Hofberg's young owners, who took over a year ago, declared in a letter to Carnegie, "You're in my kitchen now, and I'm turning up the heat. I hope you can stand it." Hofberg's challenging the Carnegie? Prepackaged pastrami and sliced cello-wrapped rye bread claiming place with New York's finest? Hofberg's has even produced buttons that say, "We don't care how they do it in New York." Yep, I can believe it. Which just goes to show what Washington has been missing and why.

IF AT FIRST YOU DON'T SUCCEED -- Fourways has issued its challenge to Washington's restaurant critics. "Come look us over again," it suggests, since it has brought in new management to clean up the operation. The new manager, Larry Tunison, has a "personal and corporate motto," writes Fourways in a press release; it is "Profit with honor." It goes on to say that Tunison brought in a troubleshooter to check out everything, then hired his wife as Executive Housekeeper.

HOT AND COLD -- This week's example of the Great American Melting Pot is the sign on a MacArthur Boulevard restaurant announcing that its specialties are chili and sushi.

ANOTHER SIGN OF THE TIMES -- The Vista Hotel is getting so many Japanese guests that it has printed a version of its Verandah restaurant menu in Japanese.