Open daily 6 to 11 p.m., Saturday until midnight. MC, V. Reservations. Prices: Main courses $9 to $13.

The plot is uneven at the Hobbit, and you might best enjoy it the way some people read novels: skip directly from the beginning to the end. The beginning is the visual impact. The bar is a whole story in itself, dark and mysterious and populated by glass cases filled with cunning ceramic gnomes and elves. The main dining rooms are more like a romanticized boarding house, with lace tablecloths and small bouquets of dried flowers, privacy between tables achieved by cleverly hung panels of stained and leaded glass. The servers are enthusiastic, good salesmen for the menu.

I tried the Hobbit just before the summer season started, and was told that the menu is longer in summer. At that time, the menu listed four appetizers ( $2 to $4) and seven main courses ($8.95 to $12.95), more meat than seafood. The seafoods were flounder with or without lobster, lobster thermidor or surf and turf - hardly original. Among the meats, the least routine was beef Bilbo, a steak stuffed with pate and ground veal, sauced with madeira. The wine list was no more extensive, but compensated by having a majority of choices under $7.

While my waiter recommended lobster moutarde as the best appetizer, it was made with a frozen lobster tail. I tried, instead, Hobbit's Delight, which was fresh asparagus served cold, rolled in tasteless ham and topped with a ribbon of cheese sauce that would have been improved by heating. Salad was an improvement except for the pool of dressing at the bottom of the plate. Progress continued with the vegetables: crisp, slightly sweet carrot slices and zucchini suateed in olive oil with plenty of oregano. As for the flounder stuffed with lobster, it was fresh and decently prepared but not inspired, the frozen lobster too heavily flavored with green pepper. In a town without many good restaurants, the Hobbit is welcome, but except for the wonderful creamy cheesecake that the owner's mother is said to have made, I tasted no dish that would set me boasting about my $25 meal.