Washington is short on country inns, but La Miche almost qualifies, its ceiling hung with baskets and its wallpaper French provincial. The menu, though, is city sophistication, with fashionable seafood terrines and worldly ginger-honey-pine- nut glaze for loin of lamb. The menu entices with each new choice -- warm smoked salmon with eggplant puree, fresh figs with caramel and ice cream. But the cooking can deal a heavy hand. Asparagus and crayfish were perfect, but their puff pastry shell and pepper puree sauce overwhelmed them. The honeyed lamb was coarse in texture and overcooked and lacked balance. Yet this is a restaurant worth a careful survey, for seafood can be excellent, especially as it was one day bedded on pasta tossed with cubes of avocado -- a delightful melange. And salads are deft, sherbets flavorful, vegetable garnishes outstanding -- right down to fiddleheads in season. Old standbys that have long been menu attractions are oysters warmed with orange sauce, croissants filled with creamy seafoods, and individual souffles, a rare offering in Washington restaurants.

So La Miche is flawed and expensive, but still the most steadily interesting French restaurant in the suburbs.

You can sit outdoors in good weather or you can go for a light supper or a series of appetizers to piano accompaniment in the cozy Hippocampe cafe adjacent. 7905 Norfolk Ave., Bethesda. 986-0707. L $5-$12, D $10-$18. L, D daily. Closed Sun. C, MC, V. Res sugg. Full bar.