Hours: Mondays through Saturdaysfrom 11:30 a.m. to midnight; closed Sundays.

Atmosphere: A veritable pasture for the contented calorie -- small, informal and home of some of the finest French cooking a family could ask for.

Price Range: From pate or ham sandwiches below $3 to quiches below $4 and daily special entrees from $5 to $6.75.

Credit Cards: Master Charge, Visa.

Reservations: No, and it's small, so you take your chances during the peak hours.

Special Facilities: Downstairs dining room accessible by wheelchair. No kiddie chairs, but improvisation is possible. Street parking seems all right in the evening.

We can only assume that by now the friend we sent with blessings to La Ruche on Capitol Hill has either given up looking for it or -- better yet -- found out what we found out about it a few days later.

There we were, mouths watering from memories of our initial visit to La Ruche, when we noted from curbside that La Ruche had become Maxime on the Hill.

Ah, but our disorientation was fleeting, for a sign on the door explained that only the name had been changed to protect the partnership. This and a companion spot at the Mazza Gallerie are sisters, and there's a separate La Ruche in Georgetown.

Anyway, the host looked familiar, the prices seemed fair and, besides, we didn't have any backup game plan. Just to be different, we chose to go upstairs this time, to the higher of two small rooms that each has a sprinkling of tables.

The four of us slid into a back corner table on which stood a fresh red carnation. We had a good view of the plants (the philodendron were in better health than the holly) and of the hanging lights with the white wicker shades. Overhead somewhere a recorded French accordionist was tickling the keys of his stomach-Steinway to Parisian perfection.

But why dwell on the atmosphere -- on the handsome tiling that is everywhere or on the good natures of the people who do things for you here -- for it is the food that tops all. Even my sauce-stained notes from the outing look good enough to brown and serve.

To buy a little time for that note-taking, we ordered two beers -- a Kronenbourg and a Heineken -- which in itself was a bit of a breakthrough since the license hadn't arrived the last time we visited.

There still aren't any soft drinks, though, for reasons we failed to grasp. The kids tried the hot chocolate and, as they had been warned, found it bitterly in need of several little packets of sugar before it could earn their praise.

We ordered French bread and butter, too, which is not a freebie (65 cents), but which turned out be a tasty loaflet.

Our 12-year-old son remembered that the last time we were here, one of the offerings that he and an adventuresome pal had split was a Croque Monsieur, which is a sort of French toast baked with ham and cheese.

This time he recommended it for his mother, who bit -- and who was greatful for the tip. At $3.55, this is a melt-in-mouth treat worth knowing about.

To branch out, the croque-tipster tried something different -- the crepes de poulet, at $4.35. So did his 9-year-old sister. Both were all thumbs up, for this is the sort of dish most kids would take take to -- wrapped-up chicken with peas and parsleyed potatoes, all in a creamy sauce.

I turned to the clip-on write-ins of the evening and found veal feuillete, at $6.75. A sharp turn it was, too, for this was a thick slice of a specutacular ground veal with herbs and spinach, all surrounded by soft pastry.

We wondered: Was the main herb thyme or marjoram? We inquired, and word came back that the chef wasn't about to divulge his secrets. So call it thyme-and-a-half.

Desserts here are not cheap in any sense of the word, but they should delight any pastry-taste. While my wife and I struck somberly to coffee, the offspring tackled two enormous strawberry tarts -- wonderful excesses at $2.50 each, each a good four inches long and just as high.

Even with$5 invested in these short-lived desserts, the entire superb feast came to only $32.96 plus tip. So from our revisit we conclude that a ruche by any other name a is still a rose -- and Maxime on the Hill is a name worth remembering along the Family Out circuit.