Washington's Embassy Row Hotel, which began a dozen years ago as one of the city's small but costly "boutique" hotels and eventually fell upon bad days, has begun a new life. And, thankfully, the new managers and part-owners of the hotel at 2015 Massachusetts Ave. NW, just west of Dupont Circle, have decided to keep the descriptive old name.

The Dallas-based Lincoln Hotels group held a lunchtime press reception yesterday in La Reserve, the Embassy Row's new classical French restaurant. The meal, which I skipped, looked marvelous, but it gave an opportunity to chat with Robert D. McGrail, senior vice president of the hotel group, who later gave a tour of upstairs guest rooms.

In its original incarnation, the Embassy Row had very small guest rooms. A multimillion dollar renovation (a Post article last year mentioned a $3 million price tag) resulted in knocking out walls and enlarging many of the rooms, justifying rates that begin at $95 for a single and range up to $525 for a three-bedroom "presidential suite." It now has 196 rooms and 28 suites. A full breakfast for all guests in the renovated "Wintergarden" atrium is part of the deal.

But the big effort, McGrail said, is providing hospitality and luxury. No tiny, candy-bar-thin soap bars in the shower, for example; rather, hefty ones that would cost us about $2.50 at Crabtree & Evelyn, English fancy-soap purveyors at the local shopping malls.

As for the hotel name, McGrail agrees with us that it was a lousy idea for the owners of the Fairfax Hotel to change recently to the Ritz-something or to submerge the name of the soon-to-be-renovated Willard beneath that of a San Francisco-based chain. "We thought seriously about changing the name of the Embassy Row hotel--we had big arguments," McGrail said. "But if you take over a property that has a good name, why change it?"