It's one of the swankiest restaurants in Rosslyn, and Vicki Friedman of Northwest had a pretty nice evening there. "The food was exceptional, and the service was also very good," she says. "The problem was the table I received.

"We were four well-dressed females, yet we were placed at a table in the back, after being led up two flights of stairs . . . . I feel that we were placed where we were because we were four women. I would like your opinion on this matter."

I'll be delighted to give it, Vicki, but not before I relay the remarks of the restaurant's dayside manager, who denied your contention so vigorously that he may still be red in the face.

"We would never do something like that! Never, never, never!" the manager said. "More than half of our customers are women. You come over here sometime, and you look in the office buildings in Rosslyn, and what do you see? Women! Women come in here by the dozen every day, sport. Do you think we would deliberately make half our customers so mad that they never come back?"

Still, the manager acknowledged that certain high-rolling regulars will get a good table whenever they come in. Are these HRR's male?

"Sure, most of them are," said the manager. "But, listen, mister, men are the ones with the money. I'm not running a charity here. If men are the ones with the money, they're the ones I take care of."

The manager slammed down the phone right about there -- before I had a chance to ask him if his attitude isn't totally sexist, and perhaps illegal. So let me speculate a bit, Vicki.

I don't think you four women were escorted to Outer Mongolia just because you're female. I think you got lousy seats because most male customers usually spend more and tip more than most female customers.

That's about as far into the question as most maitre d's ever look. They see a man come in, and they think, "Hey, hey, hey! Steak-eater! Scotch-drinker! Spender!" They see a woman come in, and they think, "Oh, no! She'll order a salad and a glass of club soda, and she'll leave a 50-cent tip."

But fighting back is very simple, Vicki. You don't have to slip the maitre d' five bucks, or order veal piccata when your heart is set on a bacon cheeseburger (and your budget is, too).

Simply speak up. If the maitre d' is about to troop you up the stairs, ask to be seated somewhere else. If he doesn't comply, he's a fool -- and you've uncovered a restaurant with a rotten attitude before you've spent a cent there.