7335 Wisconsin Ave., Bethesda 961-6400 Hours: Lunch, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., dinner, 5 to 10:30 p.m. daily. Prices: Most dinner entrees $8 to $15. Cards: All major credit cards accepted.
The Yorkshire Grill in the new Guest Quarters hotel doesn't have a lot to do with either Yorkshire or grilling. No matter. It's far better than most hotel dining rooms, with imaginative, well-conceived dishes served at moderate prices.
This is a modest-looking place, with a spare, modern decor that's pleasant if instantly forgettable. The service is pleasant, too, but it's sometimes frustratingly casual and inefficient. On one visit, the server was unable to describe the daily specials (and there were only two), and on another we had to comb the restaurant to replace missing plates and cutlery.
Among the appetizers, the grilled prawns are excellent: big and sweet, in a tangy lemon-garlic mayonnaise. The country pate is a winner, too, nicely chunky with coarsely chopped meats, mildly flavored and admirably unfatty.
Potted shrimp is another good choice, a mild, delicate blend of pureed baby shrimp, herbs and fresh dill. So is the onion soup, an exemplary version with lively onions, good cheeses and real flavor.
But avoid the angels on horseback, dry little oysters clearly past their prime, wrapped in overcooked bacon. To the Yorkshire Grill's credit, this was the only poor dish we had.
Fish is done beautifully here. The salmon is a thick, fresh fillet quickly grilled (without butter) so it's a touch crusty outside and firm and moist within. It's noted on the menu as low in cholesterol and salt, and it may be the best restaurant diet dish around.
One night's special was a very good grilled tuna, slightly dry but rescued by a bit of oil, with a mildly pungent topping of diced fresh tomato and scallions.
They know how to cook a bird, too. The moist West African pepper chicken is coated with a deceptively creamy mixture of peanut butter and red pepper, with tart citrus overtones. It packs a real wallop.
At the other end of the spectrum, the duck is a delicate, skinless and boneless sliced breast, cooked rare enough so it's pink and juicy inside and served on a bit of slightly sweet, slightly tart sauce. The quail are lovely, too, two tiny birds, tender and mild, with a meaty, winey sauce.
Perhaps the most unusual entree is veal scallopini Jerusalem, fine medallions of veal with artichoke hearts, walnuts and thyme in a tart, herbaceous sauce. Between the meat, the artichokes and the nuts, this dish has lively flavor and texture contrasts.
Vegetables are done very well here, in particular the rice, tender yet firm-grained, with a silky texture. We can't say as much for the salads, with their droopy greens, although the house-made Stilton dressing is good.
Desserts, made elsewhere, are worth ordering. We had a lovely orange mousse cake, and a mocha charlotte cake with real coffee flavor.
Note, too, that Watney's Red Barrel beer is available, a world-class brew that's wonderfully mellow and full-bodied.
And bargain hunters should note the early bird specials, complete dinners for $6.95, served from 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday through Thursday.