The dinner menu included lobster bisque, baked salmon fillet, homemade linguine with wild mushroom sauce, apple feuillete and cinnamon ice cream, all elegantly arranged on china plates. There were tables draped with white linen featuring napkins folded in the shape of sea shells.

The occasion Monday was not a state dinner, but a therapeutic program at the National Rehabilitation Hospital called "An Evening At . . . "

The program arranges for Washington area restaurants to treat in-patients and their guests -- 150 people Monday -- to a gourmet meal every other month in the hospital's cafeteria.

Monday's dinner was prepared by Yann Henrotte, executive sous-chef (or second in command) of the Willard Inter-Continental Hotel's kitchens.

Most of the hospital's patients receive therapy for spinal and brain injuries, traumatic amputations or strokes.

"The average patient stays here 40 to 50 days," said Ed Eckenhoff, president of the hospital. Eckenhoff is a paraplegic because of a car accident 25 years ago.

"One of the things we can do for them is to provide great food, along with excellent medical care."

"It's great," said Mickey Cresce of Vienna, who is a multiple sclerosis patient. "{The gourmet dinners} break the monotony of being in the hospital."

Deanah May of Northeast, who is partially paralyzed from injuries suffered in a bicycle accident, said, "You get to meet some of the people in the hospital you didn't see before."

National Rehabilitation Hospital, which is in the Northwest Washington medical complex that includes Washington Hospital Center, Veterans Hospital and Children's Hospital, specializes in physical rehabilitation.

The gourmet dinner was the idea of Philip R. Carr, senior vice president of The Oliver Carr Co., president of Occidental Restaurant and a hospital board member.

Food for the dinners is provided by a participating restaurant at no cost to the hospital, and the kitchen and serving help is made up of volunteers.

Restaurants participating in the program have been The Occidental, located in the Willard, and McPherson Grill at 1500 K St. NW, both owned by the Carr company.

Carr said he had "passed along the idea" of doing gourmet dinners for the hospital to other restaurants in the Washington area.

The menu for Monday's meal was planned by Denis Jaricot, excutive chef of the Willard.

"It's like an addition to a regular busy day," said Jaricot, of Lyon, France. "We have special trays for folks unable to leave their room. For the rest of the people it's like a restaurant atmosphere."

The dinners are a pleasure not only for patients, but for the hospital's kitchen staff as well.

"Great experience," said Evonne Edwards, chef for the hospital's kitchen.

Henrotte said of the hospital staff: "They are so willing to work with us and see something different."

Steven R. Servant, dietary services director at the hospital, also praised the restaurants' donations.

"I'm having a ball," Servant said. "It's all worth while when you see the look on the patients' faces."