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The new Nuvo Bistro hits all the right marks with its sophisticated American cuisine.

Nuvo Flavors

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No matter how you spell it, Nuvo Bistro is new — at least relatively so, having moved into the chic quarters left by Granite on Grove a few months ago. The coolly sophisticated space created for Granite on Grove has been warmed — purists might say compromised — by redecoration that both opens up the space and softens it. The room is a bit quieter, too, making conversation easier, but those sensitive to smoke will find that smoke from the bar area invades the nonsmoking area.

Chef Brian Enroughty, formerly of Bottega, has also relaxed the menu and the prices, offering a casual bistro menu that is innovative without being threatening. As in many menus about town these days, the preparations take their inspiration from many traditional cuisines, creating what is rapidly becoming a sophisticated American cuisine that is as diverse as our population. As he did at Bottega, Enroughty uses many ingredients that are traditionally Italian or Mediterranean, but these serve as points of departure for new combinations rather than traditional preparations.

The starters ($5.95-$7.95) are particularly interesting. "Prickly" shrimp — two jumbos coated with shredded phyllo dough and deep fried — on a bed of garlicky polenta with pesto and capers with a red pepper remoulade sauce make a handsome presentation as well as an interesting study of texture and zesty taste. Likewise, a bowl of mussels and clams with tomatoes, garlic and scallions are sweet and fresh; pesto-spread crostini add a nice crunch and a nice sponge for the fragrant broth. Crisp bruschetta (oil-brushed toasts) are elaborately blanketed with spinach, goat cheese and roasted peppers, and ravioli stuffed with lobster and mushrooms are deep-fried and served in a spicy crab broth. Finally, smoked salmon is rolled with crab, chives and tomato and dressed with Key lime vinaigrette. These are auspicious beginnings.

And of course there are salads ($4-$4.25). The traditional Italian caprese — tomatoes, mozzarella and basil — gets an addition of roasted red peppers. Romaine lettuce is grilled for a salad with walnuts and Gorgonzola. The house salad is an old-fashioned mixed salad.

Those seeking a bit of American comfort food will find Nuvo meatloaf with Yukon mashed potatoes and green beans — classic diner food — among the entrees ($9.95-$20.95). Prosciutto-wrapped free-range chicken takes the ubiquitous fowl to another level, though I'm not convinced that a bit of added flavor is worth the loss of succulence that comes with these more athletically inclined "free-range" chicks. A good vegetable-laden risotto adds both flavor and succulence to this dish.

I had preliminary doubts about corn relish and "tobacco" onions that accompanied perfectly cooked lamb chops from the rib, but I was quickly won over by an array of flavors and play of textures with the crisp, fried onions and the relish. Pomegranate sauce adds a sweet complexity to this delicious mix. There are several equally inventive combinations that feature fish and shellfish. A grilled portobello mushroom with vegetables and polenta, a grilled filet mignon for the beef fancier, and pasta with sausage and peas add further variety.

Desserts ($5.95) vary a bit from the usual with fresh fruit sabayon and bananas Foster. And tiramisu, crŠme brulee, and, of course, a bit of chocolate decadence may appear too often on too many menus, but any can be the right thing when we're in the mood. In this case, the crŠme brulee, with a thin warm crust on top, hit a harmonious chord.

The interesting wine list also bears decent prices with only a couple going over $30, with the exception of champagnes. The list is nicely matched, too, to the menu.

On a night when all the tables were taken, the service was amiable and efficient, and the courses nicely timed from the kitchen. It seems that Nuvo is off to a good start. Let's hope they will stay Nuvo for a long

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