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Andrew Margulies

With a crackling fire, palatial furniture and aristocratic portraits lining the walls, Deux Chemin‚es seems less like a restaurant and more like a provincial hunting retreat.

Settled in two stately 19th century townhouses near 12th and Locust streets -- buildings which once housed the Princeton Club here in Philadelphia -- Deux Chemin‚es tempts the Center City dweller looking to tread off the beaten path.

For a price of $85, patrons have their choice of soup, salad, entree and dessert and coffee, and for the bargain hunter, $65 buys three of those courses if you arrive by 6 p.m. and are out by 8 p.m. The food merits either price, but three courses prove to be more than enough for the average eater.

Almost before your napkin hits your lap, waiters whet the appetite with a quick specialty bite, which on this occasion happened to be a warm, rich quiche lorraine.

The menu changes slightly every night depending on the season and the chef's whim. Of the three options, my companion and I chose a pumpkin soup and a mushroom soup.

Complete with large chunks of the autumn fruit, the pumpkin soup was smooth and pleasantly unsweet, garnished with pine nuts that added both texture and taste. The mushroom soup was based in a beef stock and yielded a very earthy flavor.

Deux Chemin‚es' true forte lies in properly combining food so that the palette is either stimulated or cleansed appropriately, and the salad course illustrates that strength with stronger flavors than those in the soups

I sampled the restaurant's premier Salade de Poires -- hand-selected and perfectly ripened pears on a bed of baby lettuce and Roquefort, with glazed pecans, dressed in honey vinaigrette.

The harsh cheese is contrasted by the mild dressing and what can only be described as pears of the gods.

My companion's Salade Vert, made with seasonal lettuce varieties in a vinaigrette of grape seed oil and mild rice wine, was, while elegant, unexceptional.

After a seasonal intermezzo of raspberry tea, it was time for the main event.

I selected the Trilogie des Fruits de Mer, a sampling of shrimp, sea scallops and crab cakes. The scallops melted at the touch of the fork, and the crab cakes were accentuated by a creamy red pepper sauce. The shrimp, though, could have stood alone -- large, unfettered by sauce and truly outstanding.

My companion had pork loins in a cognac and pork stock sauce, highlighted with wild mushrooms. Thick and juicy, the medallions were delightful.

To end, I chose the banana napoleon -- a dessert once named the Best of Philly by Philadelphia Magazine. A rich caramel sauce complemented the light cream and fresh bananas between buttery pastry. My companion opted for the chocolate crepe, filled with espresso ice cream and covered in a chocolate sauce. It may be too rich for the weak of stomach, but, as with all dishes at Deux Chemin‚es, the decadent choice is never the wrong one.

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