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For those of you looking for the exquisite French cuisine of Philadelphia staple Le Bec-Fin without all the price and formality, try the restaurant's cozy counterpart, Le Bar Lyonnais.

Located on the lower level of Georges Perrier's famous restaurant, Le Bar Lyonnais offers diners a complete menu filled with heavy sauces, simmering soups and delectable desserts -- along with a lively atmosphere.

The bar has been catering to Philadelphia socialites since November 1990, and with the same kitchen as Le Bec-Fin, it promises not to disappoint even the most finicky of diners.

To start off, choose between a selection of soup, shrimp or salad. If your palate cannot decide which option to sample, fear not. Try the Assiette Gourmande ($18), a miniature tasting of the chef's selections featuring the crab cakes, the restaurant's signature dish -- my companion assured me that they deserved their complimentary title.

If you're lucky, indulge in the pumpkin soup, a restaurant special not always on the menu. The intoxicating aroma raised my expectations of the steaming concoction and my first taste did not disappoint. Sweet and creamy, the perfect puree was the ideal way to begin my meal.

After a relaxing interlude, our main courses arrived. I chose the spiced tuna with saffron sauce ($24) while my companion indulged in the fillet of beef with red wine sauce ($30).

The tuna was cooked to perfection, and the rich sauce was a lovely compliment to the dish. Fresh vegetables and mashed potatoes rounded out the entree.

The beef was equally delightful -- tender and overflowing with flavor.

Although both entrees were rich and filling, we couldn't help but make room for dessert. After staring at the menu unable to make a decision, our waitress offered a much-appreciated suggestion -- why not try an assortment of five of the chef's selected pastries ($15).

We were presented with samplings of the Chocolate Decadent Tart, the St. Benezet (a lemon lime basil mousse), the Morinois (a hazelnut macaroon base with mixed berry gel‚e, vanilla cream and almond sponge), the Flower of Autumn (with a hazelnut crispy base, chocolate sponge and milk chocolate mousse) and the cheesecake topped with fresh fruit.

Not surprisingly, all options were bursting with rich flavor. The St. Benezet was especially unique -- the hint of basil threw my taste buds off balance at first, but by my third bite, I was enjoying the refreshing zip that I normally don't find in a fine dessert.

Regrettably, our meal had come to an end, but it won't soon be forgotten.

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