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The Jefferson Hotel's opened its majestic doors in about 1986 in what had been the hotel ladies' parlor. And dining at Lemaire allows you, too, to join in the long tradition of high-dollar expenditures. The menu, which changes quarterly, ranges in price from $6 to $16 for appetizers, soups and salads, and $27 to $36 for entrées. But who can resist a little pampering?

Tagged as "A new celebration of Southern taste," from the look of the menu that means meat, game and seafood evocative of a turn-of-the-century industrialist-on-holiday lifestyle; French-style wine sauces and sauce reductions; and big-flavor low-country sides such as extraordinarily good — and rich — spoon bread.

The peanut soup with sherry, while lovely if you go for that sort of thing, takes a back seat to the corn and crab chowder with country ham ($7.50). We give it four stars, plus one-half for presentation: A wide bowl is placed in front of you with a pile of crab meat dwarfed by the white space around it. The server produces a silver cup and pours the chowder in a circle around the crab.

From the nine-item entrée list we chose the filet mignon capped with duck foie gras, over truffled mashed potatoes in a port wine demi-glace ($36), and the breast of duck and crispy duck confit over braised Swiss chard, a meaty wehani rice and a duck demi-glace ($29). No matter what you choose you will not go wrong, and you certainly won't go hungry with the generous portions.

Rather than a dessert menu, the dessert selections are brought to your table live and in-person, a temptation too sensual to resist: French apple tart and crŠme brulée were our sins of the night. The tart crust was a tad doughy, but the crŠme, spiked with Grand Marnier, was dead-on.

Such magnificent preparations keep Lemaire from wallowing in the land of the clunky hotel restaurant cliché. The five AAA diamonds don't hurt either. No diamond in the rough, Lemaire is cut, polished and


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