Matisse Cafe Restaurant

Matisse (expensive). It's almost a rule that the quality of service in a restaurant varies in direct proportion to the number of customers. The busier the servers, the more efficient they tend to be. The slower the evening, the more the attention of servers is likely to wander.

That was the case on a recent Sunday evening at Matisse. With only three tables filled, there were long waits for water, for drinks, for menus, for dessert orders, for the bill. The food was this restaurant's usual mixture of hits and misses.

The best of the appetizers was nicely seared sea scallops with fava beans and sweet peas. Pizza was undercooked. Roast quail was filled with a bland polenta stuffing and cooked to tastelessness. The main courses were similarly uneven. Tempura soft-shell crabs were served with a crabcake too heavy on the binder. Roast chicken, the white meat overcooked, was not redeemed by flaccid French fries. The best of the three main courses sampled was a grilled halibut filet. It's a pity that this attractive space has such inconsistent food.

Matisse, 4934 Wisconsin Ave., NW; 202-244-5222. Open Tuesday through Friday for lunch, daily for dinner, Sunday for brunch.