Upon entering Out of the Blue, diners slide through a grey velvet curtain to find themselves in a room dominated by black and white, but softened by a wall of blue. The interior of this recently opened BYOB manages to be modern and simplistic without feeling cold. Like the cuisine, the decor is contemporary American, and the warm atmosphere is at least partly attributable to the eye-level fireplace, which replaces the traditional wood log with black stones. The restaurant's name is the result of a Google search of the word "blue." While it may have been chosen arbitrarily, "Out of the Blue" captures the menu's delightfully surprising combination of flavors.

For a starter, try the vegetarian tapas ($9), which combine three eclectic dishes: chick peas with onion, mint, tumeric and honey for a sweet touch on top of traditional Indian spice; tangy guacamole with grilled onions, roasted tomato, chilies, lime and cilantro; and eggplant, red pepper, caper and olive salad with marinated Manchego cheese. Perhaps the star of the appetizers, the butternut squash and fuji apple soup ($7) combines a bit of star anise with squash and apple puree to create culinary bliss. Rich and smooth as butter, the soup melts in your mouth. The presentation is as impressive as the flavor -- a waiter pours the cream-free soup from a pitcher onto a plate which arrives empty except for a dollop of creme fraiche and chive.

The entrees are generous in both portion and flavor. The chef's fusion of ingredients is consistently creative, yet subtle enough to please the more conservative eater. The cornish game hen breast ($18) stuffed with figs, dates and pistachios comes with a side of golden raisin couscous and game hen b'stillaa -- a triangle of flaky pastry filled with ground hen and tumeric. Like the chicken, each slice of the hanger steak ($21) is crisped to perfection and juicy inside. The steak is sprinkled with pink peppercorn and served alongside skinny carrots and green beans, red onion salad and horseradish mashed potatoes with an unexpected and ingenious garnish of pickles. The marriage of savory and sweet continues with the "Pipil" pork shoulder braised in annatto ($19), served with avocado leaf filled with orange-spiced pork, roasted spaghetti squash and red onion salad.

Everyone has that special "dessert stomach," reserved for necessary occasions like Thanksgiving...or dessert at Blue. Both the classic baked apple crisp ($6), which is too rich not to split, and the chocolate and hazelnut brownie ($7) come with enough vanilla ice cream that no one is left without something to balance out that last bite. Hints of citrus assure that the orange creme brulee ($8) will please any aficionado.

During the winter, we all deserve a little comfort and a lot of indulgence. For an upscale yet relaxed dining environment and a menu that innovates without pushing the palate too far, come out of the cold and into Out of the Blue.


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