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Published: Thursday, 12/18/2008

Restaurant Review: Stella's ****

The big windows at the entrance of Stella s Restaurant & Bar in downtown Perrysburg are gift-wrapped in ribbons this month, while inside, twinkling holiday lights cast a glow on the rich cherrywood walls, bar, and dining rooms abuzz with folks celebrating the season with good food and wine.

Charming though the Christmas decorations are, they face stiff competition from the local artwork on display, including a unique mobile of glass flowers cascading from the ceiling. The gorgeous pieces, swaying gently from on high, create their own festive harmony of color and design throughout the year.

Then there is Stella herself, the restaurant s namesake, a dreamgirl in a sexy red skirt who holds center stage in three framed paintings behind the bar.

The visual impact is unmistakable, but it s the nouveau cuisine, not the pretty views, that finally wins out. Diners have their choice of temptations, including tender steaks, lamb, pasta, babyback ribs, potato-crusted whitefish, or chicken Chadwick riddled with artichokes, shrimp, and hollandaise.

One off-the-menu surprise on a recent visit was bouillabaisse, France s national soup, swimming in saffron, fish, and shellfish. Customers with somewhat less adventurous appetites may decide on, say, baked brie en croute, shrimp and prosciutto, a cranberry turkey melt sandwich, the house salad with field greens, walnuts, and apple-maple vinaigrette, or even a simple burger or pizza.

Such is the range of possibilities at Stella s, located in a venerable two-story brick building on Louisiana Avenue. Diners can be seated at the bar or tables downstairs or in the larger dining room above.

Lunch one day brought a decent bacon cheeseburger ($9.70), garnished with grapes, pineapple, melon, and various greens, and an equally good walleye sandwich ($7.95) along with a cup of tomato-laced chili ($3.95).

For dinner, we chose a grilled thin-sliced pizza ($7.95) for sharing as an appetizer, available with house-smoked duck breast for $4 more, and crab-stuffed Portobello mushroom baked in lobster sauce ($9.95), followed by fair-to-middling cups of lobster bisque ($2 with meal, $5.50 without).

Among the entrees, the signature saut ed chicken Chadwick ($18.95), is as moist and succulent as you ll find. So too the $19.95 walleye fillet, roasted on a seasoned cedar plank and dressed in herb butter. Dinner also brought an excellent char-grilled ribeye steak in wine sauce ($23.95), and beef tournedos Stella ($15.95), a house specialty pan-seared and served with roasted vegetables and saucy demi-glace.

Contact Bill of Fare at fare@theblade.com

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