Looking to impress a client? Or reward a loyal customer? Look no further than taking them to lunch at the new JeanRo Bistro, the brainchild of former Maisonette chef Jean-Robert de Cavel.

When de Cavel quit the Mobil five-star Maisonette, no doubt many heads in town were shaking in disbelief. But the chef has successfully struck out on his own, first with elegant dinners at Jean-Robert at Pigall's and now masterful lunches at JeanRo.

The downtown French bistro is conveniently located in the heart of the Fourth and Vine business district, adjacent to Carew Tower, and sports a lively scheme of French posters and odd knickknacks on the walls.

Reservations are a must. Repeat: A must. This place is packed to the gills all the time, and that's perhaps its biggest downside. The word "bistro" must be French for "crowded and noisy."

Appetizers worth trying include Perona Farm Smoked Salmon with Egg Mimosa ($7.50); Country Ter-rine with Onion Marmalade($5.25); Rabbit, Mushroom and Blue Cheese Quiche ($6.50); and Warm Indiana Goat Cheese with Yukon Gold Potatoes ($6.25). Soups include Fish Soup Marseillaise Style ($4.25) and Vichyssoise ($4).

Frankly, on our visit, we skipped the starter menu and moved directly to the entrees, which are substantial unto themselves. They include Mus-sels Mariniere with Pommes Frittes ($12.75), Roasted Salmon with Sauce Moutarde and Capers ($14.50), Saut-eed Haddock with almondine butter ($14.50), Chicken Coq Au Vin in red wine sauce ($14.50), Steak Frites ($15, the most expensive item on the lunch menu), and Pork Loin with roasted cabbage and curry sauce ($12.75). Sides are extra, including field greens with vinaigrette ($3.50), mashed potatoes ($2.50), and a delicious medley of mushrooms that shouldn't be missed ($3.50).

The wine list, it should be noted, is extensive, and tops out at $40 for a bottle of 2001 Roc Des Anges red wine. The most expensive champagne, should you be celebrating, is a bottle of Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin Brut, from Champagne, France, for $75. Some wines are available by the glass, for $4 and up.

If you've any space left at all, sample desserts such as Crème Caramel ($4.50) or Chocolate Mousse ($5).

"Si vous etes satisfaits dites "” le a vos amis," reads the menu. (Translated: "If you're satisfied "” tell your friends."). Consider it done.

JeanRo Bistro is at 413 Vine St., downtown. Call (513) 621-1465. It's open for lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. Visa, MasterCard, Discover, American Express, and Diner's Club accepted.

BELLA

Bella opened its doors directly across the street from the Rosenthal Center for Contemporary Art, and how appropriate. This trendy eatery is awash in contemporary tile, fascinating mosaics, and pop art on and off the walls.

Bella is also an unusual restaurant in having two floors, the second stocked with sofas and comfy chairs. On a pleasant day, there are also patio tables outside.

Begin your meal with our favorite, the Unorthodox Shrimp Spring Rolls in a Thai vinaigrette ($10), or sample from starters such as the Smoked Jalapeno BBQ Chicken Quesadilla ($8), Sauteed Brie with sun-dried cranberry salsa ($8), or the Bella Crab Cakes in a hot pepper and avocado relish ($11).

There's a liberal salad menu for the low-carb dieter in your crowd, including the Ginger & Orange Glazed Portobello Mushroom Salad with lemon shallot vinaigrette ($9); the Bella Salad with blackened tuna, raisins, gorgonzola, and hearts of palm atop baby greens drenched in a French vinaigrette ($12); and a savory Asian Chicken Salad with baby spinach, pears, and soba noodles in a peanut dressing ($9).

Lunch entrees include the Ultimate Fish Sandwich ($10), an appealing slice of cod encrusted in cornmeal and topped with cheddar cheese; a Seared Ahi Tuna Club with bacon and Szechuan mayo ($11); or Pasta Frutti di Mare, with saffron pasta, rock shrimp, lump crab, and roasted peppers ($14). There's also a menu of gourmet pizzas ($9 to $10, with toppings such as grilled tomatoes and artichoke hearts).

Bella is at 600 Walnut St., downtown. Call (513) 721-7100. It's open for lunch 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Visa, MasterCard, and American Express accepted.

 

DOWNTOWN/UPSCALE

Aioli,
700 Elm St. (513) 929-0525

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La Normandie,
118 E. Sixth St. (513) 721-2761

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Montgomery Inn at the Boathouse,
925 Eastern Ave., (513) 721-7427

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Nick & Tony's Chophouse,
19 E. Seventh St. (513) 723-1940

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Nicholson's,
625 Walnut St. (513) 564-9111

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Palace Restaurant,
601 Vine St. (513) 381-6006

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Palomino Restaurant,
505 Vine St. (513) 381-1300

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Rock Bottom Restaurant & Brewery,
10 Fountain Square. (513) 621-1588

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The Albee
21 E. Fifth St. (513) 852-2740

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The Cricket
601 Vine St. (513) 381-3000

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The Maisonette
114 E. Sixth St. (513) 721-2260

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DOWNTOWN/CASUAL

Arnold's,
210 E. Eighth St. (513) 421-6234

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Mullane's Cafe,
723 Race St. (513) 381-1331

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Courtyard Cafe,
1211 Main St. (513) 723-1119

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First Watch,
700 Walnut St. (513) 721-4744

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Izzy's,
612 Main St. (513) 241-6246
800 Elm St. (513) 721-4241

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Carol's on Main,
825 Main St. (513) 651-2667

Hamburger Mary's,
909 Vine St. (513) 381-6279

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NEAR DOWNTOWN/NORTHERN KENTUCKY

Kona Bistro,
3012 Madison Rd., Oakley. (513) 523-0686

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Restaurant,
11384 Montgomery Road., Harper's Point, Symmes Township. (513) 871-2888

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chokolate morel, 101 E. Main St., Mason. (513) 754-1146

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Teller's of Hyde Park,
2710 Erie Ave., Hyde Park. (513) 321-4721

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Rookwood Pottery,
1077 Celestial St., Mount Adams. (513) 721-5456

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Behle Street Cafe,
50 E. Rivercenter Blvd., Covington, Ky. (859) 291-4100

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National Exemplar,
6880 Wooster Pike, Mariemont. (513) 271-2103

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Bar Louie,
Newport on the Levee, Newport, Ky. (859) 291-4222

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Cafe Istanbul,
Newport on the Levee, Newport, Ky. (859) 581-1777

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Bamboo Club,
Newport on the Levee, Newport, Ky. (859) 261-2921

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Claddagh Irish Pub,
Newport on the Levee, Newport, Ky. (859) 581-8888

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Mount Adams Fish House,
940 Pavilion St., Mount Adams. (513) 421-3250

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Michael G's, Rivertowne Marina,
4601 Kellogg Ave., Columbia-Tusculum. (513) 533-3131

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Trio of Kenwood,
7565 Kenwood Rd., Kenwood. (513) 984-1905

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Hofbrauhaus,
200 E. Third St., Newport, Ky. (859) 491-7200