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La Cote Brasserie
in The Renaissance Arts Hotel (700 Tchoupitoulas St., 613-2350) lost chef-partner Richard "Bingo" Starr two weeks ago, just days before a review of the restaurant was to run in this paper. Starr's partner in the kitchen and in the business, Chef Rene Bajeux (also of Rene Bistrot fame) is still involved in La Cote, which gives me hope that a few things won't change, namely the oyster and artichoke "cobbler," a made-from-scratch casserole with whole oysters and a substantial Parmesan "streusel" top; and the seafood Cataplana, which is like a Portuguese bouillabaisse made with housemade chorizo. Starr reportedly will take over Marigny Brasserie's kitchen after the first of the year.

New at Nouvelle
La Nouvelle Cafe
(3650 Magazine St., 269-8130), a petit sandwich-salad-coffee shop, now serves two Ethiopian dishes every day. Fans of the now-shuttered Red Sea Restaurant might remember kifto, the buttery ground beef dish prepared raw or barely cooked; there's also tibs, which resembles a beef stew made with lots of onions and jalapeno peppers. Both dishes come with injera, the porous Ethiopian, pancake-like bread, or French baguette. Chef Seitfu hopes to offer a full Ethiopian menu soon, including vegetarian dishes. The cafe is open daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Bucking for Position
Recent visits to two Uptown diners reinforced the long-known truth that consistency can make or break a restaurant's standing. When Slim Goodies (3322 Magazine St., 891-3447) first opened, its food hovered right around average, the meatloaf weighing in slightly higher and the burgers occasionally dipping lower. Its fresh look and Happy Days-meets-yogi menu, however, earned it a spot on my personal A-list; it supplanted Bluebird (3625 Prytania St., 895-7166), which I thought had gone stale. Then last week at Slim's, I shared the dining room with just two other tables and still it took 30 minutes to get an iceberg salad -- without the menu-promised onions -- floating in a virtual pond of blue cheese dressing, a lukewarm "grilled" sandwich with unmelted cheese, and a measure of attitude from the server (the meatloaf was up to par). This week at Bluebird, the huevos rancheros and buckwheat pancakes tasted like they always have -- just fine, in other words. The wait was a brief pain, as usual, the staff was characteristically tired but tolerant, and the weak coffee was still no way to wake up. Exactly what I expected: what a comfort.

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