Back in 1999, Lawrence Elliott opened the Read cafe on Bedford Avenue, which was among the first hipster hangouts to stake a claim in the neighborhood. There were a slew of odd books and highbrow magazines to flip through, a sweet backyard, and a priceless Mr. T Chia Pet, which was so coveted that some bastard finally stole it. Anyway, Read finally closed in 2008, replaced by the ultra fastidious coffeshop El Beit, and Elliott decamped to the Southside, opening The Rabbithole Bistro on Bedford and South Third Street. It's been a humble neighborhood spot for years, but recently Elliott took the place to a new level.

Rabbithole started out as more of a pedestrian cafe/bar/place to tap away on your laptop (at least, that was always our impression). But Elliott, an unassuming perfectionist who runs the place with his wife and bakes all the bread, biscuits, and pastries himself in the basement bakery, recently hired Chef John Lhost, who previously cooked at the exceptional Boerum Hill restaurant Saul. Lhost is also a perfectionist, and if you haven't thought of the Rabbithole as a dinner destination, you should. We tried some dishes at a recent press preview, and waddled away pretty impressed with Lhost's sophisticated cooking. Suddenly the Rabbithole is a serious little restaurant, and a very serene one at that.

"We have always been adamant about serving great food, the style and direction John brings is something entirely different," Elliott told us. "His dishes involve many cooking techniques and accompaniments per plate, all unifying in flavor and aesthetics." The dishes do not come off as complex, even though the execution is fairly involved. If it's offered as a special, you must try the seafood bisque with seafood lobster broth, mussels, scallops: not too spicy, not too rich, and very flavorful. Also recommendable: the Terrine made with Foie Gras, fig and pistachios, with apricot puree; and the Hand Cut Tagliatelle served with house made Ricotta, oven dried cherry tomato, white wine & butter.

We didn't try it, but the folks sitting next to us at the bar were also raving about Lhost's Duo of Beef. It's made with beer braised short ribs, wrapped with hanger marinated in chimichurri harissa, chorizo, and topped with a blue cheese ravioltini. Lhost serves it with butternut squash, duck fat roasted fingerling potatoes, garlic cauliflower and beef jus. Speaking of the bar, the cocktails are superb, and there's a good selection of beer on tap. In the back, you'll also find a quiet garden, which seems like an ideal place to settle in for a romantic dinner once spring rolls around.

Rabbithole Bistro, 352 Bedford Avenue, (718) 782-0910