Le Boeuf à la Mode is a journey back in time to old-style New York dining. It is a quiet neighborhood French white-tablecloth bistro located at 539 East 81st St., between York and East End Ave. The seating is unusually spacious for Manhattan, and the service is warm and helpful with no pretentiousness. They serve both red and white wines in round, fat, somewhat heavy goblets instead of modern thin stems. They adorn the tables with bouquets of yellow roses. Huge 10-foot paintings on the walls depict country and Paris scenes; one is of Le Boeuf, who also appears as a sculpture over the bar. At a recent dinner for four, we tried several appetizers. Mussels Mariniere ($9) were superb, served with minced parsley, garlic, and tomatoes in a wine sauce. The bits of green and red in a yellow broth made a most pretty picture. The classic Onion Soup ($9.50) was less successful, with perhaps too much wine in the broth, disintegrating onions, and a tasteless crust of gruyere. Beet Salad with Celery Remoulade ($8.50) was very fresh and good. The Leek and Potato potage was tasty, properly pureed and thick. Entrees were similarly admired. Calfs Liver Sauteed with Onions ($23.50) was delicious. Grilled Salmon with Dijon Sauce ($23.50) was good. Lamb Chops Provencale ($36.50) were perfectly grilled. The Roast Duck with Seasonal Fruit Sauce and Wild Rice ($25.50) showed that retro-style duck preparation still works, in today’s age of rare grilled duck breasts and duck legs confit. It was dense and a touch chewy, with intensely good flavor and crispy skin. Dessert service was too slow for our schedule so we did not stay for that. An utterly congenial experience with a relaxed and mellow tone, this place is the perfect antidote when you’ve had an overdose of buzz and hype - whether in a restaurant or just generally. It typifies the classic meaning of the word “restaurant” – a place to be restored.