When the latest neighborhood bistro fails to deliver, come downtown, and home to Higgins. This white-tablecloth classic gives an air of confidence without a whiff of pretense, as the kitchen of chef/owner Greg Higgins—doyen of fine and fresh Northwest cooking—should. Despite the august vibe, there's an all-comers casualness to the crowd; you'll find elderly operagoers, chatting families and solemn solo diners here, mingling shyly. Yet everyone's here for the same things—Copper River salmon, forest-gathered mushrooms, Pacific oysters, and a worldly wine and beer list that rivals any on the West Coast. A perfectly prepared hanger steak provides gentle re-entry for any reformed vegetarian, while those keeping the faith will always find a meat-free entree that doesn't feel like an afterthought—fragrant timbales with chick peas and Mediterranean spices, a creamy risotto with vegetables gleaming like jewels. Trendy tapas bars be damned—Higgins' bookish excellence will always lure you back. (ED)