SWISS BOOM BAH

It's clear they've spent a long time thinking about it.
Have they missed anything? Diners gaze at windmills etched in glass, cases and shelves filled with delft china and waitresses in cute little caps and flowing skirts. It's a wonder that the management of this small chain expanding into Scottsdale doesn't have them clopping around in wooden shoes.

Gorgeous Vermeer and Rembrandt reproductions line the walls everywhere, even in the rest rooms, riveting your attention. Starched lace hangs along the curtain tops. Flowered wallpaper covers almost every square inch of flat surface, including the wooden beams supporting the sloped wood ceiling. Everything is neat, cheerful and spotless.

I guess the restaurant's name and visual cues are supposed to persuade you that burgers, salads, omelets, pizza and fried chicken are staples of Dutch cooking, because these items make up about 95 percent of the menu. Keuken Dutch is mostly a Dutch-themed American diner. But there are a few starred house specialties that suggest something more ethnically challenging than the chicken-fried-steak dinner. And those, of course, were what we ordered. Huis pot soup comes without a bowl. It's served in a round, hollowed-out loaf of bread. This thick split-pea soup, dotted with sausage, has a rich, soothing and smoky taste. The top of the loaf, meanwhile, is sliced off and grilled in butter before it recaps the soup. Needless to say, the dish is as filling as it is good.

In fact, Keuken Dutch seems to have a way with soups. The evening's other offering, potato-cheese soup, was smooth and very creamy, with chunks of potatoes and a strong cheese kick.

The "Dutch Burger Steak," on the other hand, is about as Dutch as the Liberty Bell. It's just a glorified hamburger seasoned with tons of ground onion and green pepper.

Much more interesting were the dishes that came with it: tart, pickled red cabbage and three potato pancakes. These aren't the potato pancakes I grew up with--a fried mix of grated potatoes and onions--but regular breakfast-type pancakes, studded with spuds.

The other Dutch dinner features metworst, a mild, bratwurst-type sausage. Two of them came sliced lengthwise and crisply grilled, along with more pickled cabbage and a warm, vinegary, German-style potato salad.

Forget about the house cakes, pies and ice cream. You can get these waist busters at any diner in the land. Unfortunately, you can't ignore or tune out as easily the obnoxious, piped-in Top 40 tape, played significantly above subliminal levels. How could this shrine to Dutch kitsch forget itself and assault patrons with Vanessa Williams and Paula Abdul? The subsequent shift to Joni Mitchell and Crosby, Stills and Nash seemed just as out of place. The best solution to dessert requires a little ingenuity. Ignore the menu's dessert section and flip to the choices under "Oven Keuken." Here you'll find a list of mouth-watering oven-baked pancakes. They're buttery, eggy, chewy and flat, with upturned sides to dam in the fillings. We especially liked one with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a large portion of sweetened blueberries. And when the waitress heard my daughter complain about splitting the ice cream three ways, she brought over an extra dish of ice cream gratis. Keuken Dutch is a friendly, comfortable spot, an inexpensive choice for food if you're in the neighborhood, an undemanding mood and not planning the night's entertainment around it. Just don't expect a Dutch treat.

O'CONNOR'S COURAGE... v7-08-92

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