In an era when upscale restaurants are scaling down, the Northstar Cafe's gone Hollywood. As in Third and Hollywood, the brand-new, ambitious Northstar-related restaurant that borrows its name from its Grandview intersection.

In an era when upscale restaurants are scaling down, the Northstar Cafe's gone Hollywood. As in Third and Hollywood, the brand-new, ambitious Northstar-related restaurant that borrows its name from its Grandview intersection.

I've been a fan of the Northstar family since its inception. With fresh ingredients (many locally sourced), smart modern style and a homemade attitude, the Northstars pump out vibrant and healthy-edged 21st-century dishes with remarkable consistency.

They ain't exactly cheap, but the prices reflect a commitment to high quality, reliability and a take-a-number, no-tipping policy.

So my expectations were not low when I stepped into Third and Hollywood. But the lights inside were, and their hushed, nightclubby wattage harmonized perfectly with John Coltrane's sultry sax refreshingly played on a turntable.

As my eyes adjusted, I noticed the place was more like a handsome lounge than a fancy restaurant. Instead of white tablecloths, its roomy, padded red leather booths are equipped with thick, bare wooden tables.

There's a longish bar lined with slender conical lamps, and the open kitchen gleams with stainless steel and hanging copper pots. There's plenty of brick and decorative stonework, and connecting the beamed ceiling to the floor is a stout, lodge-like hearth left over from previous incarnations.

When our waitress (friendly, full of good suggestions yet unobtrusive) came for drink orders, I zeroed in on the Rogue Ginger Mojito, enticingly made with the esteemed and rare-around-these-parts Rogue rum.

As the waitress scurried off, I was startled when my tablemate drowned out Coltrane with a gasping: "$17 Cobb salad? A $16 hamburger? Are you kidding me?" When my eyes darted over to those surprising menu prices, I realized I was going to need that drink.

And you know what, that mojito was maybe the best I've ever had in Columbus. Tight, balanced, highly refreshing and with a brilliant ginger kicker, it was worth every penny of its $10.

My suddenly less-outraged partner concurred with her $10 Real Margarita (Hornitos, Cointreau, freshly squeezed lime, lemon and orange juices). But would the rest of Hollywood's fare slide down as easily?

The Guacamole and Pimento Cheese starter ($9) did. Though untraditional and not mashed into an actual dip, the super-fresh and super-chunky made-to-order guac was terrific. It was bright with lime and alternately dotted with bites of cilantro, corn, jalapeno, onion and bell peppers.

Even better was the accompanying pimento cheese dip. It might sound mundane, but it was great. The shiny, rough-textured stuff was smoky, rich, salty and sharp, and studded with red peppers. Whipped up with gouda, parmesan and cheddar, it's officially become my new favorite cocktail buddy.

I enjoyed the cold-plated Little Caesar salad ($4) because it didn't feature a gloppy, white and creamy dressing but rather - as should be - was tossed with a vinaigrette enriched with eggs (Ohio organic ones) and anchovy. On the downside, the Romaine lettuce was shredded like it'd been knifed and there was no garlic to speak of.

I was highly impressed with the menu's claim that Hollywood's hamburger was ground in-house daily. With meat like that, even if ordered rare, you have next to no chance of E-coli contamination.

Unfortunately there wasn't much beef flavor in the messy Hollywood Burger ($16), and it was completely overwhelmed by Maytag blue cheese. The burger and a plateful of perfectly fine, thin, crispy fries were not worth the high price tag.

But a hook-wriggling-fresh piece of trout was (Today's Fish Special, $18). Its delicate, sweet meat was wisely treated gently to only capers, butter, salt and pepper plus an expert, cross-hatched grilling, which imparted a mild smokiness.

On the side was a lovely little green bean salad with al dente haricots verts cleverly playing off sweet corn and salty kalamatas sitting atop just-cooked-through potato wedges.

The rich Lemon Square ($8) suffered from Cameron Mitchell Dessert Syndrome - priced for two and sized for four. On its thick but excellent nutty and buttery graham-crackery crust was a beautifully smooth and custard-like tart lemon filling, a tower of whipped cream and perfect little strands of lemon zest.

Like most stuff I tried here, it was delicious, if almost - but not quite - too rich for my blood.