Looking up Klee on Menu Pages, I found a headline that best describes my own reaction to this place: "Please keep it a secret." I hoarded Klee for as long as possible, but with a long winter ahead of us and a dearth of places that have a warm, cozy atmosphere and fabulous, comforting food, it's high time to share the secret.

The influence is Austrian, a cuisine that Kurt Gutenbrunner could once claim for himself in New York, but happily, it's a cuisine that is branching out even further than Gutenbrunner's mini empire. Daniel Angerer, a young Austrian chef who has worked everywhere from Robuchon in Paris to Jean Georges, Bouley Bakery, and most recently at Fresh in New York, runs the kitchen at Klee (pronouced CLAY, like the artist), while his charming, knowledgeable fiancee Lori Mason mans the front of the house. And a pleasant house it is: underwater maple wood trims the exposed brick walls, Klimt-like curlicues adorn the back wall, and the ambient lighting makes everyone in the eclectic crowd look good. Elegant but casual, lively but not too loud, the room hums with background music of Bowie or the Velvet Underground, bands that many of the diners are old enough to have heard the first time around. And I mean that in a good way.

The menu is divided into several different levels of courses, as is the fashion these days. The first, called "snacks," features a variety of amuse bouches that would have been free at a place like Bouley. Though I find this trend of paying for food unfortunate, the divine lobster rolls are worth the extra couple of bucks. Two tiny, crisp, light-as-air pieces of white toast are fileted and slathered in a lobster salad that tastes more rive gauche than East Coast. The secret ingredient seems to be excellent-quality butter, which appears in plentiful supply in a lot of Klee's dishes.

The char-tartare appetizer arrives as a martini glass filled to the brim with buttery (again) Arctic char cut into small chunks, almost like a fish pate served with bread crisps. It is so good that we order it again the next time we visit Klee. Candied, crunchy, maple-roasted hazelnuts make the blue cheese and radicchio salad a stand out as well. But by far the most innovative dish at Klee - and one of the better dishes I tasted in 2006 - was the Kurobuta pork tonnato. Thin slices of tender, silky, pink pork are folded on a plate and brushed with Albacore tuna sauce (a puree of preserved tuna?), then topped with capers and dill. It looks and almost tastes like gravalax.

Despite the abundance of meat and fish, vegetarians won't feel left out. Just as much thought goes into the preparation and presentation of a Mason jar of vegetables, filled with carrots, scallions, cranberry beans, brussel sprouts, and mushrooms as the other main courses. My friend the pescatarian was relieved to find a place where at last the vegetarian entree isn't "another vegetable plate."

Pastas rotate daily, and if you want to try what must be one of the most decadent pasta dishes in New York, go on a Friday and get the macaroni and cheese with lobster. How the chef manages to create something so rich yet so light I'll never know, except I think it might have something to do with the aforementioned secret ingredient, butter, and lots of it.

The black hog pork chop is perfectly good. Firm and juicy, prepared medium-rare unless otherwise specified, and served on a delicious slaw of roasted red cabbage, apples, and Calvados - a grown-up applesauce of sorts.

The wine list is quite nice, thought Klee has a lot of niche wines you may not know, so you may need to ask for advice as I did. The only disappointments were an uneven Mason jar of vegetables one day (it wasn't as good as the first time) and some bacaloa croquettes that tasted bland compared to the ones I'd just sampled at Boqueria. But these were minor flaws in an otherwise great performance.

So: by all means go to Klee. Just don't tell anyone.

200 Ninth Avenue, between 22nd and 23rd Streets