Supper, of course, is not quite what it used to be, which tended to be - within memory of your average baby boomer - home-cooked (for better or worse), severely limited in imagination (meat-and-potatoes wasn't just an expression), and eaten around a sturdy table.

No use to bore you with the usual suspects that took it out - the Swanson TV dinner, longer workdays, golden arches, home-replacement meals. You know the list.

Still there remains a vestigial hunger for the archetypal "supper," even if you never regularly had it; maybe

especially

if you never regularly had it. And more than a few restaurateurs have endeavored to offer echoes of those meals, real or imagined.

Judy Wicks' White Dog Cafe does it with old, mismatched tables. Stephen Starr's Jones does it with blatant comfort food, "Thanksgiving dinner" served daily. Westin hotel's City Grange (see review above) evokes it with vocabulary: " 'Comfort in a bowl' chicken soup."

Across from Whole Foods Market on South Street, they're doing it, well, with the name of the place itself, Supper. "It goes back to the anti-pretension thing," says chef-owner Mitch Prensky, an emigre (in the mid-'90s) from New York's Mesa Grill who, with wife Jennifer, has run the Global Dish caterers here for 10 years: "It's just a great American name; like saying 'puppies'."

Supper is an appealingly great American space - floating hatbox chandeliers, comfy bolsters splashed with color, an inviting bar (though without the capability during my visits to make a decent Manhattan), big-paned windows on the street, rustic rafters, a wide-open kitchen, and, yes, sturdy tables.

The flavors, too, are artfully, and often deliciously, rendered; the dishes nicely presented. But there's a bait-and-switch quality to that name. Any resemblance to supper, real or imagined, is purely coincidental: With hors d'oeuvres of deboned Moroccan chicken wings, wine-poached mission figs stuffed with mascarpone, and finger sandwiches of smoked duck and quince-paste membrillo, "Global Dish" would be a better fit.

The

most

un-suppery part of Supper, though, is a deliberately obscure menu that invites you to choose three dishes from an undifferentiated list of 17 plates "slightly larger than an appetizer and smaller than a main course." With a huge plate, Prensky says, your taste buds shut down and you're just shoveling it in.

Well, all right. But that's why they invented

primi

and

secondi

. And it's why tapas bars are popping up faster than you can say Buca di Beppo. My serving of Berkshire Pork Belly was three forkfuls of the fatty stuff over a couple tablespoons of lentil cassoulet for $23. Another night I had a moist, perfectly cooked red drum fish the size of a pack of playing cards in a potato-leek-clam broth for $19.

It doesn't spell it out on the menu, but the protein portions tend to average 31/2 ounces, close to half a typical serving size. There's a concept! Half portions at full prices.

You can assemble a fine meal by ordering a pretty mache salad, a bowl of pumpkiny gnocchi in brown butter, and small, very slowly roasted (and fork-tender) Giannone chicken breast with onion sauce, prunes and marjoram.

But it requires some head-scratching, and at a check total that quickly reaches $50 (and approaches $100 with dessert, tax and tip if you order even wine by the glass) it might be a bit dearer than you'd been led to expect.

Prensky concedes this may not be everyone's idea of anti-pretension, so he added a full-size braised lamb shank at the end of the menu: "If this other stuff is too cheffy for you, just get the lamb shank [$34] and a salad."

Did I hear someone say "supper"?

Supper

926 South St.

215-592-8180

» READ MORE: www.supperphilly.com

Contact columnist Rick Nichols at 215-854-2715 or rnichols@phillynews.com. Read his recent work at http://go.philly.com/ricknichols

.