For the average college student, French cuisine is often impossible to afford. This is why, for Boston Restaurant Week (March 18 to 23, and March 25 to 30), when most of the city's upscale restaurants offer bargain prix-fixe menus, I easily decided on Mistral, a southeastern French establishment that promised high ceilings, charming decor and of course, excellent French food. I was not disappointed on any of these three accounts.

For the appetizer, I ordered white mushroom bisque, while some of my friends opted for the beef sirloin carpaccio. The bisque was surprisingly light despite its very creamy texture, with subtle hints of truffle.

Not a fan of consuming raw meat, I hesitated a little before sampling a friend's carpaccio. The beef, layered with parmesan, toasted brioche and herbs, had a pleasant and tangy taste, and I had to agree with my friend that it was quite refreshing.

Within our dining circle, we ordered nearly every one of the entr?(c)es offered: blackened sea bass with crabmeat, roast chicken with risotto, grilled salmon with cured bacon and braised pork with yam polenta.

I could not differentiate between the taste of bass and crabmeat, given the similar texture of the seafood, but served in a bittersweet lemon-thyme sauce, this entr?(c)e was extremely fresh-tasting, even if a little bland. A friend commented that the combination of salmon and bacon was unexpected but delicious.

The pork and yam tasted like fine comfort food, but the best entr?(c)e selection was the chicken with risotto. Not too dry or moist, the chicken was roasted to perfection alongside a bed of rich, creamy risotto with mushrooms and herbs.

Despite the deceptively light and refreshing taste of the appetizers and main courses, when it came to dessert, I was quite full. This was probably due to Mistral's proportions, which are surprisingly generous compared to French standards.

I could not finish my selection of the rich (but of course, light!) chocolate devil's food cake with vanilla ice cream, though it tasted heavenly and sent me into a prolonged state of bliss. I still sneaked a bite of a friend's vanilla panna cotta with candied nuts and salted caramel and struggled to decide which dessert I liked the most. I concluded that the panna cotta with mild hints of cinnamon was the more unique selection to end a richly flavored meal.

The food at Mistral is excellent, the ambience sophisticated and the d?(c)cor simply beautiful under the romantic dim light. However, the service falls a little short. Understandably, Mistral must be a busy establishment, especially during Restaurant Week, but with a reservation, a dining group should not be asked to wait an additional 20 minutes to be seated.

Nonetheless, if you want to try one of Boston's finest dining establishments and are willing to spend the extra money, this is the French restaurant that should be on your list.