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FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Hign Noon at the Sonora Cafe

March 14, 1986|RUTH REICHL

It's hard to miss the Sonora Cafe, 445 S. Figueroa St., (213) 624-1800); you can read the sign from at least a block away. Getting to it, however, is another matter. It's in one of those downtown buildings that seems to be surrounded by one-way streets going the wrong way. (The parking in the building is no picnic either, and they don't validate at lunch.)

Once you do get there, however, you will find a pretty place, filled with bleached white wood, big ceramic pots and cacti on the tables. The hip young waiters try earnestly to explain the menu, a sort of imagined version of what Southwest cuisine might be like if that part of the country were suddenly plunked down in California.

You'll find unusual dishes like crab and wild mushroom enchiladas with chipotle cream sauce (wonderful), leek and goat cheese quesadilla (less wonderful) and goat wrapped up in blue corn tortillas. You'll find duck tamales and chili fettuccine with scallops. You'll also find that the prices are on the high side: at lunchtime the appetizers are in the $4 to $7 range and entrees run $8 to $14.

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