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FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Falling in Love With a Seductive Crepe

September 05, 1986|RUTH REICHL

Even if they only served one dish at Manjula's, 819 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 659-2036, I would probably go back. So long as that one dish was dosai, the seductive crepe of southern India.

This is very large, lacy, and quite crisp at the edges. It has a slightly tangy taste, accentuated by the slight sweetness and decided heat of the thick coconut chutney that you spread across the crepe. Sambar, the searing vegetable stew, adds yet another note to this medley of flavors. Eaten together in crunchy little mouthfuls, this dish is a textural delight. It is easy to understand why dosai are the favorite snack of southern India.

There are other things, of course, to eat in this modest, cheerful little restaurant. Fish served in tamarind sauce, chicken peppered with spices and sprinkled with whole peppers, lamb cooked with coconut. If this all sounds a bit different than the Indian food to which you are accustomed, it is because the emphasis is on the particularly fragrant dishes of the south, where much of the food is vegetarian and almost all of the food is hot. But there are cool notes here too, like the delicious lime-flavored rice, liberally laced with cilantro. For a particularly pleasant way to end a meal, try the ginger-laced masala tea.

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