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FIRST IMPRESSIONS

Flooded With Good Will and Low Prices

December 12, 1986|RUTH REICHL

There is wheat in the window and plywood on the floor. A little mirrored dressing table sits by the door. The walls are flecked with dots of paint, billows of curtains hide the ceiling, and the lights look like broken bottlenecks hanging from copper wire. The tiny new Monsoon (361 N. La Cienega Blvd., Los Angeles, (213) 659-5707) has a startling sort of uptown-punk look, as if the room had been put together by moonlighting art students.

The food sort of tastes that way too. The cuisine is called "Indo-European," and the dishes have names like "sacred cow" (thin steaks that have been marinated and barbecued) and "rainbow piquant" (marinated trout wrapped in collard-green leaves and baked). There is something healthy, wholesome and entirely unprofessional about Monsoon--when I asked for mineral water the waitress ran to the grocery store to buy me a bottle. It's all so friendly that you can't help wishing them well. And at these prices you can afford to--most dishes are in the $5 range, and the wines start at $8.

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