Manhattan Wonton Offers Blast From the Past

The menu at the new Manhattan Wonton Company, in the old Le Restaurant space on Melrose Place, reads like a blast from the past: eggrolls, won-ton soup, spareribs, old-fashioned chicken chow mein. And that's just what it's meant to be, a tribute to the Chinese food that owner Paul Heller grew up on in Brooklyn.

Except that this Brooklyn-Cantonese cooking is better than the original.

Crispy noodles are inch-wide, piping hot and not a bit greasy. All the better to dip into the special duck sauce or to crumble into the rich egg drop soup. Pan-toasted dumplings are lighter than the usual. Cold sesame noodles have a nice kick. Shrimp in lobster sauce is made with fat, squeaky-fresh shrimp. And somehow you end up ordering--and eating--more than you ever intended.

The setting is swell, a sweet little house with three cozy dining rooms and a courtyard garden. Add in a savvy wine list, exotic martinis--and espresso. And Manhattan Wonton Company just may turn out to charm even L.A.'s most jaded palates with its Chinese comfort food.

* Manhattan Wonton Company, 8475 Melrose Place, Los Angeles, (213) 655-6030. Open Tuesday through Sunday for lunch and dinner; late-night supper from 10 p.m. until 1 a.m.; dim sum on Sundays. All major credit cards. Valet parking. Appetizers $3.50-$7.95, entrees $9.95-$15.95.

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