Open for lunches ($1.95-$2.50), Mondays through Fridays from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; dinners, Sunday through Thursday from 5:30 p!m. until 10:30 p.m., Fridays and Saturdays till 11 p.m. Street parking. Accessible by wheelchair. American Express, Carte Blanche. Bank Americanrd, Amoco Torch Club, Master Charge. Reservations usually not necessary, but it's a small room and on weekends a call ahead wouldn't hurt. Carryout service, too.

In testing which restarunts around town will abide children as well as feed a family satisfactorily, there is always a question of just what the kids themselves will abide. Will they try new things, or are they still hung up on burger-fry kiddie-fodder?

Our own explorations with two relative minors have proven surprisingly instructive; more often than not, there's something each child will recognize well enough to order. So it was when we tackled the Indian cuisine of a neighborhood restaurant called the Malabar on Wisconsin Aveneue NW.

If your kids are too young or still timid, you may want to hold off on this one. But our 10-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter now seem to care less what a dish is called than what goes into it - which is pretty well described on the Malabar menu.

In the quiet candlelight of the small dining room lined with pleasing batiks and paisley wallpaper, we managed in our amateurish way to settle on a reasonable variety of offeringreasonable variety of offerings from the list of five appetizers and 10 main dishes.

The appetizers deserve special notice. My wife chose a shami kebab, at 95 cents, which turns out to be a set of tasty, well-spiced miniburgers on tooth-picks. Our son lucked out with tikka kabab, at 95 cents, which is tiny chunks of lamb mixed with spices and barbecued to a pleasant tang. Our daughter's interest was in puri, one of the excellent breads on the menu, at 35 cents. It's a puffy, deep-fried bread that looks like a basketball a rough night in the NBA playoff (but it played well).

For entrees, the children both zeroed in on seekh kebab. at $4.95, which can be made with either broiled lamb or beef squares. They opted for lamb and wound up with generous portions, surrounded by more rice, tomatoes and onions that they could handle. Indeed, two kids could probably split a single order.

But before the children dove into this, all four of us got curious about the ever-so-hot lemon pickle sauce, which goes with rice. Beware - it's a real eye-brow-soaker. In fact, it took generous siphonings of Golden Eagle Indian beer and cokes even to begin extinguishing intestinal fires.

Once tongues had smoldered enough to proceed, my wife could report that roghan josh - lamb curry cooked with yogurt, at $4.95 - was jut fine. So was my selection, chicken korma, a curry with ground poppy seeds and mysterious spices, at $4.95.

What was particularly enjoyable about the Malabar was its willingness to instruct four relative dolts on the subject of Indian cooking. We didn't catch all of what our waiter was saying, but he was a good coach, especially during the Great Lemon Pickle Sauce Blaze.

Our total bill, with coffees and other beverages, was $29.47 plus tip. For a low-key sampling of something different, the establishment is worth knowing about.