Open 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; open until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday; closed Sunday. Parking difficult. Accessible to wheelchairs. No credit cards, but personal checks accepted. No reservations. Restaurant tends to be crowded after 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. .

Can a family brought up on meat and potatoes learn to love alfalfa sprouts? We took our children to the Golden Temple of Conscious Cookery for dinner one night to see if we could wean them from their meat, chicken and fish fixations. It's not that we wanted them, or us, to give up such foods, but we did feel that in this day of limited food supplies, we ought to be cutting down on the amount of meat we eat. What better way to try than eating out at a restaurant specializing in gourmet vegetarian cooking?

Managed by Sikhs, the Golden Temple does wonders with eggplant, avocado, rice, whole wheat and tahini (a sesame seed paste similar to peanut butter). Unfortunately, our son, 9, dislikes most vegetables and rarely lets any besides a carrot stick or lettuce slip into his diet. We felt we were courting disaster taking him along, but we were pleasantly surprised. The waiter, dressed in a white turban and loose white shirt, was very helpful and patient. He described the lemon-tahini salad dressing and encouraged us all to try it. Most dishes were described in detail on the menu, but our waiter was ready to offer additional advice.

Three of us ordered dinners - main course, soup or salad, muffin - and our son ordered the closest thing to a hamburger a la carte. Two of us opted for salad; my husband ordered the soup du jour, split pea with vegetables. The salads, crisp and refreshing and full of romaine lettuce, shredded carrots, cucumbers and alfalfa sprouts, were superb. The lemon-tahini dressing was worth the trip to Dupont Circle. The soup, inexplicably, was never served.

Golden Temple's menu warns that there may be delays in serving main courses since food is prepared to order.Our children took advantage of the lull by exploring the little store in front of the restaurant. They discovered the beautiful arches and windows near the ceiling. One was a modern stained-glass design, the other a curtain of moving water. The restaurant itself is quiet. The walls are whitewashed with touches of blond wood beams. The wooden tables and chairs and blond wood and plants hang between tables and along the walls.

When the main courses arrived, the biggest surprise was the Golden Burger, for $3.35 that our son ordered. The plate was filled with shredded carrots, alfalfa sprouts, lettuce, cucumber, taco chips and the burger, a melange of vegetables and grains topped with melted cheese and served on a slice of whole wheat bread. Everyone tried it and liked it, including our son. To hedge his bets, though, he had also ordered a salad, at $1.35, and a baked potato, 50 cents. He did not leave the restaurant hungry.

Our daughter, 11, had eggplant parmegian, for $5.95. The accompanying muffin never appeared, but the eggplant was well prepared and nicely seasoned. Unfortunately, it was such a big serving she could hardly finish half of it.

My husband ordered the Far East Curry, for $4.80, a peas and carrots curry with a yoghurt-like side dish, rice and chutney. It wasn't very hot curry, but it was quite good. Again, the portion was too big to finish.

I ordered enchilada with refried beans, for $5.95. Although it was beautifully served and well seasoned, I left half of it on my plate. We couldn't decide if the portions were so big or the salads too filling or if the hot weather had spoiled our appetities. In any case, we felt we should have shared two entrees between three of us because at least half the food we ordered was left on our plates.

Golden Temple does not serve alcohol or coffee. There are several hot teas and cold drinks. We ordered four cold drinks, but only three were served, and these came as we were finishing dinner. However, the Lassi, a yoghurt, honey and lime drink, was perfect with curry; the coconut mann, sweetened with honey, went over well wiht our son, and the lemon cooler was everything a lemonade ought to be but rarely is. The drinks were all 95 cents each.

The bill, which included our main courses, our son's extra salad and potato plus three beverages, came to $24.75. It took us less than an hour to have our dinner.

Golden Temple of Conscious Cookery, 1521 Connecticut Ave. 234-6134. Open 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday; open until 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday; closed Sunday. Parking difficult. Accessible to wheelchairs. No credit cards, but personal checks accepted. No reservations. Restaurant tends to be crowded after 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.