1521 Connecticut Ave. NW. 234-6134.

Hours: Sunday through Thursday, noon until 9:30 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, noon until 10 p.m.

Atmosphere: Serene, soft and relaxed.

Price Range: Lunch menu from $2.95 for salads. Dinner from $4.50 to $7.95. A la carte Sunday brunch or fixed selections from $4.95.

Credit cards: All major cards plus Save System for cash payment.

Reservations: No

Special Facilities: Near Metro stop. Parking is difficult during the week. Booster chairs. Entrance is accessible for wheelchairs, but the tables are quite close together.

Summer heat may bring out the vegetarian in all of us. You yearn for cold soups, salads and light entrees and begin to feel comfortable eating less meat.

A trip to a vegetarian restaurant logically is the next step: The Golden Temple Restaurant uses no meat, fish or eggs, and also makes an efford to use fresh, additive-free products.

But feeling like eating vegetables and eating like a vegetarian are light-years apart. We thought our son, who likes soups and salads, wea ready for the vegetarian experience. But for children who are accustomed to a certain combination of tastes, the transition may be difficult.

Early in the meal, when the cream of tomato soup didn't match our son's color and texture chart, he commented, "I'm just a half-vegetarian."

But the half-vegetarian enjoyed the shredded carrots, the alfalfa sprouts, the slivered mushrooms and the salad bar.

Before setting out with younger family members, it may be a good idea to brief them on what to expect. Or take the opposite tack and let the pure tastes enthrall them. After the fact, mention that it was a carrot muffin or an eggplant burger.

The cream of tomato soup was a fine performance from the kitchen. It had a light, fresh stock with yogurt and cheese. The seasoning was expertly applied and an example of the Golden Temple at its best, although my son would disagree.

My husband's East Indian curry ($7.95) was a blend of peas, mushrooms and onions with a spicy sauce and a mound of peach chutney with the consistency of apple sauce. White rice and yogurt also decorated the plate.

The yogurt was unable to ameliorate the curry seasoning. The curries are fine and esthetically presented, but should be available in a range from mildly to heavily seasoned.

My son's Golden Temple burger of carrots, eggplant and onions that are sauteed with seasonings and held together with grains was hidden under a mound of fresh spicy tomato sauce and mushroom pieces ($4.95).

It was a perfectly light, authentic vegi-burger. The plate was beautifully presented with shredded carrots, alfalfa sprouts with the lemon-tahini dressing, taco chips and the two sacues. Melted cheese is also available for an additional 55 cents.

My Warsaw mushroom casserole (7.95) is called the restaurant's most popular dish. It is ironic that it was the least attractive of all the entrees. Broccoli flowerets were smothered under a cheddar cheese sauce. The apple and walnut pieces completely lost their identity to the cheese. Of the entrees, this was the most disappointing in taste and presentation.

I enjoyed the salad bar with its wonderful combination of sprouts, greens, cherry tomatoes and an array of other vegetable and grain toppings. The salad dressings -- lemon-tahini and yogurt -- are what your vegetarian dreams are all about.

The salad bar or the potato bar, with its choice of almost limitless toppings, makes the Golden Temple a wonderful dining spot. It's when you get into some of the other combinations and stray from spinach lasagna or spinach quiche that you may lose the half-interested family members.

Deserts are available and fruit-inspired. There are fruit crumb cakes and fresh fruit cheesecakes. Carob brownies and cookies and ice cream concoctions are also listed. We passed on dessert.

Vegetarian entrees do not come cheap. If you're uncertain about the dept of your committment, you may consider the prices high for vegetables. Complete dinners with soup or salad start at $6.50 for the spinach quiche. The luncheon menu is more reasonable but unavailable after 5:30 p.m.

And we each ordered an entree. Unfortunately, the waitress did not ask if we are expecting anyone else: We easily could have shared our food with three more people. In fact, the only time the waitress really paid any attention to us was when she volunteered to wrap up the left-overs.

The restaurant has lost much of its early charm. The food arrives almost too quickly and the staff, aware that it has a popular product, seems more interested in each other than in the clients. Rigidity also has become a strong feature of the restaurant. To substitute the salad bar for the dinner salad, you must pay an additional 75 cents -- and lose your muffin.

And when the waitress reported that they were out of iced tea, I wanted to borrow a scene from "Five Easy Pieces" and order a cup of ice and a separate order of hot tea.My husband was able to control my Hollywood instincts and Perrier was chosen instead. Other drinks available are honey-pure colas and my favorite, the iced decaffinated coffee, Cafix.

Our bill for two adults and one child was $27.97 with tax. We would have benefited from some half-portions and there still would have been plenty of food.