Tastefully out of style

"ST" stands for "Sweet Temptations." Get it? That's right, another bad restaurant name for a charming, personal cafe. And like Going Gourmet, ST Cafe is a business that grew out of customer demand. Sweet Temptations is a bakery that became a bistro; the bakery counter still is just inside the door. You won't want to eat inside, though, cute as it is. The place to be is outside by the fountain and the sculptures. For a suburban shopping center, this is darn pleasant patio dining, though I'd hesitate to call it "eatertainment."

Then again, if ST Cafe's owners had paid for any consultants, they'd know that quiche had disappeared from the American menu by 1980. It's virtually extinct now. Could it no longer exist without its companion chablis that was killed off by encroaching chardonnay, or was its evolutionary niche simply overrun by pizza? Unless Stephen Jay Gould turns his attention from those Martian meteorites to his plate, we may never know. Anyway, at ST Cafe, quiche still is on the menu, and it's very popular.

Surprisingly, it's good, too, as were most of the dishes we tried for dinner--not just the dessert appendage we'd imagined. The specialty, slices of tender roast pork tenderloin, was bathed in a brown sauce infused with the sinus-clearing, evergreen scent of rosemary, and came with crusty cubes of potato. The perfectly cooked salmon fillet was coated with cracked pepper, which fortunately seasoned it sufficiently, since its lime-ginger sauce was too tame to taste. But the fish was served on a bed of crescent cucumbers that were nicely, barely warmed by the close association--a very pleasant hot-weather dish. Caesar salad was rich and heavy, as it ought to be, and angel-hair pasta, too much of it as always, had strips of smoky chicken mingled with it. There is a brief wine list.

At lunch there are sandwiches, and at brunch, omelets and more quiche. And whatever the meal, you'd better step inside to order the dessert; don't depend on your waitperson's rattled-off recitation. Pretty soon it all runs together and you think your only choice is whitechocolatestrawberrysaucecarrotcreamcheesechocolatepuddingmuffins. Actually, the white chocolate cheese cake is excellent, the carrot cake crumbled under the gross weight of its cream-cheese icing, and the star of the place is the Lake Highlands Rock Cake, which you may have ordered from other menus, since ST sells it around. Layers of chocolate cake and chocolate mousse are encased in a coating of meringue chunks that stick like barnacles to the outside icing. It's a bizarre concoction, the crazy dream of a pastry chef, and if I were Steven Jay Gould, I'd check out these rocks.

--Mary Brown Malouf

ST Cafe, 9090 Skillman at Audelia, 503-6007. Open Tuesday-Thursday, 8 a.m.-9 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 8 a.m.-10 p.m.; Sunday, 8 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

ST Cafe:
Pork Loin $12.95
Angel Hair with Smoked Chicken and Garlic Pesto $10.50
Peppered Salmon $11.95
Carrot Cake $3
Lake Highlands Rock Cake $3.75


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