Among the experiences that turned me into the pork-chop munching cynic I am today was waiting tables, at the tender age of 15, at my local hippie-Christian restaurant and coffeehouse. In spite of, or perhaps due to, the presence of Jesus Christ, vegetarian, in the kitchen, the usual copious ass-grabbing and oil-saturated cuisine transpired. From the ex-con chefs and frustrated philosophy doctorates working as busboys, I learned how to lie and cheat and passive-aggressively express my contempt for customers via the foam in their espresso drinks. There was nothing particularly healthful about the food; it was all packaging--throw some sprouts on top, garnish it with brown bread, and make sure it doesn't taste too good, and the pious sandal-wearers are happy. The owner, a petite, mustachioed MOG (Man of God), encouraged me and my best friend to sit and rest on his lap, and the head chef, a married man of 36, often took my friend, age 16, for instructional rides in his Corvette. The prep cook, who weighed at least three times as much as I did, liked to corner me in the walk-in or the pantry and compose loving tributes to the bounty of my booty. I accepted his gift of song and verse graciously, as I was advised by the frizzy-haired head waitress that he had an anger-management problem.

Which makes my reaction to Mt. Baker's Rose Club all the more surprising. Good did transpire from my prep cook's unwarranted advances--I realized that despite fashion, I enjoyed having a little bump in my trunk. Which is my back-assward way of noting that the Rose Club's dinner menu seems to be constructed from desire rather than guilt. A sunny, bench-tabled nook next to one of Seattle's many hidden lush neighborhood parks, the Rose Club has been serving magnificent, simple breakfasts, hearty homemade pastries ($1.50-$2.25), and coffee, until recently foraging into the world of moderately priced dinners.

The Rose Club's dinner menu is informed by neighboring Rainier Valley's Asian and African culinary wisdom, and draws from a range of cuisines to construct a delightful but controlled arrangement of my favorite foods, minus the fried chicken. While the vegan miso soup offered the evening I visited did not whet my palate (what's the fun in miso without fishy dashi?), the rice-paper-wrapped, vegetable-filled summer rolls ($5.95) were refreshing after a sweaty bike ride. The purple potato salad ($5.95) with a slightly spicy yogurt dressing was adventurous, but its execution, accompanied by our server's overabundance of information, strayed on the side of precious. The dish itself was encumbered by long, long beans and curling sweet-pea greens that kept creeping out of my mouth and snaking around like thin green mustaches.

Mustaches aside, the rest of our dinner gloried in thoughtful deliciousness. The risotto with summer squash, fava beans, and roasted beets ($9.95) shone in its buttery sauce of watercress and beet puree. While risotto is one of those vegetarian givens, this was no gluey hair shirt. The Rose Club's menu is refreshingly plant-based, a decision that seems to have flowered out of a joyous appreciation of plants, rather than a denial of meaty pleasure. I know this because the zahtar-rubbed lamb legs ($13.95) with Middle Eastern-inspired tabbouleh and yogurt sauce sparkled. Fear not, faint of meat-eating heart, the lamb did not actually arrive at the table hanging from a giant leg bone--thin, succulent slices bespoke slow-cooking and knowledgeable preparation. These portions, along with the creative and complimentary side dishes, spoke of a reflective and deliberate approach to cooking and eating that I welcome.

And I couldn't disagree with the choice of "perfect fruit" and chocolate truffles for dessert. Hooray for the rosy revolution happening on the corner of McClellan and 35th.

The Rose Club

3601 S McClellan St, 725-3654

Dinner Wed-Sat 5:30-9:30 pm, breakfast 7 am-3 pm daily. $$.

Price Scale (per entrée)

$ = $10 and under; $$ = $10-$20; $$$ = $20 and up.

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