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Evening Star Cafe and Majestic Lounge, Del Ray - Chef Jonathan Till on Mount Vernon Avenue


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Just got back from a fantastic early birthday dinner at Evening Star Cafe. "BLT" mac and cheese, braised pork belly, pumpkin ravioli w/braised kale & bacon and sweet cream sauce, mussels in Roquefort & Chardonnay sauce, grilled pork chop w/sweet potato & andouille hash, apple crisp w/rum raisin ice cream. Yes, three of those dishes were shared - I didn't eat all of it myself. NQD and I were joined by my mother and my aunt. So add roasted beet, grilled watermelon and poached pear salads, stuffed chicken breast, and salmon over butternut squash polenta (full details here).

I'd love to go into long descriptions of everything, but I'm just way too full and my brain is shutting down. That seems to be how I always leave this place.

Thank you, Will, for another great meal.

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As Mr. MV and I were driving along Mt. Vernon Ave. in Del Ray, on our way to Taqueria Poblano, I was sort of lamenting to myself that I wish we'd have decided upon Evening Star Cafe for dinner. The warm lighting and cozy scene looked inviting on a frigid evening.

Therefore, it was without hesitation that we turned our car right around and headed back to the latter restaurant after we realized that TP was closed (on Tuesdays) that evening.

We arrived around 6:30-6:45 and were able to be seated immediately in a booth. As we ate, the dining room filled up.

I enjoyed a salad of warm poached pear with blue cheese, candied walnuts and a bacon vinaigrette over frisee, while Mr. MV war

med up with a homey Chicken Florentine soup.

For my main, I deviated from what has always been one of my favorite dishes here, a grilled tenderloin with Bordelaise sauce, accompanied by mashed potatoes and spinach. I eschewed the hearty dish for a spicy entree of red snapper over potato and butternut squash gratin, served with plump, juicy mussels in a Thai coconut curry broth. The spices were perfect for warming me up from the inside.

Mr. MV had duck 2 ways-seared med/med-rare Magret duck breast (red wine sauce, I think) and a sort of cassoulet of duck confit and cranberry beans.

Other than my fish being a bit overcooked, the food was great, and I'd order it again to enjoy the delightful combination of textures and flavors.

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Dear Lemon-Buttermilk Pancakes --

You had me at fluffy-buttery-triple-stacked-topped-with-whipped-cream-goodness. I was very happy to see you served all day today to ring in a wonderful 2011. You completed my dinner.

Could you be on the menu every day? And oh, your friend, the Almond Crusted Baked Brie wasn't such a bad wingman either.

F[l]attenly yours,

goodeats.

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Dug this up: https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/The-restaurant-sage/200728696674198

"

I'm a chef consultant , I open restaurants, I Fix restaurants, I do custom menus, When it comes down to it.....I fix problems!

I do it all!!! I come in....do what you need...and walk away to smiles!!!!

"

Looks like Will Artley is on a consulting gig now, starting with Pork Barrell. Love this guy, and I am not too pleased with the sounds of the new menu items at Evening Star. I will miss the BLT Gnocchi. They would also make me a RIDICULOUS grilled cheese sandwich if I ordered it through the bartenders, bacon and tomato oh my.

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The bar menu in the back room is quite condensed now. No more jambalya or gumbo. We ordered the onion rings to tide us over while we decided, which were quite spicy and not greasy. I would order those again. There was a fried chicken sandwich in the menu and if it had the same kick it definitely has potential.

The revamped room is nice enough and I like the old fridges for the tap system, but I liked the feel of the old room a la watching a game in my buddy's basement. The upstairs is still under construction. After much conisderation nothing on the bar menu bowled us over, so we ended up going across the street to the new La Strada spinoff. Sorry I can't remember the name but there were numbers in it. Decent paninis and salads. There wasn't an empty seat at 7:45 on Friday night. Definitely a different vibe for that strip and I think they will fill a nice little niche in Del Ray.

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Stopped in for their first Saturday Brunch opening last weekend. I was with a small crowd of 7 people. We all oohed and ah'd over the new brunch menu while snacking on moist pumpkin bread and great coffee. I am loving that we get the whole pitcher of coffee or water to stay at the table now. We ordered the smoked salmon eggs benedict, the green tomatillo chow chow eggs benedict, the quiche of the day (sundried tomato, caramelized onion, manchego cheese) the breakfast sandwich, the fried chicken and waffle, and the duck hash. Everything was tasty and the fact that so many poached eggs came out perfectly runny at the same time was very impressive. The smoked salmon benny came slathered with a dill pesto that was awesome. The duck hash (with fried duck egg and duck confit) was very ducky and delicious but could've used more potatoes. There was a server mistake and we were gifted with a free order of buttermilk chicken and waffles that we all promptly divvied up and devoured. The old/pre-renovation version of this dish had a sweet tea reduction syrup, but the kitchen decided to go spicy and serve it with a hot sauce butter with syrup to pass at the table. It's pretty hot and spicy if you like that flavor! The waffle was also crispy and fluffy. Good job kitchen! After we paid and moseyed over to the wine shop next door (there's a hallway that connects the two establishments now) the hostess came running up to us to ask us if everything was alright. The server had gotten her math wrong and thought we hadn't left a tip! After some confusion, we all pulled out our tickets and phone calculators to show that we had left more than 20 percent on top of the full bill, so that was resolved, but awkward. We'll be back though - the food is great and aside from that little server hiccup, friendly and helpful. I am looking forward to trying out dinner and lunch - brunch is back on Mt. Vernon Ave. hooray!

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Dinner last night at Evening Star (ES) on the way back to the city from the airport. It was the first time in several years I'd been there.. Had been following the story though--through the closure, loss of the former and much-loved chef, gain of the talented new chef (Jim Jeffords) and reopening late last year. Really nice time. We don't make it to Del Ray enough and end up in Old Town much more often. Cheesetique alone is a reason to go there regularly. And, how 'bout that chocolate shop with single-origin chocolates across the street from ES? But I'm off topic so...

HEADLINE

Evening Star is the kind of comfortable, warm, interesting and delicious neighborhood restaurant that most neighborhoods sadly lack. Southern themed without being cliched. Somewhat sophisticated but not at all haughty. Simply really tasty food served and cooked by wonderful people. And, with a huge selection of affordably-priced wines.

VENUE

ES is an especially good example of alignment in design. The menu, the staff and the physical restaurant are all of similar attributes: friendly, comfortable, interesting and fun. In venue terms, that means bright colors, comfortable booths for 2 or 4 and an overall design clearly done with customers in mind. I purposely haven't yet read TS' writeup but we thought the noise level was near perfect. High enough to convey warmth, popularity and some bustle but low enough to talk easily. Noticed on entering that the attached bar in back is called "Majestic Lounge." Bit of a naming trend there with the Majestic Cafe in Old Town and new Majestic (Bistro?) about to open in Bethesda? The next door neighbor (Planet Wine) is an unusual but nice touch in terms of the relationship with the restaurant. Ah, and they are offering a supposedly excellent brunch on both weekend days.

STAFF

Aside from all the good things I'd heard about ES and the convenience of stopping there on the way home from DCA, another big reason it had been on our list was Sean Alves. Sean, of course, formerly of Palena where we got to know him, is now the GM at ES. He has an amazing background with stints ranging from 11 Madison Park and Donatella Arpaia to Le Cordon Bleu and both Palena and Komi more locally. But, more than all that, he's just an extremely capable, professional and genuinely nice guy. The match of Sean to ES seems near ideal and the rest of the staff seem to prove the adage of like attracting like. We didn't meet Chef Jeffords but had very nice introductions to his food (below). Formerly of CityZen, no surprise there. We also met Steve, the Dining Room Manager, and had a nice conversation with him about coffee (more on that below). Also a knowledgeable, professional but humble and delightfully friendly guy. Our server, Cassie, did a super job with us and was so accommodating given my +1's gluten free needs. Really appreciated that. I sometimes write that I care much more about the food than the service at a place. While that remains true, wow, our dinner last night at ES really reminded how the people of a place are such a huge part of what can be a great experience.

FOOD

With just one very minor exception (*), everything we had was in keeping with how I think the restaurant positions itself. Delicious, comfortable, interesting at times, and occasionally serendipitous:

- Grilled Rappahonnock Oysters w/ freshly shucked oysters, garlic butter, sherry-pepper hollandaise, bread crumbs ($11). The hollandaise was almost too much or too thick but, because it stopped short of that, it was a very nice complement to four rich, fresh and nicely plated local oysters.

- Slow Braised Lamb w/ lima, white & cranberry beans, yukon gold potatoes, winter kale ($19). Along with the other main that follows, this was a standout dish. Many dishes around our town and other towns are promoted on-menu as simmered, braised or otherwise cooked 'all day' or for X number of hours (i.e., "7 hour bolognese sauce" with link purposefully not included here). But, most don't taste that way. This one actually tasted of slow braising! Tender, well seasoned with just a touch of salt and herbs; generously portioned. I liked the use of the three different beans; both visually appealing and hearty for winter. The potatoes played a minor supporting role (perfect!) and they did a nice job with the kale--a notoriously difficult vegetable to make delicious--by just complementing the dish with a few small 'chips' adding color and good flavor.

- Seared Red Drum w/ sautéed brussels sprouts, chili roasted butternut spiced squash sauce, homemade pork rinds ($19). I may be remembering the type of fish wrongly here. It might have been black drum but those two are similar in provenance and taste. This was also an excellent dish. My +1 loved it and finished it entirely; luckily I got a bite or two! The fish itself couldn't have been better cooked with tender warm flesh and browned crispy skin. The sprouts didn't have some of the complements often seen (e.g., ham, bacon, lardons, balsamic) and that didn't matter at all as they were perfectly charred and seasoned. The crispy pork rinds were both a creative element and nice flavor complement.

- (*) Side of Collards w/ boiled peanuts and bacon ($5). This was the only dish that wasn't quite as successful as the others but still okay. Too much vinegar and not sure the peanuts add much to this.

BEVERAGE

Love the seemingly unique relationship that ES has with the wine shop next door. Others much more knowledgeable than I am about wine pricing and distribution may have different views but, to us, the wine list seemed expansive and very reasonably priced with many (most?) bottles priced in the 30s. A line on the menu proclaimed the wine pricing at 10% above retail. We enjoyed two glasses of a nice malbec and Spanish verdejo at $7 apiece.

After dinner, I ordered a cup of coffee which ES does as a pourover with a Chemex. That in itself was interesting as I'm not so accustomed to restaurants offering pourovers. I was even more surprised and pleased at the coffee they were using. This would be a serendipity example. MadCap is a newer roaster to our area that, according to Steve, is being used by Neighborhood Restaurant Group across its outposts or, at least at Buzz in addition to ES. I'd first tried a Salvadoran Mad Cap at Dolcezza in DC and really liked it. One of the better ones I've had in recent months. This one, a Guatemalan, wasn't quite as robust as the Salvadoran I'd had but still very smooth and perfect after a meal.

VALUE

Between the wine and quality of most everything on offer, I'd have to call ES an excellent value. We spent $70 pre tax and tip. Without wine, it would have been less than $60. Very fairly priced in keeping with what a neighborhood restaurant should be but usually isn't.

BOTTOM LINE

This original, nearly decade-old but revitalized outpost of the NRG is a winner. Most neighborhoods around the city have restaurants. But few of those have the attributes of great neighborhood restaurants like Evening Star in Del Ray.

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Love the seemingly unique relationship that ES has with the wine shop next door.

Planet Wine is a part of NRG so it's more incestuous than unique :). (and I'm not sure why, but after reading this review, I want to smoke a cigarette and take a shower ;)).

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Planet Wine is a part of NRG so it's more incestuous than unique :).

Thought that might be the case and just didn't ask the question (or check online for that matter) when there. Maybe both incestuous and unique then since not sure how common is it for restaurants to own wine shops and put them next to each other. Good stuff--thanks for the response :D

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Brunch this morning at Evening Star prompted entirely by Sean's recc from our delightful dinner visit just over a week ago (upthread).

Aside from it being most obviously a different meal, this experience was different in another way in that it was more disappointing. But, it also really underscored two principles I've always found to be pretty sound.

The restaurant was absolutely slammed with 20-45 minute waits. Ours was about 15 minutes; a bit less than predicted. Many tables were clearly waiting long times for food. Based only on our own experience, food execution and service were both a bit off. Poached eggs and scrambled eggs both arrived clearly undercooked. Coffee cups weren't refilled regularly even after a server visit might mean an empty cup was seen. Etc. All in all, it was actually fine. But not at all to the level of what we experienced for dinner a week or so ago. So what's the point?

Principle #1: A very obvious truism especially on this website. Can't judge a place on only one visit and that's why pros like TS, DR and whomever always make a couple (if not more) visits before publishing anything. I'm no pro (and never will be) but if I'd only ever been to Evening Star once this morning, I'm not sure I'd have gone back. But, understanding that Sean was out, they were likely short other staff and their normal level of execution is much higher, it's in the right context. Of course, any spot can have an off day and this was probably that.

Principle #2: In business, there's a lot of interesting research (much of it from the 90s) about customer loyalty. How it's different from customer satisfaction. How to drive it higher. How it connects to profit. How to measure it. Etc, etc. And, one of the less obvious insights of much of the research* is that customer loyalty is often more enhanced by fixing a problem with a customer than by always pleasing or even delighting them without fail. Most anyone can cite personal experiences anecdotally consistent with this. As example, the hotel that upgrades someone to a gorgeous luxury suite after mistakingly assigning that guest to an unmade and smoky room will have more positive impact on that customer's loyalty than if the original regular room had been without problem.

This is as true for restaurants as it is for Fortune 500 companies. Fixing credible and reasonable problems is good business.

This morning at Evening Star, it seemed pretty clear that management knew they weren't firing on all cylinders and, most important, they were doing something about it. Without Sean in-house, Kevin from NRG was overseeing things. He and other staff were busting their butts to help in the kitchen and in the dining room. We saw some free apps given to a nearby larger table who'd been waiting a long time. Anticipating a problem, I gently asked our waitress if a salad could be brought before the main meal if possible. Kevin delivered the salad in short order.

We didn't have the best experience this morning at Evening Star. And, I'm pretty sure we didn't have the experience that Evening Star would have wanted given their own standards. But, we walked out feeling even better about them than we did beforehand. Oh, and really enjoyed the caesar salad and that great MadCap brew.

* If interested in this kind of research, there's ton you can find online with a simple search but here's just one relatively clear example from Forrester.

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+1 and I went to Evening Star Cafe last night for dinner and it was shockingly our first time in Del Ray. Cute area for sure.

The night started off a little bumpy when we were seated but then no one came by our table for 10 minutes (no menus, no water). When someone finally came by she said she wasn't our waitress, but brought menus and water. Then another person eventually took our order, but she wasn't our waitress either. I'm not actually sure who our waitress was supposed to be because we had at least 4 people "wait" on us, in addition to 2 food runners, and the guy from the host stand bringing out our entrees after a 30+ minute wait after our appetizers. Needless to say we weren't very impressed with the service.

Luckily the food ended up being pretty good. They were out of the Pimento Cheese Stuffed Peppadew peppers that we wanted to order for appetizers, so we ended up with Butternut Squash Soup ($7 pepitas, chipotle cream) and Crisp Iceburg ($9 cherry tomatoes, chevril, bacon, hazelnuts, blue cheese dressing). The soup was so thick I joked that it seemed more like butternut squash butter/spread than soup, but I liked the flavor. The pepitas added a nice crunch and texture, and the spice from the chipotle cream was a good contrast to the natural sweetness of the squash. It wasn't the best butternut squash soup I've had this season (which was incidentally from a Campbell's box), but it was good on a cold night. I didn't try my +1's salad, but he seemed to like it except for the hazelnuts. He didn't think the flavor and texture enhanced the salad and left a lot of them on the plate.

The other slight service snafu was in relation to the bread service. Although we saw bread brought out at other tables, we had to ask for ours when our appetizers came out. They brought it out right away, and it was quite good (sweet potato biscuit and corn muffin with honey butter), but I wish we didn't have to request it.

For entrees we had the Roasted Lobster ($26 marscapone, spinach and shitake stuffed crepe, bacon lobster jus) and the Pan Seared Halibut ($24 andouille stuffed calamari, fava beans, orzo, kombu broth). We liked both entrees a lot. My lobster dish was a tail and two whole claws sitting atop a crepe filled with spinach, mushrooms, and more lobster. The jus underneath soaked into everything quite nicely. There was something crunchy either in the crepe or in the crepe batter than we never figured out (nut of some sort?) but it was good nonetheless. The bite I had of the halibut was very flavorful and well cooked. The calamari was kind of small, and I didn't have a bite, but apparently it tasted only of the sausage and not the squid. The +1 cleaned the bowl though. Both entrees get thumbs up from us.

To finish we squeezed in a Red Velvet Cheesecake ($6 cream cheese ice cream, candied pecans, chocolate sauce, whipped cream). Very rich, but delicious. Certainly big enough for two to split, and both of us thought a good price for a large restaurant dessert. The cream cheese ice cream was the perfect accompaniment.

Bottom line for us was good food, bad service, cute neighborhood. We probably won't rush back since it's not near where we live and we're not typically in Del Ray, but would recommend it to others in the area and would go again if invited.

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+1 and I went to Evening Star Cafe last night for dinner and it was shockingly our first time in Del Ray. Cute area for sure.

The night started off a little bumpy when we were seated but then no one came by our table for 10 minutes (no menus, no water). When someone finally came by she said she wasn't our waitress, but brought menus and water. Then another person eventually took our order, but she wasn't our waitress either. I'm not actually sure who our waitress was supposed to be because we had at least 4 people "wait" on us, in addition to 2 food runners, and the guy from the host stand bringing out our entrees after a 30+ minute wait after our appetizers. Needless to say we weren't very impressed with the service.

Luckily the food ended up being pretty good. They were out of the Pimento Cheese Stuffed Peppadew peppers that we wanted to order for appetizers, so we ended up with Butternut Squash Soup ($7 pepitas, chipotle cream) and Crisp Iceburg ($9 cherry tomatoes, chevril, bacon, hazelnuts, blue cheese dressing). The soup was so thick I joked that it seemed more like butternut squash butter/spread than soup, but I liked the flavor. The pepitas added a nice crunch and texture, and the spice from the chipotle cream was a good contrast to the natural sweetness of the squash. It wasn't the best butternut squash soup I've had this season (which was incidentally from a Campbell's box), but it was good on a cold night. I didn't try my +1's salad, but he seemed to like it except for the hazelnuts. He didn't think the flavor and texture enhanced the salad and left a lot of them on the plate.

The other slight service snafu was in relation to the bread service. Although we saw bread brought out at other tables, we had to ask for ours when our appetizers came out. They brought it out right away, and it was quite good (sweet potato biscuit and corn muffin with honey butter), but I wish we didn't have to request it.

For entrees we had the Roasted Lobster ($26 marscapone, spinach and shitake stuffed crepe, bacon lobster jus) and the Pan Seared Halibut ($24 andouille stuffed calamari, fava beans, orzo, kombu broth). We liked both entrees a lot. My lobster dish was a tail and two whole claws sitting atop a crepe filled with spinach, mushrooms, and more lobster. The jus underneath soaked into everything quite nicely. There was something crunchy either in the crepe or in the crepe batter than we never figured out (nut of some sort?) but it was good nonetheless. The bite I had of the halibut was very flavorful and well cooked. The calamari was kind of small, and I didn't have a bite, but apparently it tasted only of the sausage and not the squid. The +1 cleaned the bowl though. Both entrees get thumbs up from us.

To finish we squeezed in a Red Velvet Cheesecake ($6 cream cheese ice cream, candied pecans, chocolate sauce, whipped cream). Very rich, but delicious. Certainly big enough for two to split, and both of us thought a good price for a large restaurant dessert. The cream cheese ice cream was the perfect accompaniment.

Bottom line for us was good food, bad service, cute neighborhood. We probably won't rush back since it's not near where we live and we're not typically in Del Ray, but would recommend it to others in the area and would go again if invited.

Thanks for this post, Jenny. Has anyone else been to Evening Star Cafe recently? I'm hearing conflicting reports on both food and service, and I'm not sure what to make of it.

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We ate at the upstairs bar a few weeks back. The space is very nice, big but still cozy feeling at the same time. About 5 or 6 seats at the bar, some tables, some couches, a pool table and that game where you slide the silver disk thing across the sand. I would take a group back there. The bartender was nice and engaging.

The food...meh...it was just ok. We only ordered a few small things. The butternut squash soup was ok but needed a kick. The brie was fine but I wouldn't order it again. The fried chicken sandwich was good but the sweet potato biscuit part wasn't that great. Evening Star was a once a month at least destination for us in the past. We will certainly go again, but not rush to get there.

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Thanks for this post, Jenny. Has anyone else been to Evening Star Cafe recently? I'm hearing conflicting reports on both food and service, and I'm not sure what to make of it.

We went tonight. I'd heard some mixed reviews also. Think I'd also experienced a not-so-great meal a couple of months ago also after some better, very good nights and a brunch. Maybe four visits since they reopened.

Tonight had to be in the area in the late afternoon so we called and booked a small booth for when they opened. Probably can apply some discount to the comments below since we were the first ones seated and had the full focus of the staff and kitchen.

In a word: Excellent. In a few more: a very successful night.

I won't do the full venue/service/food/value thing I normally do here. Not necessary.

We started with a beet and arugula salad dressed with a caramel vinaigrette and the grilled chincoteague oysters I'd had before. Both very good.

Most of all, our two mains were excellent. She had the braised lamb which was perfectly tender, spiced and cooked. She loved it. I tried a bit to be sure I agreed. :P

I asked our uber-enthusiastic waitress about a new and interesting salmon with goat cheese dumpling dish. Evidently they mix the goat cheese with salmon to fill said dumplings. Can't comment on how good that is though. Didn't order it because the salmon wasn't wild.

I did get a rockfish dish which I think I liked more than anything I've ever had at Evening Star. It was a generous, fork-tender portion perfectly cooked to retain all of its moisture with the skin nicely crisped. The rockfish was centered in a large bowl with a broth made from a dashi kombu seaweed with some shitaki, a bit of arugula and orzo. The broth wasn't incredibly complicated but it did pair very nicely with the fish and orzo. The thing that put this over the edge from very good to excellent for me was the dark, medium-sized parsnippy thing off to a side of the bowl. Sure it was some kind of root vegetable, I took a bite and realized straightaway it was nothing of the sort. Stuffed into the mantle/body casing of a baby squid was spicy housemade andouille sausage. Really good. Overall, the dish was light, clean, fresh, perfectly executed and very tasty with the nice surprise of the squid/sausage. I paired the dish with a Pinot Grigio or Pinot Blanc they had by the glass, which worked well.

Steve, the GM, came by to say hello and we found out that Sean Alves (formerly of Palena prior to Evening Star) had moved on to open Suna in Eastern Market. We're big fans of Sean's and looking forward to giving Suna a try too. Know a bunch of DR members already have tables booked there so will be interested to read the early reviews.

We didn't get dessert.

On the way out, picked up a few bottles at NRG's Planet Wines next door. One, inspired by Gerry Dawes, was a Luis Varela Alvarez de Toledo 2010 Bierzo, Spain (around $14) though maybe not one Gerry would have suggested. I haven't had a godello in several years so picked it up when I saw it and looking forward to pairing it with the perfect dish, as soon as I figure out what that is. Note to self: check the Gerry Dawes Artisan Wines site before buying the seafood. ;)

Dinner tonight reminded me why I had such a positive reaction to Evening Star the first time I went. A wonderful neighborhood restaurant doing some interesting and delicious cooking at reasonable prices. Maybe they can be more consistent but tonight the execution was super all around.

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There was a thread for Evening Star, but I think the Majestic Lounge has enough of a different feel to warrant it's own.

This is my neighborhood bar/grill and I'm here often. It's a wonderful space, dimly lit, jars with candles hang over the bar, and trophies and other knick knacks line the walls (concert posters, etc).

The bartenders are local, and you'll see them at the other Del Ray hot spots on any given night. Evan, James, Sarah and the rest greet you and make you feel right at home. The beer selection is fantastic. They always have Racer, Bell's Two Hearted, and a few standbys, but always have new selections and a cask (currently Sneaky Pete's Imperial IPA). They've been on a Black IPA kick, with Wookie Jack and Bear Republic's foray into the genre.

We ordered the mac and cheese. I know family feuds worse than the Hatfields and McCoys that exist because of arguments over the recipe. They use a grafton cheddar and Anaheim chiles. It's objectively good, but my bias is that the roux is so heavy with flour that it over powers over the cheese, which is my favorite part. Also got the chicken wings. These have gotten really good. I like them less saucy, limited breading, and spicy. The sauce/spice blend that they use isn't spicy, but if you ask them to make it spicy, the kitchen guy whips up spicy goodness. They are crispy and the chicken is moist. It's a good wing.

The music isn't too loud, you can hear your date or friend talk, and people are very friendly in there. They also have board games, and I will be more than happy to beat you like a rented mule in Scrabble on any given night.

Check the place out, maybe before a meal at Cheesetique or Osteria.

S

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There was a thread for Evening Star, but I think the Majestic Lounge has enough of a different feel to warrant it's own.

[it definitely does, but the thread rules are actually very algorithmic and well-defined - since you can order Evening Star's entire menu in the Majestic Lounge (and since it's coming from the same kitchen), it doesn't meet the requirements for having its own thread. That having been said, if any "bar area" in the DC area deserved a separate thread, it would be Majestic Lounge because you're right: it does have a character all its own. What I am going to do is change the title to reflect the existence of this fun neighborhood bar.]

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After a considerable absence, Grover and I once again darkened the door of Evening Star. We decided to eschew the benefits of eating left overs at home and try the (not so recently) renovated Evening Star. We should have stayed at home and eaten those left overs. We had reservations for 7:15 pm (the only time Opentable said there were openings) but arrived around 7:00 to a mostly empty house and were assured that "we aren't too busy tonight". We were seated and presented with menus and an extensive explanation of the dishes being served. Nice but not really necessary as all of that information was on the two (plastic sleeved) menus, one being food and the other mixed drinks and wines. Grover, not being very hungry decided on two "Small Plates" (the menu description). One was the highly touted Fried Brie and the other the Arancini. I, being the adventurous soul, decided on the Grilled Oysters and for a main, Shrimp and Grits. First came the bread, two sweet potato muffins accompanied by two corn meal (?) muffins and s small jar of honey butter (okay, butter with honey layered on top). The sweet potato muffins were the best of the lot, definitely sweet but not dessert sweet, until the addition of the honey butter. The other muffin was dry, crumbly and might make a great substitute for a drying agent. And then, with much fanfare (okay, I made that part up), the small plates arrived. There were four oysters covered with what looked like industrial grade spacklling on the plate . No hint of oyster flavor, no evidence that they were ever plucked from any body of water. The taste was ... 'interesting'. I tried to determine what it might be but couldn't find words. One thing I did note however, the aftertaste (whatever it is/was) managed to remain through half a glass of wine (a Chardonnay that was totally unremarkable), dealing a death blow to gastronomy or gluttony, I asked Grover if she'd like to finish the dish (the aftertaste was still there). I'm going to assume that the Fried Brie was better because Grover ate most of it (she offered me some but at that stage, I was a bit hesitant to add even more flavors on the one I was trying to get rid of). Once the evidence of the first course was cleared, the "Shrimp and Grits" came. Five previously frozen shrimp in a circle atop what I assumed was grits with approximately 8 pieces of okra. I knew it was okra because it was green, round and internally segmented. it added additional color to what was essentially an Italian flag of colors, the red crushed tomatoes, the white 'grits' and the green okra. The shrimp looked somewhat out of place. The shrimp were edible, the grits the consistency of library paste (or perhaps kin to the spackling that covered the oysters). The dish was acidic enough to remove the wax from the floors and the tomatoes just added more acidity. Now, lest you think this is some personal vendetta against NRG, let me assure you that Saturday night, Grover and I ate (no, dined is more like it) at Rustico and every dish was tasty, well presented, and finished. I can't say the same about whatever we ate tonight at Evening Star. More food was returned uneaten to the kitchen than was sampled. For this dubious pleasure, the tab was $80 for three appetizers (excuse me, small plates) and one entree and two glasses of wine. Sorry, but for that amount of money, Del Ray Cafe or Los Tios would have been a much better choice (along with those aforementioned left overs).

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[This thread is a classic example of this community most definitely *not* having any groupthink.

I cannot accurately rate Evening Star based on others' opinions - some places I can, but not here.

Though I can certainly read that the restaurant has trended downward after Will Artley left the kitchen.

Love the fact that we're all individuals with open minds. Sometimes we converge, other times we don't.]

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On Friday night we headed to Evening Star to try it out. We had a great time and the food was fantastic.

We started off with appetizers. My mom and my sister-in-law got the beet salad. I didn't try it, but everyone who did liked it a lot. We got an order of the crab fritters, which disappeared in no time, and an order of the grilled oysters. Then a second order of the grilled oysters, because they were fantastic. They were the best I've had outside of New Orleans, and I'd put them right up there with a lot of the ones I had there. (Still, at $9 for four of them, they're not as cheap as NOLA. Sigh.)

My brother, dad, and I each ordered the fried chicken because it sounded so good. I was surprised to hear that it was boneless thighs, and not bone-in, but it was still quite good (and it made it easier to eat). The potatoes and gravy with it were also quite good. I did like the collard greens with boiled peanuts, though as mentioned up thread I don't know how much the peanuts added to it. I also wished I'd asked for hot sauce with the greens.

My mom had the duck, which I tasted and thought was really good. She raved about the rice with it. My s-i-l got the shrimp and grits and loved hers, too.

The service was very friendly. Most of the time our drinks came out pretty quickly, though I personally could've used the waitress swinging by a bit more.

With five entrees, two salads, three orders of appetizers, and a few drinks each, for the five us it came out to about $65 a person after tip. That wasn't bad for all that we had, and I thought it was quite good. My brother and I were already discussing visiting the bar in the back some other time...

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Some sad news to report, though much of the Del Ray community is well aware. James Morrison died of stomach cancer this summer. He was a good bartender, a great friend of the community, and an amazing person. The staff there is a family and was shattered to know he was sick, and even more devastated when his illness took him away. He was younger than me. He and Evan always took good care of me. I just hadn't made it there for a while.

I only heard this week from one of his co workers. When you go there next, share your condolences with his "family". 

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15 hours ago, DonRocks said:

Congratulations to new Chef de Cuisine Dan Hahndorf, who stepped up from the Sous Chef position (and also to GM Neel Lassetter, who recently moved back to the area from Charlottesville).

Well, if Neal came back,  we might have to start going to Evening Star again.  When he and Will left, so did we. 

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I was at Evening Star Cafe for dinner Saturday night and it was really a roller coaster of food.  We got a nice bottle of wine, and had an exceptionally nice server.  We split starters of fried cauliflower and pork belly and brussels sprouts.  Both these dishes were excellent.  I liked the American-Chinese style fried cauliflower, but I really love me some fried cauliflower.  They were large appetizers, we probably filled up a little too much on appetizers, but very good.  I got the strip steak with grits and onion rings for my entree (only because we had vegetable heavy apps) and I found while the steak was cooked perfectly, it was covered in a glop of butter, and the dish was just not well balanced or composed.  I mostly just ate the steak and an onion ring off the dish.  They also didn't really have any low carb options without modifying a dish, luckily they were nice about modifying for Mom and friend.  Mom's steak looked better, but that was a huge portion and she ended up taking a ton home.  It could have been a smaller portion, smaller price.  I forget what my friend had.  Anyway, I would have been a lot happier with the cauliflower made into an interesting entree.  I loved this place for brunch, but the dinner menu just wasn't nearly as appealing.

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Went to Evening Star on Saturday night with the in-laws and had a much nicer meal than the last time we were there.  Again had the cauliflower- I already stated I am a real sucker for fried cauliflower.  I had the duck two ways, the duck breast was cooked perfectly at medium rare and the "risotto" was very good and earthy, balanced.  Hubby and MIL had pork chops which they liked.  FIL had a pimento burger and gumbo.  He really loved the gumbo, he said it wasn't the best ever, but it was really good.  He also liked the pimento burger a lot.  We got there very early as my in-laws hadn't eaten lunch, and service was very nice

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I went to Evening Star for the first time last weekend for a late, post-movie dinner. It was the best meal I have had in 2019. 

We didn't order any main dishes, instead opting for a number of smaller plates, and all were terrific. Two must-have dishes are the chickpea fries and the Hollander and de Koning mussels. The large, tender, and delicious Dutch-style mussels from Maine were served in a fennel and wine sauce with perfectly grilled bread. The "fries,"  baked in a pan and sliced, had the light, fluffy texture of a souffle. I will likely order them every time I go to Evening Star, if they are on the menu.

The Ricotta and Fig Agnolotti, with kabucha squash and buttermilk foam, was a winner as well. The pasta was cooked to perfection, and the subtly sweet sauce was sublime.

We chatted briefly with the new executive chef, Jonathan Till, a third-generation chef with a passion for finding fresh, seasonal ingredients.

IMG_0068.jpg  Hollander and de Koning mussels

IMG_0067.jpg Chickpea fries

IMG_0065.jpg Ricotta and fig agnolotti

 

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For my final restaurant meal of 2019, I had an exceedingly disappointing dinner at Evening Star Cafe, doubly so because I've had such good food at the hands of Jonathan Till in the past - I suspect the date, Dec 30, had something to do with things, as the next two days were holidays. As the old saying goes, "The food was really bad, and there wasn't enough of it!"

Here's the menu offered on that evening:

Menu.jpgWineList.jpg

Before dinner, we stopped into Planet Wine next door and put a bottle of 2017 Kermit Lynch-blended "Tiercerolles" Crozes-Hermitage ($36) on hold - everyone should know that all wines purchased at Planet Wine can be enjoyed at Evening Star Cafe for a negligible $10 corkage fee. If you're planning on getting a red-wine course, I can't recommend this silky Crozes-Hermitage enough.

Wine.jpg

Dinner started decently with a Charred Little Gem Salad ($10) with Green Goddess, Pecorino Romano, and Garlic Bread Crumbs. These large, charred greens were somewhat overdressed, but the toppings were pleasantly mild, so their overabundance didn't sink the ship, so to speak.

Salad.jpg

The entrees are where the meal fell apart. We had ordered a special of Market Fish (monkfish) atop clam chowder with mussels and crab. A long time after ordering, our (pleasant) server came up and asked us if we'd mind Red Snapper instead of monkfish - no, that would be fine, we said, and it's a good thing we did, because the entrees arrived not 30-seconds after that interaction. Everything about this dish was quite good - except for the red snapper, which tasted frozen and a bit long in the tooth - but when you mashed up the fish in the sauce, these problems were concealed adequately. The Fennel Pollen Duck ($26), however, had no place to hide. Billed as being served with crispy Brussels sprouts, celeriac, Del Ray persimmons, and pomegranate demi, there were two measly tranches of duck, and they were just plain awful - the picture makes them look better than they were, as they were old enough where they were beginning to turn gray. It isn't often I detest duck, but this was one of the worst duck dishes I've ever eaten - not *the* worst, but easily in the top 10 (I didn't, couldn't, finish the second piece, and this could have gone so well with the wine). This was essentially a dish of Brussels sprouts and a piece of persimmon.

Snapper.jpgDuck.jpg

Having had lovely cooking under Jonathan Till in the past, I'm assuming he wasn't working on this evening, and that the food supply was running low for New Year's - a one-off for Evening Star Cafe, which has consistently been a very good restaurant in years past.

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Generally I call ahead, ask if Jonathan is in the kitchen and is so, then go.  After being seated, I ask for 4 courses with paired wines.  I don't look at the menu, I simply ask that the courses Jonathan would feed his mother if she were to be dining be served.  Hasn't failed yet.

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Had never been to ES before but went for dinner during the summer. Had a very very mediocre meal and service was so slow that waiter kept apologizing. The little  gem salad was supposed to be charred and wasn’t and was swimming in dressing. The duck was cold and tough. 

The waiter acknowledged the kitchen was slammed but we were tired of waiting and unwilling to wait longer for a redo.

I contacted the restaurant by email that evening and with apologies they quickly sent a gift card. Honestly I don’t think I will return but maybe use it at another sister restaurant .

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2 hours ago, Eric Reid said:

I would definitely recommend you take advantage of the gift card and return. Chef Jonathan is putting out some of the best food in the area, IMO. 

Eric, I suspect you can look at my pictures and know that I might have had an off-meal (anyone can see that the duck is turning). Do you think it's possible (reasonable to assume?) that Evening Star had an off-night when I went? I'm certain that Jonathan can produce superior cuisine - I've experienced it, without even knowing who he was at the time - but is it also possible that he doesn't have adequate backup? 

This isn't a "challenge"; it's an honest question to someone with superior knowledge to my own.

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I've spent many a night in a kitchen, particularly this one. I would say that it was an off night based on my experiences. Not sure what happened, but somewhere along the lines, a dish was able to slip through the cracks. I know he recently lost his sous whom had been with him for years. He was one of those "lifers" who follows the chef to any restaurant he goes to. 

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