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MelGold

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

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I agree- the main restaurant dishes are not very good. I think the bar menu is better, especially for the price you pay there. I don't know what is. Brunch is solid, and everyone I've taken there has enjoyed (duck hash is a favorite).

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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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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).

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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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13 hours ago, hopsing said:

Did you make your displeasure known?  If so, what was the reaction?

There was no displeasure; only observation.

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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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Posted (edited)

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 .

Edited by naxos
Sp

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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. 

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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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