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:
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.
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.
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.
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.