Friday, April 27, 2012

Evening Star

2000 Mount Vernon Ave.
Alexandria, VA  22301
703.549.5051
www.eveningstarcafe.net
Evening Star Cafe on Urbanspoon

I had a craving for fried chicken and an urge to take my lunch hour and keep reading my book.  I'm on the last book of the Hunger Games trilogy and it's pretty addictive.  It's not Harry Potter addictive but it's pretty damn close.  Evening Star is part of the Neighborhood Restaurant group which also includes Tallulla and Rustico.  I believe that Evening Star is their flagship or their first or I may be completely wrong about that.  Regardless, when I was looking for restaurants near me, they were close, had some great reviews, and had fried chicken on their lunch menu which is ONLY on Fridays.


One of the great things I've discovered about DC and the Northern Virginia area is that there are all these wonderful little neighborhoods spread out all inside the beltway.  From Little Korea in Annandale to cobblestones of Old Town, you can find some great, unique personality in each of these little nooks.  You can find the Evening Star in Del Ray which is slightly northeast of Old Town.  It still has the neatly trimmed and tree-lined avenues that are the norm in this part of Virginia but there is a slightly more hipper and eclectic feel here.  You notice that right away when you walk into the restaurant with jazz music playing through the sound system and the retro-rustic-modern decorations.

I sat down in one of the booths and my waitress reminded me of Lindsay Lohan (when she was hot and before all the crazy happened!) and since I knew what I was craving she didn't really have to hand me the menu but I took it anyway just to look at the rest.  Well...the rest happened to NOT include the fried chicken lunch on this particular menu which was not the menu I found on their website.  My disappointment lasted about three seconds and I decided to dive right into their Southern & Soul offerings since that's what they're known for.  But, first, I made sure to order their Cask Ale since I was so fond of the one at Rustico.  It's described as a Tartan Ale with Malt plus Fruit & Toffee.  I'll describe it as filling, hearty, with a bit of sweetness and the right bitter aftertaste you'd expect from a cask ale.

I started off the meal with the Gumbo.  When it was set down, you could almost get lost in the rich aroma of all those cajun & creole spices.  But, when you looked at it, it looked like a little bit of a brownish, muddy mess with a little bit of oil drizzled on top.  You could see the little slices of okra and just beneath the top there were bits of braised beef and chunks of shrimp.  The flavors were spicy, earthy and rich.  I liked the bit of crunch that the okra gave off.  The one drawback though was it seemed a little cooler than it should have been.  I wanted it to be served at a higher temperature to add to savoriness of the dish.

For my main, I continued along the South with an order of Shrimp and Grits which also included okra, some stewed cherry tomatoes, and shrimp sauce (not quite sure what that was).  The grits and the tomato sauce together were a revelation.  I loved the sweetness of the grits combined with the right amount of acidity/tartness from the stewed tomatoes.  The texture of the combination was a bit too uniform but that was solved by a bite into the well-cooked, grilled shrimp which blended well with the grits and tomatoes.  This time, however, the okra got a bit lost with it's subtlety in all the strong flavors around it.  My only wish was for more just one more piece of shrimp.  Three didn't seem to be enough to be able to keep up with the amount of grits & tomatoes.

For my dessert, I got my customary coffee and ordered the Black Bottom Banana Cream Pie and immediately thought I had made a mistake since I had just ordered something or at least sounded very similar at BlackSalt.  When it arrived, I was surprised to see a very different dessert from what I expected (if I read the menu more carefully, it would've told me the exact same thing but who actually finishes a description on a menu....don't answer that).  The dessert itself is really chocolate pudding with some banana cream on top of it then a layer of whipped cream with some dark chocolate malt balls put on top of that and finally a vanilla wafer stuck into the whipped cream.  All this is presented in an open preserve jar.  I loved the idea of dipping the vanilla wafer into the whipped cream to give me some crunch to start off the dessert and while the whipped cream, banana cream and pudding were all very good (I mean, c'mon). The dessert was really completed with the dark chocolate malt balls which gave you texture, crunch, malt-i-ness, and chocolate-y goodness all in one bite.

Evening Star provided the right mix of food, funkiness and style that fit perfectly with it's neighborhood.  I'm determined to explore more of Del Ray now and hopefully everything I encounter there will offer the same quality and good times as Evening Star.
 

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