When it comes to any discussion of favorite mainland restaurants, several in Vero’s old downtown always seem top of mind.
But one that doesn’t get the mention it deserves is the Blue Star Brasserie, the current outpost of restaurateur and chef Kitty Wagner. Perhaps it’s the location, a bit farther north than the other restaurants clustered along 14th Avenue. Perhaps it’s the name changes.
But the two constants are Kitty, who first came here in the ’90s to be sous chef at Windsor, and her Blue Star brand. Kitty is indisputably one of Vero’s top chefs, and dinners at the Blue Star Brasserie – the latest of her five dining-and-drinking ventures – are invariably delicious.
On a recent visit, I reluctantly opted to pass up the Prince Edward Island mussels, remembering from a previous visit that there were so many it took a while to get the mopping-up bread to the wonderful broth. Instead, I decided to split a Belgian endive salad ($12) with our companion.
My husband also reluctantly passed up the evening’s appetizer special, pan-seared fois gras garnished with a blueberry compote, and decided to start with the escargot saute ($14).
The endive salad – with radicchio, arugula, roasted beets, a chèvre crouton, local honey and a lemon pecan dressing – was as good as it looked, and more than large enough to share. My husband was very enthusiastic about the escargot saute – not your classic presentation, but a deconstructed dish with the snails surrounded by bacon, shallots and slices of apple, and a square of puff pastry on the side.
For entrées on this most recent outing, I went for one of the evening’s specials, the pan-seared diver dry sea scallops ($34), my husband decided to try a new dish on the menu, the venison osso buco ($24), and our companion went for an old favorite, the low country shrimp and grits ($24).
Four perfectly seared scallops surrounded a bed of orzo, with shitake mushrooms, spinach and heirloom tomatoes folded in. The dish was finished with a light pesto and a little chevre goat cheese. Delicious.
Our companion’s shrimp and cheddar grits also were excellent, prepared with bacon, sautéed onions and bell peppers, lemon juice and sriracha.
But the most interesting dish of the evening was the osso buco, where venison took the place of the customary veal shanks. The long, gentle braise had left the venison very tender, and it had a slightly fuller, more robust taste than osso buco made with veal. I also made sure my husband scooped out every bit of the buttery bone marrow. Yummy.
On previous visits, we have enjoyed the sautéed liver and onions ($22), the chargrilled Faroe Island salmon ($26), and the classic Blue Star chicken pot pie ($16).
For dessert on this most recent outing, we shared the Blue Star’s bourbon chocolate pecan pie ($7), a great way to end a meal.
On this visit, we got to enjoy the piano stylings of Don Bestor, a top-tier jazz pianist whose selections provided a most pleasant accompaniment to the meal. Bestor is featured once a week at the Blue Star, with other musicians appearing nightly. We also would be remiss in not mentioning our server Alan, who is one of the best we have experienced in 2016.
Dinner for two with a modest bottle of wine, if you have an appetizer and dessert, will can run approximately $110-$120 before tip – but considerably less if you dine light on the interesting selection of small plates.
One final note: After our visit, we were alerted that the Blue Star will be closed for its summer vacation from July 3 to July 18. So if after reading this review you are inclined to immediately head there, either do it before the July Fourth weekend, or after Kitty has had a well-deserved break, and is back in the kitchen preparing inspired cuisine.
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The reviewer dines anonymously at restaurants at the expense of Vero Beach 32963.