Refined Midtown Hotel Restaurant’s Ambiance Better Than Its Fare
Over the years and under various managements the stately but warm dining room at George’s on Mount Vernon Square has gone through several identity shifts. Some of which have proved more attractive than others for the street-level restaurant in the Peabody Court Hotel: Friends of mine have, of late, established a happy hour in the comfy lounge inside the front door. Inside George’s remains crisply cool even on the muggiest days. The wood-floored dining room looks well cared for and as good as ever, with a new burgundy and gold-trim paint job and sharp black tablecloths. But a dining room looks best with people in it, and it was all but deserted when I visited on a late-summer Friday night.
Waiting at the bar for dinner mates to arrive, I watched a restaurant staffer enjoying what looked like a delicious thick-crust, gooey-cheesed personal pizza. Sadly, there were no pizzas on the dinner menu—neither are there burgers, sandwiches, small plates, or much of anything else resembling the kind of food we eat now. There is, though, a small listing of—shudder—low-carb entrées.
Considering George’s yearning-for-grace ambiance, you could learn to love its conservative little dinner menu—surf and turf, crab-stuffed chicken breast, pork tenderloins, and orange-glazed salmon; George’s might have succeeded as the neighborhood steak-and-martini bar that Mount Vernon lacks. The earliest part of the meal held promise. A basket of warm sun-dried tomato focaccia pleased. So did a cup of roasted Vidalia onion and potato soup ($3), which delivered season-mingling flavors of rich cream, earthy spuds, and summery sweet onions.
But the execution of the remainder of the meal was slippery, sometimes slipshod, and never again really satisfying. Other starters came across as perfunctory. Take the cup of standard-issue Maryland crab soup ($4) that lacked the rich, blended flavors of homemade soup. The Peabody Caesar salad that substituted crumbled blue cheese in place of fresh Parmesan was at least refreshing—its romaine base cool and crisp—but the croutons and cheese were out-of-bag and indistinct. A house salad ($4) of mixed greens, tomatoes, and croutons suffered mainly from its food-service sheen, tasting like it was assembled from bagged lettuce ordered in.
Such is the culinary hurdle facing George’s and its chefs: It’s just rotten tricky for a kitchen to stock and work with season-fresh greens, just-caught seafood, and top-quality meats when it can’t depend on a steady supply of diners. Consider the very dry piece of baked fish featured in the Squire’s Salmon ($17). The menu describes a glazing with warm orange relish, but what looked like jarred orange preserves were simply spooned on the fillet’s side. The Duke and Duchess Surf and Turf ($24) featured a small and tasty but salty crab cake, which reasonably made no all-lump claims, and a squat piece of meat, billed as a five-ounce filet mignon but half the regulation height. It was topped with a salty, brown demi-glace the menu neglected to mention.
I’m more likely to complain about salt-shyness and underseasoning, but a heavy hand undermined our other entrées: The Briosco ($20), which combined overcooked penne with sliced beef (cooked to order, thanks), snow peas, carrots, crispy noodles, and a teriyaki seasoning put off even two self-proclaimed “salt freaks” at the table. The Delacroix ($18), a crabmeat-stuffed chicken breast, arrived absent its imperial sauce but with plenty of seriously salty crabmeat. These last two entrées otherwise presented well, suggesting that at one time the folks at George’s were excited about or at least interested in them. (Entrée names, by the way, are inspired by the nearby Walters Art Museum.)
A definite sense of weariness has settled into George’s, or at least it had in the slouchy weeks leading up to Labor Day. I live in George’s neighborhood but wouldn’t dream of going back—for dinner, at least—until I see a new menu posted out front.