With the return to Standard Time on Saturday night – not a moment too soon, in my opinion – it’s pleasant and fitting to consider the lovely word vespertine, an adjective meaning “of the evening.” The root is Latin vesper, which means “evening star” (it’s related to Greek Hesperus, the personification of that star, the nighttime incarnation of Venus), and came into English in the late 14th century from French vespre (“evening” or “nightfall”). Vespers, the evening prayer service in some Catholic and Protestant denominations, originated in the early centuries of the Common Era, making it one of the oldest of Christian traditions.
Vespertine is rarely seen in normal conversation – it doesn’t show up among the 60,000 most frequently used English words – but it recently received a jolt of attention thanks to a new and much-talked-about Los Angeles restaurant called Vespertine, possibly because it serves only the evening meal. (Or maybe the chef is a fan of Björk. See below.) I say “possibly” because despite the flurry of reviews by prominent food writers, a lot about Vespertine remains a mystery, including why a 22-seat restaurant takes up all four floors of a weirdly undulating building in Culver City.
The Vespertine building, designed by Eric Owen Moss, is made of red steel meant to evoke Mars. Photo via Genius Kitchen.