Convivial is the latest restaurant from Cedric Maupillier, the French chef behind the much-acclaimed Mintwood Place, a favorite of the Obamas. As its name implies, Convivial is focused on creating an environment of lively hospitality with delicious food and great cocktails.
On a break from my many travels, I cozied up with my beau on a Sunday night to preview the dinner, having been invited in by our friend Cedric, the chef. We’ve all gotten quite close given we all run our businesses out of Shaw.
We cozied up next to one another at a table for two in the modern, dimly lit restaurant. Typically, I’m loathe to appreciate modern spaces, preferring a traditional style of décor. However, Convivial is beautiful and clean—the space has floor-to-ceiling windows with lovely light fixtures hanging from the high ceilings. With sexy, soothing French tunes play over the speakers, the restaurant is great for date night.
To start, the waiter brought out the fresh-squeezed vegetable juices—a preview for when the restaurant opens for breakfast, lunch and dinner come January. The fresh-squeezed juices were more palatable than I typically find juices to be. We sampled the beet juice, with apple, grape, tarragon, mint, grapefruit, and lime.
“You like beet juice?” the boyfriend said, with his nose scrunched up. I do love beet salad, but typically eschew beet juice for something fruit-y or my favorite, kale and fruit combination. This beet juice was delightful—sweetened by the apple and grapefruit with some nice spice from the tarragon.
We also had the kale juice, which I preferred. The green juice was made with celery, apple, grape, parsley, mint, lemon and lime. I can see myself enjoying this for breakfast. After our healthy start, we turned to drinks and cocktails. Convivial’s wine list consists of French wines and American wine made from French grapes (Malbec, Pinot Noir, etc.) with no bottle more than $120. Each wine is high quality—a tough thing to do at that price point—and there are some odd ball, esoteric options on the menu for the adventurous oenophile. I ordered a glass of Chardonnay from Chablis, Burgundy—the only style of Chardonnay I like, as it is far less syrupy, oaky and sweet when compared to typical American Chardonnay.
The cocktail menu consists of 50 classic craft cocktails like a Sazerac, Manhattan, and the popular Pisco Punch, all served with hand-cut ice and chilled with dry ice.
The menu is broken into six sections, with hot and cold options for vegetables, fish, and meat. We sampled several small plates from the hot and cold menu—the latkes with celery root and dry cured lamb and the cured arctic char with apple and elderberry dye were perfectly executed: fresh, light and flavorful. The arctic char was unlike anything I’ve sampled—it was so light and flavorful.
Now, I love leeks. But, I’ve never had a dish where leeks were used as the sole base. But the leeks Dijonaise, with leeks, bread crumbs, egg crumbles, and capers, is utterly delicious. The healthy, vegetarian dish is great for sharing.
For our second courses, we opted for some hearty, French comfort food, given that it’s finally grown cold in November. For the beau, the Beef Pot au Feu, a beef stew made with various parts of the cow: cheek, tendon, tongue, and bone marrow. The toasted bread, warm and crispy, was slathered with bone marrow, and perfect for dipping into the meaty stew, filled with carrots, potatoes, and melt-in-your-mouth, soft meat.
Meanwhile, I selected the fried chicken Coq a Vin, which was a delicious fried iteration of the traditional French chicken dish—fried chicken no doubt an homage to the chef’s adopted country. This was damn good—fried chicken soaked in a hearty broth. It was absolutely, clean-the-plate delicious.
We’ll be back for date night, girls night—and brunch come spring, with a patio!
801 O Street N.W.
Washington, D.C. (Shaw)