Convivial, Cozy Spot in Shaw for the Francophile

If Momofuku and The Dabney had two of the hotter restaurant openings in DC this fall, then Convivial flew under the radar. The new restaurant, at City Market at O in Shaw is by the folks behind Mintwood Place. That’s a plus because everyone seems to love Mintwood Place, but while I’ve enjoyed meals at MP, I can’t say that I’ve been wowed. Maybe I ordered poorly or had an off day? Nonetheless, it’s not a place that’s on the top of my “must” list. So Convivial …?

On a Wednesday evening, with snow still piled up next to the sidewalks, Convivial was busy, but also cozy. With a cute open square bar and tables in the other rooms, the place had a nice buzz, but it wasn’t crazy. Perfect for dinner to catch up with a girlfriend. Mel had been before, so she warned that the plates were large.

We decided on 2 cold plates and 2 hot plates, so 2 smaller-sized dishes and two more entree-sized ones. And our ordering turned out to be very French in style.

Veal tartare, enough for a meal

Veal tartare, enough for a meal

The veal tartare was delicious and definitely tasted hand-cut, with texture and bite. And a serving that was not only beautifully presented, it was large enough and rich enough to be my entire meal. Seriously, next time, I’m going to order that and a glass of wine. What a dinner that would be!

The leeks dijonnais looked like they were on a piece of flatbread, but no, those were just the leeks, beautifully arranged. Also a thumbs-up, at least until I wondered if the tiny flecks of yellow were actually egg yolk. At just the thought, I had to stop eating the dish.

The scallop boudin blanc had the texture of a scallop flan, rich, creamy, melt in your mouth. Amazing. And the wilted greens were great, adding a texture and, if this is possible, flavor.

The petit cassoulet? Well, at this point, I was already full. I had a few spoons of the cassoulet, with its tender, yet not mushy white beans, various pork flavors and loved it. Alas, I couldn’t have more than a few tastes. I was truly overwhelmed.

"hot" options at Convivial

“hot” options at Convivial

So next time, order two smaller plates and one larger one.

And the wine? My kind of list. Reasonably priced, with plenty of bottles in the $50-$65 range, and interesting wines, too. A heavy emphasis on French and American wines, again, my sweet spot. And when we asked about a viognier, our server offered to pour us each a taste. Now, that’s wine service I can get used to!

Counting the days until another dinner at Convivial ….

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