High-end restaurant The Shaw Bijou announces major changes

WASHINGTON — Kwame Onwuachi’s fine-dining restaurant The Shaw Bijou has only been open for two months, and already the “Top Chef” contestant is announcing major changes.

On Dec. 29, the chef told the public via a written statement that his new NW D.C. concept “fostered an environment and restaurant that was not reasonable for all.”

When The Shaw Bijou opened on Nov. 1, its tasting menu included “roughly 13 courses,” and the upstairs bar was intended to be members-only.

Snagging a seat in the eight-table dining room did not come cheap. The price per person was set at $185, not including gratuity or drinks. With the minimum wine pairing priced at $50, the actual cost of dinner at The Shaw Bijou was closer to $300 a person — and that’s just the minimum.

After testing out the restaurant, Washington City Paper Food Editor Laura Hayes wrote that diners who opt for the “middle-of-the-road wine pairing” can expect to pay $962 a couple after drinks, tax and tips.

Now, that is no longer the case. In his statement, Onwuachi said he is modifying the restaurant that took him 18 months to build.

“With the spirit of the New Year, we adjusted our concept with the people of D.C. in mind. In order to continue to invite and welcome people into our home, The Shaw Bijou will now only offer a seven course-tasting menu, which includes a welcome cocktail, for $95 beginning Tuesday, Jan. 3,” he wrote.

“Humility creeps up on you when least expected, and the opening of this restaurant has taught us just that. This being our first restaurant, and for some a first business venture, we had a substantial amount of learning and adjusting to do. And we have, immensely.”

The upstairs bar is ditching its members-only rule and is now open to the public.

So far, the response from the community has been positive. Eager diners expressed interest in trying a more affordable dining experience on Onwuachi’s Facebook page.

The Shaw Bijou has been a longtime dream of Onwuachi’s and the restaurant’s general manager Gregory Vakiner.

The business partners, both 26, met at the Culinary Institute of America where they were “foes before friends.” Eventually they went on to live together and work together at the three-star Michelin Eleven Madison Park.

“Doing dining at this level is something that we feel super, super, super passionate about. We feel like we’ve cut our chops and gotten ourselves to this point,” Vakiner said in an earlier interview.

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