For Washington DC’s winter restaurant week, I returned to an old favorite. Located one block north of the convention center by Mount Vernon Square, the French restaurant Convivial is always a pleasure.
I had first gone to Convivial during DC’s summer restaurant week in 2016. I enjoyed it so much that I have been back a couple of times since. It has been a while, though, and when I saw Convivial on this year’s list of restaurant week locations I decided on going there. It was as good as I remembered.
Happy Hour Specials
I arrived in the late afternoon. Early enough for the happy hour specials. They included a handful of drinks and several appetizers. I didn’t get any of these drinks, but one of the appetizers spoke to me. The Quiche Lorraine Bites.
The bites are small squares of quiche made with Lorraine Cheese along with bits of bacon mixed in. The quiche was scrumptious. With a good amount of bacon mixed in, the richness of the quiche was balanced by the saltiness of the bacon. The bites were served with a dipping sauce but they were good enough that they did not need them. My only issue was that the quiche was soft enough that the toothpicks could not hold them. I ended up eating them with a fork.
Restaurant Week Courses
The restaurant week menu consisted of three courses. Unfortunately, I neglected to make note of what all the options were. Each course had a half a dozen choices or more. They were similar to what is on their current menu, so I will use that as a point of reference.
For my appetizer, I had Pâté en Croûte. Other options included Tartare de Boeuf (Beef Tartar), Soupe à l’Oignon Gratinée (French Onion Soup), and Burrata d’Hiver (a kale salad). Pâté en Croûte is a mix of pâtés surrounded by a pastry crust. I get the impression that a loaf is made and slices of the loaf are served.
At Convivial, the pâtés involved are foie gras, duck breast, cured pork shoulder, and veal. The pâtés are served with a side of greens and two dipping sauces: a mustard and a fig jam. Both sauces were good compliments, but I especially liked the mustard, as it was quite spicy. The greens were covered with a well balanced vinaigrette that had a slight sharpness. Together they offset the rich pâtés very well.
For my main course, I went with the classic French dish Boeuf Bourguignon (Beef Burgundy). Other choices include: Moules Frites Poulette (steamed mussels with fries), Cheeseburger Le Classique, Poulet Rôti (roasted half chicken), and Cassoulet au Confit de Canard (confit duck leg). Noteworthy items on the current menu are: Quiche aux Poireaux or Lorraine, La Bouillabaisse Marseillaise (French seafood soup), Bistro Salmon, and Pot-au-Feu (short rib and shank of beef stew).
Boeuf Bourguignon consists of chunks of beef simmered in a red wine sauce and served with mashed potatoes and roasted vegetables. Convivial’s version is amazing. The beef is extremely tender; the gravy is full of flavor but subdued enough that it does not dominant. A perfect accompaniment for the beef. The mashed potatoes were homemade and tasted like it. I’m sure they were full of butter as well. I made sure to pour lots of the gravy over the potatoes. A great combination.
The third course was dessert. Options included Profiteroles, Crème Brûlée, and a selection of ice cream or sorbets. I chose the Opera Cake. This dessert is made with layers of almond sponge cake sandwiched with buttercream and chocolate mouse, topped with a chocolate ganache, and served with a cream sauce. The sponge cake is soaked in espresso, giving it a strong coffee flavor. The coffee flavor was a bit too strong for me, but I liked the buttercream and the chocolate. I recommend waiting until the cake warms to room temperature. It is much easier to cut, and the flavors come out more.
I had two drinks with my meal. The first was a drink from their cocktail menu called Main Gauche. Made with bourbon, it tasted a bit like an Old Fashioned but it had vermouth and chocolate bitters mixed in instead. It was delicious. A “Breakfast Old Fashioned” is also available, made with sweet potato shochu.
When in a French restaurant I like to get a glass of wine. I cheated a bit that day, as I got a mulled wine called Chef Cedric’s Vin Chaud. The menu says it is flavored with orange and “winter spices.” Besides cloves, I don’t know what else is included. Whatever the spices are, they give the wine a ton of flavor. Highly recommended!
The first time I was at Convivial it was during the summer and I was seated on the patio, which has a lovely view. As this time it was winter time, I was seated inside. The dining experience was just as fabulous. The decor is very elegant. The wait staff were prompt and attentive without being overbearing. The food is high quality. Overall, Convivial is a great place to go on a special occasion.