9 Things to Know About Kwame Onwuachi's Shaw Bijou
Early next week, one of the most anticipated openings of the year hits Washington, D.C., as former Top Chef contestant Kwame Onwuachi debuts his tasting menu spot, The Shaw Bijou. In a converted home in Shaw, he’ll be serving “modern American cuisine with global inspiration,” the chef says. “We have a heavy background in French technique, but we use flavors from all around the world.”
On a recent trip to D.C., Onwuachi walked TT through the space while it was still under construction, and shared some background and details that diners should put on their radar. But first, heads up: Tickets for dinner are mostly sold out for the first few weeks, though there are still a few tables left.
① The Secretive Menu
Onwuachi is keeping most of the 12-to-16-course menu under tight wraps—guests actually won’t be presented with a menu until they are leaving. But every dish has a story or a reference point that accompanies it, he says.
② Something Savory
One dish he can reveal: a reimagined chicken and lamb over rice. Lamb sweetbreads are fried and glazed with chicken jus and served atop a thin crisp that’s made with rice fried with garam masala. The small bite, which is meant to be eaten with your hands, is topped with a chile and sesame sauce. “So if you close your eyes, you can taste all of those flavors, and it reminds you of the halal cart, but in a very sophisticated and elevated way,” he says.
③ Something Sweet
A few of the many courses offered will be dessert, including a vegetal play on île flottante, made with thyme meringue, toasted almond anglaise, a citrus called satsuma and celery.
④ Nod to Mom
The restaurant’s name means “jewel” in French, but it is also the name of Onwuachi’s mom, who is a chef in New Orleans. “It’s a double entendre,” he says. “It’s the jewel of Shaw, as well as Shaw’s jewel.”
⑤ A Moving Feast
Dinner at The Shaw Bijou will actually be mobile. Guests will be ushered to the upstairs bar for a cocktail and a bite before heading down to the kitchen to meet the team and have another snack, and then they’ll ultimately be escorted to the dining room for dinner.
⑥ Look Out for Charlie
When guests leave the kitchen and head toward the dining room, they should keep their eyes out for a small metal horse statue pinned to the wall. One day recent day, Onwuachi called him Charlie, but he says the name changes often.
⑦ No White Tablecloths
The tables won’t be covered and with good reason. They, along with the bar, were crafted by Tennessee-based wood designer Caleb Woodard and Kelly Gorsuch.
⑧ Something to Drink
Dinner wine pairings are customized, and though they can get pricey for famous bottles, Onwuachi says “you can tell us you have a $25 or $50 [budget],” and the team will work within that range to offer pairings with as many courses as possible. Beyond wine, there’s a white grape habanero soda and cider on offer. Diners planning on a custom pairing will get a call from the team ahead of time to coordinate what will be best for the table.
⑨ Family Connection
Opening a restaurant in Shaw is particularly meaningful for Onwuachi, whose grandfather taught at nearby Howard University. “There aren’t really any African American chefs in Shaw who are doing high-end cuisine,” he says. “I feel that I kind of have a responsibility to do this and to do it right and to do it well to open the doors for other people who look like me.”
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