Dining

One of 2016's Hottest New Restaurants Closes After 3 Months

Kwame Onwuachi's Shaw Bijou served its last meal this weekend
One of 2016's Hottest New Restaurants Closes After 3 Months
Photo: Aaron Lyle

Sunday brought a crushing blow to Top Chef alum Kwame Onwuachi and his still-brand-new Washington D.C. restaurant, The Shaw Bijou. After two years of planning, but less than three months of service, co-owner Kelly Gorsuch pulled the plug on the project. “It just became too costly with labor and the quality of the ingredients, and unfortunately, if you can’t cut those two things down, it’s usually the end of business,” he tells Washingtonian.

Since Onwuachi announced plans for the restaurant, there was both local and national buzz from publications like Eater, Rolling Stone and this one. The chef, who is only in his late 20s, planned to join the ranks of a small group of chefs like Aaron Silverman at Pineapple and Pearls, Eric Ziebold at Métier and José Andrés at Minibar, pioneering a new form of fine dining in D.C.


But there was backlash to Onwuachi's concept—a 13-course tasting menu, drawing on international flavors for $185; add alcohol, tax and gratuity to that, and the price reaches nearly $1,000 for two—from the get go. While a few other meals in the capital reach that price level, much of the criticism focused on the fact that Onwuachi was a relatively unproven operator, having never helmed a restaurant in D.C. or elsewhere. And, only a few days after opening, the Washington Post's Tom Sietsema wrote in a "First Bite" column that while some dishes delighted him, he left hungry for a pizza.

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In recent weeks, the team announced that they would scale back on the price tag, offering guests a seven-course menu for $95 and inviting walk-ins to the upstairs bar, which was originally intended to be a private club. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough. "I think it took too long to start listening to the guests,” Gorsuch says.

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