The Shaw Bijou's opening was met with a collective side-eye from Washingtonians who balked at chef Kwame Onwuachi's prices — as much as $1,000 per couple for a multicourse dinner with wine pairings. It was especially galling, some thought, in light of the chef's resume. Though Onwuachi is a “Top Chef” and Eleven Madison Park alum, the Shaw Bijou is his first restaurant.
Not knowing your market can be a beginner's mistake, and now Onwuachi is owning up to it. He announced Thursday that he plans to change his menu — formerly $185 for 13 to 15 courses and an additional $185 for the suggested wine pairing — to a seven-course, $95 meal beginning Jan. 3. The meal includes an opening cocktail, but other beverages will be priced separately. The new wine pairing price hasn't been determined yet.
“Humility creeps up on you when least expected,” Onwuachi said in a letter sent via his publicist. “The opening of this restaurant has taught us just that.”
When Onwuachi announced plans to open one of the most expensive restaurants in D.C., he was confronted with criticism — both from diners who called it a “pretentious money dump” and critics, who were underwhelmed by the restaurant. Tom Sietsema's review ended with the suggestion of a post-dinner pizza run:
As my party stands outside one of the most highly anticipated restaurants of the season, currently all but obscured by construction fencing, I take a vote to see how many would return on their own dime. Head shakes all around confirm my hunch.
We’re also of one mind when it comes to our mood: Pizza, anyone?
Onwuachi and his team initially defended their choice to charge high prices, pointing out that fine dining is an expensive, low-margin business. “People who think we’re doing it to make money are sorely mistaken,” Greg Vakiner, the restaurant's service director, told the Post in September. “We are cutting ourselves short in the pocketbook to make it work.”
Meanwhile, ticketed reservations have been in ample supply. As of the time this story was published, you can still get into the restaurant's $150 New Year's Eve dinner.
This post has been updated.