Convivial

My second D. C. Restaurant Week dinner was at Convivial with Jeff and Eric on 2-4-2017. It began with someone hitting my car trying to exit the Convivial parking garage. While that sucked, the manager was super helpful as she had witnessed the whole thing!

The food and atmosphere were both fine but not quite great. The food was trying to be creative but sort of falling flat. The atmosphere wasn’t unpleasant but nothing to write home about.

Atmosphere: 3 out of 5
Food & Drink: 3 out of 5

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The menu came with a glossary, which was a little weird, but also super helpful for a few items. For instance I did not know what blanc-manger was. 

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The Restaurant Week menu had you pick three items from any of the five different sections (nibbles, cold, hot, cheese, dessert). Size-wise the nibbles were like hors d’oeurves, cold were appetizers and hot were entrees. There were a lot of items in each section–almost the entire menu was included. Unfortunately the waiter, while friendly enough, was so scripted and sing-songy I could not understand his recommendations.

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Pisco sour. Where the waiter and I did connect was when I said I like cocktails in coupes with egg whites and he said, “then you want our pisco sour.” He was exactly right and it was delicious.

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Pickled rockfish (green papaya, avocado, passion fruit, watermelon radish). Isn’t this beautiful? Great colors, so fresh and topped with edible flowers! The papaya and lime juice complimented each other nicely. Unfortunately the rockfish tasted sort of like albacore tuna. It was fine but it looked a lot better than it tasted.

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Latke (celery root, cured lamb). These were fun and from the nibbles section of the menu. They tasted like tiny Reubens atop a McDonald’s hash brown. They were good but they didn’t seem like a latke.

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Cheese plate. Eric ordered this and this is literally how it came out. I mean, seriously?! Minus 100 points for presentation.

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Blanc-manger (cauliflower tabbouleh, almond, grapefruit, herb salad). This was super interesting and was my favorite dish. The herbs were parsley, mint and dill, which coupled with lemon and the bulgur-esque cauliflower, were perfect. However underneath the canopy were way too many almonds and the grapefruit was a little distracting. The panna cotta at the bottom was different and while it added some complexity I’m not sure it was necessary. It was still really good though and would be even better minus a few ingredients.

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Braised rabbit (grain mustard, cabbage, spaetzle). I feel like I never see rabbit on the menu so I had to get it. The rabbit itself was very tender and tasty. Unfortunately the spaetzle was dry and there was way too much of it. Underneath it was a tasty sauce that had a very distinct flavor, which I think was tarragon. The somewhat watery sauce combined with the copious dry spaetzle felt like I was eating spaetzle cereal. If I could scoop out some spaetzle and drain some of the sauce this dish would have been a lot better.

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Fried chicken coq au vin. This is a dish Convivial’s known for and both Jeff and Eric ordered it. I was really excited to taste it and while it was good, it wasn’t what I expected. It was more like a wine-based BBQ sauce than coq au vin. I knew it would be different but calling it coq au vin at all seemed like a stretch.

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Apple bread pudding (vanilla ice cream, salted caramel). The sauce was almost like zabaione and was really good. The bread pudding itself was somewhat overcooked. Between that and the really large portion size, I ended up not even finishing it all.

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Hot sticky toffee pudding (maple ice cream). Again the sauce was the best part, this time being caramel-based. But like with the bread pudding the toffee pudding itself was overcooked.

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Me with my dates. Overall the meal wasn’t bad but it definitely didn’t live up to the hype. I know a lot of people recommend this place though so, like Zaytinya, I wonder if dining outside of Restaurant Week would have made a difference.

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