DC’s food scene has been becoming fancier lately (and more expensive). It’s gotten to the point where the happy hour prices for drinks are comparable to full-priced drinks in other cities.
DC also did not get hit by the economic crisis as much as other areas, so this area has had more disposable income (and for a longer period of time). So it makes sense that this phenomenon is happening.
But it looks as if the city has a limit.
The Shaw Bijou is opening soon and Washingtonian Magazine covered it with this beginning:
When it opens on November 1, the Shaw Bijou will be one of the most expensive dining experiences in Washington—and one of the rare places where reservations are binding, and all sales are final.*
“The ability for us to ensure that all of our costs are covered on a night-in and night-out basis allows us to source the best products we can,” says general manager Greg Vakiner of the policy. “With only an eight-table dining room at our price point, for us to have a table of four guests not show up could be a large hit for our bottom line. Using this method, it allows us to plan everything in advance, and ensures that we have the staff and infrastructure to deliver the experience as intended.”
Ticketed reservations for chef/co-owner Kwame Onwuachi’s first-ever restaurant went live on Monday—and clock in at an eye-popping $962 for two 13-course tasting menus with wine pairings (both $185 per person), tax, and automatic 20-percent gratuity.
The article created a bit of a stir on social media.
I hate to root against an entrepreneur but if I was going to… https://t.co/Ye6SfDaxFU
— Amanda Becker (@AmandaBecker) August 31, 2016
"Oh, is Lin-Manuel personally performing 'Hamilton' at your table? He's not? Then no, this is not worth it." https://t.co/HGB2vbY2kU
— Kevin A. Koski (@kevinkoski) August 31, 2016
Even if I could afford it, still wouldn’t go to this pretentious money dump https://t.co/uvoqXOTjyv
— Igor Bobic (@igorbobic) August 30, 2016
So has the DC scene changed to the point where this sort of price point will be welcome?
The people criticizing the Shaw Bijou’s prices would probably say that this is not the Washington they know, either. Is the city of half-smokes that kind of place? It is now. The Michelin Guide arrives next month, in the wake of a series of expensive restaurant debuts this year: Pineapple and Pearls, with its $250 all-inclusive price, opened April 7, and Eric Ziebold’s Metier, with a $200 tasting menu excluding drinks, opened April 26. The Georgetown restaurant 1789 just reopened as a prix-fixe restaurant, at $85 to $109 for its tasting menus. And Minibar, the current record-holder for the most expensive restaurant in the city, raised its prices this year, from $250 to $275, with beverages costing up to $500. The price was $65 when Minibar debuted in 2003.
The Washington Post article also discusses how this criticism took the restaurant off guard.
But from reading the article, it looks like a large percentage of this criticism is circumstantial. Jose Andreas, a fixture in the DC area, has built up a reputation. His restaurant is Minibar, quoted in the article above. It’s comparable in price to Shaw Bijou but not in reputation. The article states this is the chef’s first restaurant, so he hasn’t been “tested”.
In the case of the Shaw Bijou, the chef was on Top Chef on a season I didn’t pay attention to. But there is a discussion in the comments here about his arrogance on the show. That doesn’t give me confidence that this experience will live up to the price.