Debbie and I went to Convivial at the suggestion of Decker and Sherry. Convivial means “fond of feasting, eating and good company, cheerful, friendly and jovial.” This restaurant is all of those things.
(On a subsequent night Debbie and I joined Bob and Rita for dinner at Convivial as suggested by Rita. She and Bob had been there on a previous evening. More on that evening later.)
You enter the restaurant through a patio which can seat up to 30 people at tables of 2 and 4. The weather being a bit unpleasant the night we were there, no one was seated on the patio. As you enter there is a reception desk to the left. Veering to the left there is a small dining area and a square bar and beverage serving area. The bar has 6 stools on each of three sides. Further along on the left there is a second dining area.
To the right is a third dining area which is where we were seated at a table for two right next a floor to ceiling window that looks out on the patio and the weather. Exclusive of the bar, the restaurant can serve up to 110 people at a time
When we arrived for our 6:15 p.m. reservation there were a number of empty tables. Over the evening they all filled up. Directly to the right of where we were seated there was a table of 10 people, including a baby. The baby was not particularly noisy but the group as a whole made the area pretty noisy. In fact, at a 2 top right behind ours the couple seated there asked to be moved to avoid the noise.
As the evening wore on we struck up a conversation with the couple seated at our end of that long table. They were an interesting fun couple from Maine who were visiting friends in D.C.
As we first looked over the menu we thought it was a bit unusual but found it was easy to find a number of interesting things to eat.
The menu is broken down into Nibbles, First, Second, and Cheese and then a separate menu for Dessert. Debbie and I decided to share each dish we ordered.
From the Nibbles we ordered “escargots in a blanket, with garlic butter”. It comes in the form of an egg roll open at both ends, and “panisse, chickpea fries, and Harissa aioli”.
From the Firsts we picked “pickled rockfish, green papaya, avocado, passion fruit, watermelon radish” and “green asparagus, broiled, hollandaise sauce, sunflower seeds & shoots.”
We asked our server to recommend his preferred choice among the Seconds, which was “Poulet Rouge for two, crispy skin butterfly chicken, tarragon vinegar sauce.”
The chicken was first shown to us after cooking and then taken back for cutting into pieces. The chicken when cut up and arrayed on the plate looks like Peking Duck. The chicken is served with smashed potatoes, cooked carrots, onions and mushrooms.
For dessert we chose “Celebration Profiterole, vanilla ice cream, warm chocolate sauce” with a large sparker in the middle which is lit as the dessert is placed on the table.
Debbie and I agreed that had we shared one Nibble, one First a couple of seconds and dessert it would have been enough. As it was, by the time we got to the main course of chicken, mashed potatoes, cooked carrots, onions and mushrooms, we took a large part of it home.
On the night we ate with Rita and Bob they ordered the Potato Chips with mushroom and vinegar and onion dip which we all shared. Then they ordered the Mixed Green Salad, and the Poulet rouge. Debbie and I ordered escargot again; leeks dijonnaise; Moulard duck breast, blood orange, hakurei turnips and mustard greens; Daurade, sautéed squid, fennel and Sofrito. Rita and Bob ordered the Floating Island–poached merinque, crème anglaise, caramelized almong and we ordered the Key Lime Pie.
I was particularly happy to see a couple of non-alcoholic refreshers on the wine list. I tried them both. One was a Cranberry Cooler, cranberry syrup, ginger, citrus and soda. The other was called Bambi, lime ginger and soda. There are also a number of juices on the menu.
The kitchen is on the second floor of the restaurant. There is a long window at the ceiling level of the room we were in that provides a limited glimpse into the kitchen.
Debbie noticed that the actual dishes are limited in size. And all of them are white. There is a rectangular dish which is the primary dish used for each patron. There are a few other dishes and bowls of a similar style that are used for everything else.
The service personnel were attentive, excellent and active.
Weather permitting you can have dinner on the patio or, if there is space and if you want to have your dessert on the patio, you can do so for an additional $4 charge per dessert.
You can bring your own wine if it is a wine that the restaurant does not have, but there is a $25 corkage fee per bottle. (It is unclear to me how one knows at the outset whether the wine is something the restaurant has in its supply.)
There are four gender neutral restrooms. Two of the restrooms have signs embedded in the door that they are simply gender neutral. These individual restrooms are relatively small. There is a square white ceramic washbasin and a white ceramic commode. There is a device used for various sanitation purposes that is ensconced in the wall. The walls are covered with white rectangular tiles and the floor with tiny six sided white tiles.
One of the other two restrooms has a sign embedded that it is gender neutral but designed to handle wheelchairs and the fourth restroom is like the third but has an additional sign that indicates it has special facilities for handling babies.
There is a garage located in the O Street Market complex. There are entrances on 8th and 9th streets. The restaurant validates for the first two hours.
801 O Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001