The last thing D.C. needs is another steakhouse chain. But that’s not stopping Mastro’s Steakhouse, the latest addition to downtown’s oversaturated meat market. The restaurant, which was founded in Scottsdale, Ariz. and now has locations from New York to Beverley Hills, opened its 13th outpost at 13th and F streets NW last Friday.
“Once our guests walk into our restaurant and they walk into this piano bar where we have Julie and Jeremy singing seven days a week, everybody’s like, ‘Wow, this isn’t just another steakhouse,'” says Director of Events Rachael Krieger. “This restaurant is right on time for the D.C. scene, because we really don’t have live music in D.C.”
But, um, isn’t the Hamilton one block away?
“They have tickets,” Krieger says. “You don’t have to buy anything but a martini to enjoy the ambiance of our piano bar. It just doesn’t exist in D.C., so here we are.”
Maybe they haven’t heard of these piano bars?
Aside from the live entertainment, Mastro’s also aims to differentiate itself from the steakhouse competition with… fusion sushi. If you’re not going for a bone-in ribeye or New York strip, the restaurant offers shrimp tempura rolls, jalapeño tuna sashimi, and albacore with black truffle sushi. There’s also a sushi tower, like a seafood tower, with samplings of several different offerings.
Mastro’s president Mark Levy was inspired to add sushi to the menu after a trip to Mexico, of all places. He vacations in Cabo San Lucas and became enthralled with the Japanese-Mexican sushi creations from Nick-San chef Angel Carbajal. “[Levy] was like, ‘We need you to come to the company, and we need you to put this on our menu, because nobody is doing this,'” Krieger explains.
“When you have a high-quality steakhouse, you know you can get high-quality sushi. It’s a no fail,” general manager Stephen Carcamo says.
Like many transplant restaurants attempting to appeal to D.C., Mastro’s throws a lot of crab on the menu. One of the items unique to Mastro’s District location is a crab cake BLT. There’s also a crab wedge salad, and crab sushi is coming. “We’re on the East Coast. We’re as close to the water as you can get pretty much,” Carcamo says when I remark on the number of menu items that feature crab.
But it turns out that Mastro’s doesn’t even use local crab.
In addition to the typical lineup of steaks and chops, one of Mastro’s staples is $35 lobster mashed potatoes made with a whole lobster and Old Bay. Equally luxe, the restaurant touts three types of caviar. “That’s something that right there sets the tone for the experience and what sets us apart,” Carcamo says.
Mastro’s also boasts more dry ice than a haunted house. Seafood towers and shrimp cocktails arrive in a cloud of dry ice. The drink menu also features around 15 “smoking cocktails” shaken tableside.
In addition to the piano bar near the entrance, there’s a smaller bar downstairs. Mastro’s also has plenty of private dining space, including the 50-seat Monument Room and the 100-seat Memorial Room. “When we take this wall down in the middle, we call it the Mall,” Krieger says. A 16-seat boardroom-style dining space can be used “for those little power dinners.”
“A lot of people like to be discrete in D.C. We have that capability for you,” Carcamo says. “We’d like to see the next generation of steakhouse-goers.”
Presumably, the next generation of steakhouse-goers likes sushi.
Mastro’s Steakhouse, 600 13th St. NW; (202) 347-1500; mastrosrestaurants.com
Photo by Jessica Sidman