When my sister booked a reservation at Mastro’s Steakhouse during D.C.’s Restuarant Week, I didn’t hesitate to accept the invitation.
Located between Metro Center and Gallery-Place Chinatown, Mastro’s gloating achievement is restaurants “led by a team of highly motivated and detail oriented management who strive for excellence in guest service, finest quality food, and distinct ambiance”.
Mastro’s adds to a long collection of premium steakhouses in D.C. including, Joe’s Seafood, Prime Steak & Stone Crab, Del Frisco’s, the Ruth Chris Steakhouse Franchise, and Fogo De Chao Brazillian Steakhouse.
For the $35 price tag and for one night only, we could arrive to enjoy the wine ambiance on a beer budget.
And Mastro’s isn’t a place you just arrive to like you would you’re local Greene Turtle Sports Bar and Grille or TGI’s.
You’re going to arrive here like you would for happy hour plans straight off of your government job: business casual.
Mastro’s has a strict dress code, and none of us wanted to test the waters of what it meant to be blackballed.
And so we did for a 9 PM reservation, after playfully quarreling over what constitutes “business casual” through group chat (sneakers out & unripped, solid denim in).
The doorman swung open the door welcoming us in from the crisp, cool air on 13th street and instantly we were transported into a world of sophistication, boisterous in chatter and made colorful with live music.
The mood was endearing: shadowy lighting and rooms, opulent in coffee-colored hues to match the high-dollar ticket.
Following our entire party’s arrival and a few photos where a camera flash was extremely valuable, we were led in darkness down a wrought iron spiral staircase into the lower-level dining area.
The music carried down into an equally bustling dining area where plush multi-colored carpeting swept throughout with areas where private dining rooms, cozy booths, and round tables filled the room for larger parties.
Our table was set: dressed in pristine white linen, intricately folded cloth towels, gleaming wine glasses and thrice-washed dinnerware.
We nestled into our seats and gazed over the menu, awaiting our waiter’s arrival.
Of course, there was steak, the cuts diverse and generous in portion: 16 oz. New York Strip, 24 oz. Porterhouse, 48 oz. Double Cut Porterhouse, 16 oz. Veal Chop, 22 oz. Bone-In Ribeye, 12 or 18 oz. Bone-In Filet and so on.
If not feeling particularly carnivorous, Mastro’s offers a humble assortment of seafood and sushi rolls.
The veggie and spuds menu is extensive too, family-style and a la carte. Prices here will go upwards of $12 easily.
The soup and salad menu for the price, may not be worth it. We found this out the hard way when our mambo salad appetizer marked our first impression.
The hot, spicy and peppery potent flavor of a horseradish dressing was so pronounced, though starving, I delayed taking another bite.
If anything from Mastro’s Steakhouse, I will always want the seared scallops appetizer.
I’ll always want to hold that plump, sweet flesh on the end of my fork, in admiration of how gratifying the next bite will be. Reluctant because it’s the last bite, but paradoxically antsy in anticipation.
Then I’ll smile with satisfaction only a greedy person knows, knowing the crispy, parmesan bread is still waiting.
Having taken a back seat to the scallops it will have soaked up all the zest of that smooth, savory sauce meant to be enjoyed with the scrape of the
I could eat only this and wait as mirthful as Santa Claus for winter, for everyone else to receive and eat their dish.
Nothing else seemed to win my heart quite the way the scallops did.
Not the 6 0z. petite filet mignon, though delicious and cooked to a perfect medium, nor the accompanying shared side dishes that lacked the personality to keep the party going.
The garlic mashed potatoes were one ladle of cream away from becoming potato soup; the Gorgonzola mac & cheese as forgettable as a one-night stand and deserved only to be called “mac’; the roasted Brussel sprouts — which I heard were lovely with bacon– never came to the table and our waiter never took notice, so I pretended not to either.
At this point in the evening, with the neglectful service and so many missed cues, I surmised it wasn’t worth the headache and nothing would be as stimulating as the aforementioned seared scallops appetizer.
Between ordering drinks, appetizers and entrees the night was extending past two hours.
We were now waiting, well three of us at least, for the Mastro’s infamous Butter Cake.
Which I soon found out was nothing more than a stick of butter and mostly sugar mounded together to deliver an overnight diagnosis of diabetes.
The cake was cloyingly sweet, and moist in a way that wasn’t pleasant to the tongue almost dissolving at the introduction of saliva.
But with a name like “butter cake” what could you expect, it’s like asking for medium rare and expecting well-done.
I couldn’t even finish it, and I’m not sure I wanted to.
And just like that, the night ended, our food was packed by our waiter and we hustled up the stairs and out the door through a dining room that had started retreating into the night.
Certainly, an experience was had by all even with a few hiccups and with a bigger budget we all agreed we come to visit again.