An evening at Tokyo Japanese Steak House generally includes dinner and a show, but it’s not live music or dancing, and each group of diners gets their own performance. Guests sit down at U-shaped tables built around grills, where chefs theatrically slice, toss, and sizzle teppanyaki dishes. Guests can choose a single protein or a combination—including filet mignon and shrimp—which are seared amid plumes of steam and fire before their very eyes. More mellow meals take place at the sushi and noodle bar, where patrons look on as chefs meticulously build smoked salmon nigiri and Japanese lasagna, a baked California roll with secret sauce.
The dishes pair perfectly with their slew of Asian-inspired drinks. In addition to pouring sake and Sapporo, the bartenders mix specialty cocktails, such as the Tokyo sunrise with tequila, plum wine, and pineapple juice.
Franklin D. Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, Robert Frost, and Calvin Coolidge were some of the first inhabitants of the walls of Occidental Grill & Seafood, where their autographed photos have since been joined by more than 1,500 statesmen, power brokers, and celebrities. Throughout the restaurant’s nearly 110 years in business, its various menus have served as a mirror to the major events of the 20th century, from the conserved portions that addressed the food shortage during World War I to the 1924 victory banquet for the World Series–winning Washington Senators. Today, following a massive renovation in its 100th year, executive chef Rodney Scruggs achieves the difficult task of paying homage to the past in forward-thinking dishes. Scruggs himself boasts quite the history in the culinary realm. His first job after studying culinary arts at Newbury College was—perhaps not so coincidentally—the Occidental, where he worked his way from a line cook to an executive sous chef. His career led him through some of the area’s most notable eateries before he returned to the Occidental, where he furthers simple combinations of fresh, local ingredients with refined touches and careful preparation. To wit, crispy soft-shell crab is accompanied by a sweat-pea puree, and roasted virginia rack of lamb hails from Border Springs Farm and sits beneath a coating of demi-glace. In addition to American craft beers and wines from around the globe, diners can honor the eatery’s legacy by sipping classic cocktails such as a rickey from Washington circa 1883 and a sidecar from 1920’s London. Surrounded by the aforementioned autographed photos, the main dining room exudes old-school elegance. From high, recessed ceilings, ornate bowl-shaped chandeliers dangle over white tablecloths in front of burgundy leather booths and windsor chairs. The wine room has a slightly darker décor, as the wine bottles lining the walls reflect the rich-chocolate color of high-backed leather chairs.
Nestled in the U Street Corridor and surrounded by restaurants that serve small plates, the owners of Lost Society prefer to think big with respect to both their eatery’s dishes and ambience. They commissioned Joseph Evans—formerly the executive chef of Smith & Wollensky’s DC location—to bring his expertise in creating a set of steak-centric menus that rely on local produce, dry-aged and certified-Angus beef, and regional seafood. To start, the richness of Wagyu beef carpaccio is cut by grapefruit and pea tendrils, and fried oysters get an upscale twist with a worcestershire beurre blanc and smoked maple hot sauce. Ten-ounce filets and 12-ounce sirloins come topped with herb butter, and blackened catfish is accentuated by a scallion cream sauce.
But the artfully plated dishes comprise only half the appeal that lures Lost Society’s trendy clientele. Design consultants Olvia Demetriou and Melinda Nettelbeck of hapstak demetriou + transformed the restaurant’s two stories into a space that balances modern elements with nods to the Victorian-era underground. The dining room lives on the first level, where studio lighting bounces off brocade banquettes, framed spy mirrors, and wallpaper patterned with the faces of ladies in elegant hats. Diners lounge on the purple and yellow couches lining exposed-brick walls before retreating upstairs to see the chandeliers hanging above the neutral-toned bar and roof deck. To seal in the supper-club experience, they sample signature cocktails—such as a lychee martini or jalapeno margarita—some of which are created by recipes that are more than 100 years old.
Culinarily speaking, it’s hard to find anything more classic New York City than a thick, juicy steak. Bobby Van knows that well. He opened his first restaurant in the Hamptons during the summer of ’69, and, though his storyline was nixed from the Bryan Adams hit, the brand eventually found fame as a family of grills and steak houses now renowned throughout NYC and the East Coast.
The menu at each eatery opens with a selection of salads and seafood appetizers, which may include delicate crab cakes or chilled-lobster cocktails. Entrees may prove to be the hardest course to decide on, with a selection that spans lamb chops, fish, and a steak selection of filets, sirloin, and marbled porterhouses that can feed two, three, or four. Each space also holds a full bar stocked with spirits and wines handpicked by the sommelier.
Originally founded in the summer of 1969 in Bridgehampton, New York, Bobby Van’s Grill has since expanded to nine locations throughout New York and Washington, DC. Inside each kitchen, executive chefs oversee a menu built on plates of Prime dry-aged USDA beef, fresh seafood, and organic chicken. Servers ferry dishes amid each restaurant's similar but distinctly unique decor of private dining rooms and wine rooms furnished with white tablecloths.
In Washington, DC's New York Avenue location, diners savor their lobster cocktails and veal chops amid marble columns, grand mirrors, and babbling fountains that casually ask them if they're going to finish that. The 15th Street steak house lets visitors wine and dine alfresco on the sidewalk patio, located just one block from the White House.
Tucked near the shady promenades of Georgetown's Prospect St., the Peacock Cafe is a restful gem just steps from M St.'s bustling shops. There, Chef Maziar Farivar—a three-time invitee to the prestigious James Beard House in New York City—blends elegant, contemporary food from America and abroad with a laid-back atmosphere that attracts the full spectrum of Georgetown crowds, from brunching families to big-name politicians. (Bill and Hillary Clinton have even been spotted there by the Washington Post's Reliable Source.)
In a dining room decorated with large, colorful modern art, these varied visitors peruse a menu of American fare, much of which incorporates sustainable ingredients such as organic chicken and hormone-free beef. Pasture-raised and grass-fed rib-eye steak arrives in a cloud of Peacock's signature fries, which BlackBook describes as "dangerously delicious." And pistachio-crusted cod benefits from a tangy and sweet sauce of dried fruits and almonds. Diners can quench thirsts with a fresh-squeezed elixir from the juice bar, or select a pairing from an extensive wine list that, like the coatroom at a genie convention, contains dozens and dozens of bottles.
When he's not wowing crowds with his delicate preparations, Chef Farivar busies himself by burnishing America's image abroad as a part of the State Department's new Diplomatic Culinary Partnership. As an affiliate of the American Chef Corps, Farivar joins culinary luminaries including Rick Bayless, Jose Andrés, and Ming Tsai on a mission to share the flavors that define America with mouths around the world.