Secret Sushi Served by an Olympian
December 12, 2014

Secret Sushi Served by an Olympian

Alex Clare, Matisyahu, Cowboy Mouth, Super Diamond and Spandau Ballet are just a few of the bands coming to 9:30 Club! Check out the full listing here.

“Fish runner,” we whispered as we approached the door at Mess Hall in Northeast, DC. That was the secret password to get into Sushi Belly Tower

The decadent sashimi feast was served by Stanford grad and Olympic athlete Michael Stember. He competed in Sydney in 2000. Fortunately, he can slice premium fish as fast as he can run 1,500 meters. The $175 per person pop-up dinner (and there were about 60 people there) Tuesday night was part of Michael's tour of the East Coast. He's based in Los Angeles, where he cooks for celebs through his company Upstream Foods.

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Courses weren't limited to fish, though the yellowtail drizzled with uni and coconut milk was one of the stars. “One per person,” Michael pleaded. There was also a splendiferous hunk of Wagyu beef fresh off the plane from Japan that he served both rare and kissed by the pan. Other featured sashimi included two kinds of tuna, salmon and Maine scallops—which often came drizzled with avocado oil and sprinkled liberally with sea salt.

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&pizza is on Fire

InTheCapital's 50 on Fire dubbed &pizza a winner in the dining and retail category. Its recent openings blitz combined with continued ability to cultivate true communities around its shops puts &pizza in the five alarm fire category of so-hot-right-now. This month alone, it opened its first Virginia location in Springfield and rolled out a customer appreciation rewards app. We caught up with partners Michael Lastoria (left) and Steve Salis at their Capitol Hill office and learned five things.


1. There's a reason Steve and Michael are committed to making each new shop unique and reflective of its neighborhood, instead of doing simple cut and pastes. “We're both small town guys who frequented local pizza shops; people make the place,” Steve tells us. "You can't always be local with food, but you can with design."

2. The casual concept is taking on trends fine dining establishments are embracing, like making more in-house. They already make cheese and craft soda, but soon you'll be able to sip on &pizza red and white wine. “It's part of our goal to increase quality without passing on costs to our guests,” Michael says. “It also contributes to our emotional connection with the consumer.”

3. They'll pay for your “&” tattoo (or another tat) if you reach the “Maverick” spending level ($1,500) using their rewards app. “We tested the idea on our tribe first—six signed up to get tatted within 10 minutes.” The “tribe” are their employees, whom we hope have job security now that they've been inked.

4. They're getting into the wedding business (kind of). Through their #andcauses philanthropic arm, they recently “pizza-bombed” a wedding for a bride that ran out of money to cater her nuptials. That's not all. On March 14, there will be an actual &wedding at their U Street shop.

5. When nobody's looking, Michael pours hot sauce on cheese pizza. “If I'm not sweating, it doesn't count,” he says. Steve on the other hand adds dollops of ketchup.

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Get Your Bubbly Fix at Le Dip

You can find one of the most passionate sommeliers in the city at Le Diplomate. His name is Erik Segelbaum and Champagne is his specialty. “I spend 364 days a year thinking about which bubbly to serve on New Year's Eve,” he tells us during a tasting of some of his new finds. Erik took the holidays as an opportunity to revamp Le Diplomate's bubbly selection to focus on lesser known, exceptional bottles that he says have high value. Some are produced in smaller quantities, while others are grower Champagnes, meaning the vintner didn't borrow any grapes from off property. A favorite was the PHILIPPONNAT Brut Rosé. Stop in to try it while Le Dip's all dressed up for Christmas. 

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From Regular Guy to Restaurant Mogul

New startup EquityEats is lowering the barriers to investing in restaurants, making it possible for slightly more average Joes to support a concept they believe in. It's also breaking the crowdfunding mold. For starters, investors have the opportunity to earn profit, not just perks, and in 2015, it'll allow non-accredited investors to contribute (they hope), fundamentally transforming equity crowdfunding. “With entry investments set at $2,500 or $5,000, you'll be able to call yourself a restaurant mogul after investing in 10 concepts,” VP of Communications & Strategy Steve Lucas tells us. We chatted with him about the group's goals at Slipstream.

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EquityEats currently has four restaurant entrepreneurs actively raising capital using its online platform, including a seafood counter and a bakery, with more in the pipeline. Expect to see pop-ups in 2015 that allow potential investors (and the public!) to try products. “People want to eat local, shop local, why not invest local,” Steve says. What also separates EquityEats from the pack is its work isn't over once the doors open. It will offer clients data-driven technology platforms to assist with operations as a part of its overall goal to reduce restaurant failure.


Repeal Day Ball 2014

Tucked into every nook of the Carnegie Library Saturday were top bartenders celebrating the anniversary of the end of Prohibition. The annual DC Craft Bartender's Guild Repeal Day Ball welcomed 29 local mixologists, plus a handful of renowned out-of-town talents. Mockingbird Hill's Chantal Tseng manned her bathtub gin; Founding Farmers' Jon Arroyo made a perfect martini; and Gypsy Soul's Jo-Jo Valenzuela (pictured) topped his drink with a raw oyster. A portion of the proceeds went to The Museum of the American Cocktail. (Perhaps the only museum that feels like it has a moving walkway--once you're two drinks in--even when you're standing still.)

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An Opening with Perks

Spain import 100 Montaditos opened its third DC area location this week in the Navy Yard. To celebrate the occasion, “dollarmania” will be offered through Sunday, meaning every mini-sandwich known as a montadito will be, you guessed it, $1. Top picks include Serrano ham and Manchego cheese; meatballs with bacon and arugula; and blue cheese with garlic pork loin and piquillo pepper. Additionally, it'll be running 100 days of all day happy hour with $2 regular beers and sangria, plus $3 premium beer and wine. When the ice melts and the Nats take the mound, this will be a reliable pre-game pick.


Can't Miss Foodie Event: StarChefs Rising Star
Awards Gala

Some of the biggest headliners in food and drink will be under one roof on Tuesday, Dec. 16, as honors its DC area Rising Star Winners at a tasting gala. A 6:30pm awards ceremony will be followed by a chance to bop from table to table trying bites and sips from the award recipients. Winners include: The Arsenal's Kyle Bailey, The Red Hen's Mike Friedman, Rose's Luxury's Aaron Silverman, minibar's Johnny Spero, Rogue 24's Giane Cavaliere and Neighborhood Restaurant Group's Brent Kroll. General admission is $95, VIP $125. Tickets are available on the StarChefs website. 

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