The buzz surrounding 901 Restaurant & Bar has been true to form: a good location, good food, and most of all, good business sense have made David von Storch's latest venture a hot destination in Penn Quarter after only four months. Since its grand opening on June 9th, the restaurant has managed to draw in a unique crowd of its own. Evenings and weekends are filled with a mixed group of professionals, convention goers, and locals who like living in D.C. Last month, the restaurant was a favorite among Congressional Black Caucus Conference attendees, and there has been no shortage of restaurant goers since then.
At first glance, the name is a simple reference to the location. But there is deeper meaning behind the name 901. According to David—who consulted a numerologist—the number nine is the end of the numerical sequence. Zero signifies a transition and one is equivalent to rebirth: "It’s appropriate because we were taking this whole place and creating something brand-new, but respecting what was. 901 is reflective of the fact that there was something here before.”
So it is also fitting that the high-end restaurant is right across the street from the City Center project under construction on the old convention center site. The project is one of the biggest mixed-use developments ever undertaken in D.C. Located on 9thstreet, the 7500 square-foot 901 Restaurant & Bar feels smaller than it looks. It is divided into both private and open sections at the same time. The intimate feeling is intentional; 901 was designed so that patrons could enjoy the atmosphere and the vibe from other like-minded people also enjoying themselves. The overarching theme seems to be three walls instead of four. Diners have their own spaces but still have a nice view of the fun that is happening throughout the restaurant.
The obvious intent of the decor was to achieve high-end-luxury, and that mission was definitely accomplished. The lower wall/facade of the bar area is covered in a reflective variety of blue pebble mosaic tiles. The majority of the seating is covered with high-end leather. Throughout the restaurant, modern accent lighting grasps the visual interest of customers. Asian-inspired red lanterns hang from the ceiling, and red sprinkles throughout the restaurant—adding contrast to the sleek, dark walls and glass orb chandeliers.
“The design was intended to create a sophisticated place that was comfortable enough to come to with your friends. Hip sophisticated, sexy and comfortable,” explained David.
Within the illuminated menu (yes, the menu lights up when opened in a dim location), 901 patrons can find diverse choices of cultural dishes inspired from Brazil to Asia, plus good old American cuisine.
After a random selection, the waiter brought a plate with the Craft Beer Churrasco, a kabob-style platter. Decorated in festive colors of red, yellow, green, purple, and white vegetables were two beef kabobs marinated in oatmeal stout, plus two chicken kabobs marinated in lager with a chili pepper crème and crispy basil. The second plate consisted of Thai Rice Paper Rolls with coconut curry rice noodles and chicken pieces. In the middle of the plate was a cucumber salad in red wine vinegar, and a choice of Thai peanut sauce and sweet ginger soy sauce on each side of the plate for dipping.
The Craft Beer Churrasco was delightfully moist and flavorful with its beef and chicken combination. The chicken has a spicy, seasoned taste. The beef stood out above all—the soaked up flavor of the oatmeal stout marinade induces a craving for larger portions..
The Thai Rice Paper Rolls are a healthy option with spaghetti pasta, vegetables, and white meat chicken or beef stuffed in the roll and served cold.
What will really catch you off guard is the cornbread, which is served before the food arrives. The cornbread has an unusual blend of spices that do not lose their flavor. The sweet and spicy taste comes alive almost immediately after taking a bite. When asked about the recipe, David responded that it was a secret.
The inspiration behind the meals is the lead chef, Thomas Hall, who fits in with David’s concept-driven but not chef-driven restaurant. “We wanted to find a chef who was skilled enough and creative enough to develop a good menu but didn't have—for a lack of a better word—the ego that would prevent him or her from working with a team. Tom is talented, and has a good sense of humility and teamwork.”
David himself enjoys cooking when he can. But the business investor is too busy managing a small empire to cook for himself, so he eats out or dines at one of his own restaurants. "It is important for me to show up at my restaurants and eat as a client, because I want to see and experience what the patron experiences,” explained David.
901 has its own exclusive brewed beer that can only be purchased at the restaurant, and as the owner of the Capital City Brewery, David knows a thing or two about brewing beers. The Capital City Brewery has been a Washington establishment for more than twenty years. The original brewery is located on the opposite side from 901 and the old convention center site. There was also a location at the Post Office Building next to Union Station, but the federal government took the space to expand the current Post Office center. However, that gives David more time to focus on the new patrons coming to 901.
David knows the clientele he is trying to appeal to, and he uses the word psychographic in place of demographic to describe them. That term better explains a population's behavioral mindset and character instead of the racial and ethnic makeup. He characterizes this population as educated people who share the behavioral quality of living in and enjoying the city. This description includes the more than 10,000 clients of Vida Fitness and 30,000 clients of BANG! Salon two successful businesses that David also founded and funded.
“I have tried very hard to make this a place where everybody who lives in the city and enjoys the city also invests in the city in terms of where they work, live, and choose where and how they play. I’m very proud that when you walk into this restaurant, there is a very good mix of black professionals, white professionals, gay, straight, hotel guests, etcetera.” David emphasized that he and his staff work hard to attract this demographic mix because “it is a more interesting environment. This is a place for everyone, where people can feel welcome; not just sort of, but genuinely feel welcome.”
Catering to requests from his target psychographic, David has decided to expand the 901 menu to include a lunch section that will begin on October 17th.
Stay tuned for more info and a following article about the business behind David von Storch.