When I walked into SAX on Wednesday evening for the DC Magazine launch party, I was overwhelmed by the gilded, glamorous opulence. Gold-gilded filigree adorns everything—the walls, the ceilings, the banisters, the balconies.
Red velvet tufted panels and 10-plus-foot-tall mirrors run the length of the walls. Glimmering crystal chandeliers hang from the ceilings and candle sconces are placed at eye level for light. The seating is, unsurprisingly, plush Rococo style red couches.
It seems this place was designed by a modern-day Marie Antoinette for the Upper East Side of New York but somehow wound up in Penn Quarter. I was expecting Chuck Bass to make his way through the crowd and offer me a glass of champagne.
Instead, I was handed a glass of champagne by one of the many cocktail waitresses—dressed in an all-black getup with a bustier and a tulle skirt reminiscent of Moulin Rouge. The drinks were flowing—champagne, wine and martinis of all sorts—SAX seems to build itself on anything and everything lush.
After a few minutes, my eyes started to follow everyone else’s—up, up to the 20-foot mirrored box above the bar. Inside this peculiar terrarium were burlesque dancers of the most bizarre kind. Sexy cabaret dancers, some frightening masked mimed men, and some Cirque de Soliel wannabes without the same level of skill. Once the frightening mimes and odd acrobats left, the show was concluded by sexy Carnival masked women, who, while attractive, definitely needed to work on their choreographic timing. However, I don’t think the men in the room noticed that.
If the live, mostly naked burlesque dancers aren’t enough for you, the walls leading up stairs are painted with lewd-yet-clever murals.
The food was unfortunately scarce at the event. There was nary a cocktail nibble to be found. The cuisine is billed as modern French small plates. The bites being passed around included fried artichokes, meatballs, fried escargot, fried scallops, and a marinated beef concoction that was a big hit.
The fried artichokes were delicious but the fried scallops were breaded in a way that reminded me of frozen fish sticks. It’s hard to get a good read on the cuisine based on my two bites (literally) so that remains to be determined.
SAX opens to the public today, so if you’re looking to add a whole lot of lusciousness to your life, this is the place.
SAX Restaurant & Lounge
734 11th Street, NW