If there’s anything DC needs, it’s more scandals. Saying that SAX likes to push the scandalous side of things would be a gross understatement.
Boudoir waitstaff, an ultra-elite feel, and beaucoups paintings of our fair city’s most famous philanderers self-indulging in their acts of sin adorn the walls (many have been removed since the opening-ed), curtains, and atmosphere of SAX. Is SAX a restaurant? Is it dinner theater? A club? A private playhouse for DC’s elite? It’s barely even opened and yet it’s already fumbling about with a sort of identity crisis (though yes, it is a restaurant first and foremost). I must admit that I’ve never really seen anything like it. Except in Eyes Wide Shut, and maybe Caesar’s Palace.
Located near the family-friendly Metro Center, the very un-family-friendly SAX is unassuming from the outside. Extremely unassuming. The exterior façade gives you no fair impression of what is inside. Once through the doors however, you can already tell that this is not going to be like the other restaurants in nearby Chinatown. I was surprised the young temptress at the door did not ask me for the password (Fidelio, duh).
Walking in, opulence gleams throughout every square inch of this establishment. It’s certainly tricked out with gold trim, red velvet, Italian marble, and many things Etruscan, statues only the start of it. Plush furniture, chandeliers, and very high ceilings give it a very Splendors of Versailles look. The centerpiece of the space however, is the “infinity stage”, which showcases dancers of some nature (exotic wouldn’t even begin to describe it). The stage hangs over the bar for all to see, and being encased in glass, it seamlessly fits in to the decor when not in use. Make no mistake, the dancers, which fall somewhere between Moulin Rouge and Zumanity, are a huge part of what makes SAX so unique.
I would conjecture as to whether or not SAX fits the standard definition of a restaurant. My initial impression is that you do not go here to be fed, you go here to be entertained. It’s apparent that the management want to dazzle your senses, and bathe you in luxury, at a price of course. This place is starting to feel like a bottle service type of club, except with a lean toward food. Reservations are the only way to secure a table, and by the looks of the clientele at the opening party, this place is 150% a dress-to-impress establishment. The real question I wanted to know was how the food and drink live up to the rest of the place.
The executive chef was surprisingly modest when I met him; a stark contrast to the bold food that was presented to me. Most dishes here were small plates meant to be shared.
Crudoes of carpaccio and ceviche certainly looked almost too beautiful to eat. Upon initial taste, it was apparent that the flavors are surprisingly delicate, which is how they should be for starters.
The italian charcuterie platter with roses made from lardo (cured pork belly) showed the heavier (more enjoyable?) sides of decadence. The main of wagyu beef cooked just how I like it (medium rare on the outside, rare on the inside) was near perfect, but surprisingly not the star of the plate. Rather, the polenta cakes that were stuffed with caviar stole the show. Clearly this menu was designed for royalty or Russian oil magnates.
All-too-important to the DC scene were the cocktails. Calling these libations “cocktails” does not do them justice. Using elements like gold foil, edible flowers encased in Japanese ice spheres, or molecular gastronomy techniques like using liquid nitrogen to encapsulate liquid drops suspended within the liquid of your drink showcase SAX’s sheer gall. I would not be surprised if SAX’s mixologists show up on DC’s competitive cocktail circuit.