A new hip lounge in Washington DC

When you walk into SAX it is almost like you are walking into a nightclub. Red velvet curtains line the walls and grandiose chandeliers hang from the tiled ceiling. I wondered if it felt similar to someone walking into the Moulin Rouge for the first time at the turn of 20th century. I honestly didn’t know what to expect. It was like walking into to another place and time.

Don’t come to this lounge for a formal dinner because all you will find is tapas/small plates on the menu – they are – however – so good!  The Blue Crab & Gruyere Fondue was reminiscent of the local Chesapeake favorite, blue crab dip, but with a clever upscale twist. Big chunks of lump crab meat float in a rich and decadent pot of warm melted cheese that has been dressed up with sherry. It is served with an assortment of bread for dipping: pumpernickel, sourdough and a sweet raisin walnut. The bread is tossed in Old Bay seasoning. It was rich and salty, with a hint of parmesan cheese.

We also tried the American Wagyu Beef Tartar, which is not usually something I would order but sounded interesting enough to try – so glad I did. Tomato, basil and pine nuts were incorporated into the tartar. The term Wagyu refers to a few breeds of Japanese cattle that are known for high quality of meat and heavy marbling. In America, Wagyu cattle have been bred with Angus cattle. The tartar was subtle and refreshing. The tomato added a little acid to balance out the dish.  We also had Oyster sliders and Prawns which were both delicious but  the show… lets talk about the show!

The first burlesque show of the evening started at about the time our tartar reached the table. It was based on “Big Spender” from the musical “Chicago”. The burlesque shows at SAX, in a word, are riveting. I could barely turn away. They are spaced roughly 20 minutes apart and last for 5 minutes or so. The shows are kind of like a miniature, sexy Cirque du Soleil act. Scantily clad women and men in masquerade perform stunning acrobatics and dance moves in a graceful and tasteful way while a DJ spins music. The music was sort of a ragtime meets techno. The acts take place in a glass room over the bar that dominates the venue. Every seat offered a great view of the shows.

Of course you must be wondering about the drinks… two of the cocktails were quite remarkable. The Scandalous was an edgy version of the Screwdriver. The base liquor was vodka. Instead of orange juice they used fresh squeezed tangerine juice with a touch of lemon. They kicked it up by adding ginger and habanero. It was tangy with a little spice to it. The Shaky Alibi, made with Reposado tequila, lavender, agave nectar, lime juice and egg whites was full of flavor and well balanced. The craftsmanship and attention to detail really comes through in the drinks.

SAX offers a tantalizing feast for the eyes as well as the palate. There is nothing else like it in DC. If you are looking for a new experience, I would strongly recommend giving them a try.

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