After running a consistently sold-out pop-up nightclub on the Kennedy Center’s rooftop all summer, Vinoda Basnayake knew there was a “serious demand for that product.”
That’s what inspired the lobbyist and nightlife entrepreneur to launch Ciel Social Club, a 3,200-square-foot rooftop lounge and restaurant on top of the new AC Hotel in Mount Vernon Triangle. It’s the latest addition to Versus, a lifestyle and entertainment company founded by Basnayake that also includes Morris American Bar near the Convention Center, bank robber-themed nightclub Heist in Dupont Circle, Cuban-inspired Casta’s Rum Bar in Foggy Bottom, and Leila, a just-opened Indian/Persian/Middle Eastern restaurant and lounge in Tysons.
The open-air space with wraparound terrace offers 360-degree views, allowing you to see the Capitol dome and Washington Monument. Step inside the accordion doors, and you’ll find a 12-foot brass chandelier, black-and-white tiled floor, and mirrored backsplashes. The lounge seats 135 across banana-bark tables and a communal table made of solid marble.
The name Ciel is French for “the heavens,” and the interior colors of turquoise and gold aim to add to the heavenly feel. “We wanted people to feel like it was a magical space, that they’ve escaped from the rest of DC and they’re in the clouds,” Basnayake says.
Basnayake also wants Ciel to have a “supper club feel, where you know you’re there for a really nice meal, great drinks, and ambience, and then it slowly turns into more of a lounge with the DJ and the music.”
Executive chef Paul Yellin, formerly of Charleston’s Cane Rhum Bar, was tapped to create a menu of Mediterranean-focused small plates. There are seafood staples, like a seared tuna tower and braised octopus cazuela (stew), as well as land options such as lamb carpaccio served with warm naan.
Versus beverage director Hank Bowers created a cocktail menu that has a “gorgeous-club-meets-enchanted-forest feeling.” Menu highlights include a twist on the French 75, which features cotton candy, and the “Fantome,” a completely clear pineapple and rum drink. During tastings, one of the most popular items has been the vodka drink made with the tapioca bubbles common in boba tea.
“It’s not done for the show. It’s not done for the purpose of the Instagram-ability of the drink,” Basnayake says. “It’s done because he’s actually infusing flavor into the whimsical component of the drink, which makes it like a perfectly balanced drink.”
Ciel Social Club will be open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings only to start. Daily service and brunch are expected to begin in December.
Ciel Social Club. 601 K St., NW.