Ciel Social Club brings Mount Vernon Triangle a scenic new spot to sip glamorous gimlets and sample tropical tuna towers from a notable chef who grew up in the Caribbean.
The glitzy, penthouse-style bar and restaurant arrives Thursday, November 11, atop the year-old AC Hotel Washington DC Convention Center (601 K Street NW), filling out its polished piece of rooftop real estate that was originally destined to be an in-house Spanish tapas place before the pandemic got in the way.
The 3,200-square-foot space’s reimagined identity as Ciel comes from D.C.’s fast-growing hospitality group Versus (HEIST, Casta’s Rum Bar, and Morris American Bar), which just expanded to Tysons Corner with opening of luxe Middle Eastern lounge Leila.
At Ciel, which is derived from the French word for “the heavens,” an opulent, 12-foot chandelier comprised of massive brass rings steals the show above a marble bar that plans to send out creative cocktails like a cotton candy gin sour, truffle oil-washed vesper, and olive oil-washed gimlet with mint oil.
Newly named executive chef Paul Yellin hails from Charleston, South Carolina’s Cane Rhum Bar, the Caribbean hotspot he closed last spring after a 4-year run. He came to D.C. to open Columbia Heights’s anticipated new bar De Rhum Spot but ended up parting ways with the project.
He finds footing at Ciel with a Mediterranean-leaning menu full of small plates that speaks to his seafood expertise, which includes an upbringing in Barbados and head chef role at a St. Lucia resort.
Opening dishes at Ciel include a seared tuna tower flanked with sumac aioli, shaved red onions, green papaya, tomato, crisp salmon skin, and citrus and lime “caviar” spheres. Braised octopus gets a kick from red pepper, smoked paprika, and spicy merguez sausage, finished with fennel and fresh oregano. An order of lamb carpaccio dressed with Moroccan spices, spicy cucumber pickle, and garlic herb oil arrives alongside warm naan.
Patrons shoot up an elevator from the hotel’s minimalist lobby to access the sleek, 135-seat setup that sports a wraparound terrace overlooking the downtown skyline. Ciel will capture a weekend crowd to start, with service from Thursday to Saturday nights. Daily hours and Sunday brunch are expected to debut next month.
D.C.-based Grizform Design Architects (Fiola, Estadio) put together the Champagne-toned look lined with mirrored backsplashes, pearly textured walls, an 18-foot marble communal table, and white-and-black tiled flooring.
AC Hotel, the modernist, Marriott-owned chain originally founded by Spanish entrepreneur Antonio Catalan, opened its DC Convention Center location in September 2020. Its lobby-level bar and lounge recently rebooted service following a months-long pandemic pause.