Spanish Food Gets a Modernist Latin Twist at TheSaga in West End

The fine-dining restaurant is the latest from the Seven Reasons team.

Bomba rice topped with seafood at TheSaga, the newest restaurant from the Seven Reasons team. Photograph by Deb Lindsey.

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TheSaga. 1190 22nd St., NW. 

Chef Enrique Limardo built a name for himself with his avant-garde Latin American cooking at Seven Reasons on 14th Street. He’s since expanded to Mediterranean-Latin at Imperfecto and French-Latin at Quadrant, both in the West End. Now, he and business partner Ezequiel Vázquez-Ger are venturing into Spanish-Latin at their newest “fun fine-dining” restaurant, TheSaga. It opens Tuesday, May 2, inside the same Ritz-Carlton where Quadrant is located.

While Limardo began his culinary training in his native Venezuela, he continued it in Spain where he worked f0r six years with several famed chefs at Michelin-starred restaurants. The saga behind TheSaga (one word) is his journey from that past to the present.

TheSaga’s take on patatas bravas. Photograph by Deb Lindsey.

The menu will feature plenty of classic Spanish dishes, but infused with Latin ingredients and dressed up with unexpected modern presentations. Take, for instance, patatas bravas. Instead of chunks of fried potato, the vegetable is shaved paper-thin then rolled up, ultimately resembling a vinyl disc. It’s accompanied by salsa brava amped up with mandarins and habaneros, as well as aioli spiked with Mexican Valentina hot sauce. Croquetas are a mash-up of flavors: a traditional salted cod version is paired with green mole, while a green-plantain rendition goes with romesco sauce.

Pan con tomate comes with five preparations of tomato including a spritz of tomato water. Photograph by Deb Lindsey.

One of Spain’s simplest dishes—pan con tomate, literally bread with tomato—also gets more complicated at TheSaga. Deep-fried housemade sourdough is topped with five types of tomato: a puree with garlic and olive oil, a green tomato “carpaccio,” a compote, a powder, and lastly, a spritz of clarified tomato water. “We recommend that before you get a bite of the pan con tomato, you get a spray in your mouth,” says head chef Jose “Nacho” Useche. “All the essence of the tomato goes into your mouth and to your nose.”

Arroz Negro with octopus, pork, blood sausage paste, and artichokes. Photograph by Deb Lindsey.

Bomba rice—topped with seafood, duck confit, or octopus and pork—is another main attraction. Other large platters include Spanish suckling pig with coconut rice and pickled pineapple, or a decadent bone-in ribeye dry-aged for 45 days.

A braised-oxtail-and-fried-calamari sandwich on sourdough comes with oxtail jus and soft-boiled egg for dipping. Photograph by Deb Lindsey.

Lunch and a more straightforward hotel breakfast will launch on May 3. The midday menu will have plenty of overlap with dinner, but will focus on lighter fare like salads and fish. One of the more intriguing offerings available at both meals is a surf-and-turf sandwich combining braised oxtail with deep-fried calamari and a bright radish salad. You can dip the sandwich into a bowl of the oxtail’s braising liquid with a soft-boiled egg.

TheSaga’s oxtail old-fashioned. Photograph by Deb Lindsey.

Oxtail also shows up in… a cocktail. Specifically, a fat-washed old-fashioned with a cube of ice featuring a lion. Beverage Director Carlos Boada also gussies up a classic negroni with at least a dozen ingredients, which are then clarified and served with gold-flake-dusted spherical ice.

The bar is a focal point of TheSaga’s light-to-dark dining room. Photograph by Deb Lindsey.

The space—from OOAK Architects, the same designers behind sister restaurant Imperfecto—features a clean, modern look with blown glass, burned wood, and handmade ceramics. The bright bar with an intricate wooden light fixture transitions into a more dramatic, dark dining room the further you walk in. In the background, expect an electro-flamenco soundtrack (think traditional Spanish music “but with a beat,” Vázquez-Ger say).

Meanwhile, the group’s restaurant-opening saga continues. Still to come: all-day cafe Surreal, planned for National Landing later this year.

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.