The D.C. hospitality group behind a growing collection of Latin-rooted eateries added a modern Spanish marvel to its repertoire on Tuesday, May 2.
Seven Restaurant Group’s Michelin-starred chef Enrique Limardo and co-owner Ezequiel Vázquez-Ger transform The Ritz-Carlton Washington D.C. corner long occupied by Westend Bistro into TheSaga, an energetic destination for vibrantly colored rices, meaty mains, infused gins, and all sorts of complex and deconstructed spins on Spanish staples that speak to Limardo’s long culinary career (1150 22nd Street NW).
“Saga for me is a celebratory because it’s the journey of a part of my life,” says the Venezuelan-born chef, who honed his fine-dining chops while studying in Basque Country for years. “Every dish has tweaks here and there to make them unique.”
Gazpacho presented with a Manchego foam finish goes the tropical route with mango and tangerine flavors, while gambas al ajillo (garlicky sauteed shrimp) gets an extra kick from potent Mexican chili peppers. Pan con tomate celebrates the tomato many ways, from carpaccio-style tomatillos to a spritz bottle of clarified tomato water served on the side. Limardo turns other treasured tapas on their head. Instead of employing fried potato chunks for patatas bravas, he shaves the spud razor-thin, rolls it up like a vinyl disc, and brings the heat with habaneros. Playful presentations also include a Fabergé egg-like vessel to house Limardo’s offbeat answer to steak tartare. Spain’s ubiquitous croqueta is also in play. A traditional (salted cod) filling teams up with green mole, while a Dominican Republic variation is made of green plantains.
At luxe, Mediterranean-leaning Imperfecto, which debuted right across from the posh hotel in spring 2021, the group clinched its first Michelin star for the elaborate tasting menus at Limardo’s “Chef’s Table” station. Their scene-y, modernist Latin predecessor Seven Reasons — named Esquire’s No. 1 new restaurant in the country after its 2019 debut on 14th Street NW — was followed up with a playful offshoot called Joy by Seven Reasons in Chevy Chase last year. TheSaga completes the team’s takeover of the Ritz’s lobby-level dining establishments, starting with their French-leaning (and live music) makeover of Quadrant Lounge last fall.
All-day Saga, the group’s fifth restaurant to date, opens daily for breakfast (7 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.), lunch (11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.), and dinner (5 p.m. to 10 p.m.). The menu, starting with morning omelettes, avocado toast, and pancakes, gets fancier as the day progresses with a braised oxtail-and-calamari sandwich on sourdough for lunch. Dinner brings three-figured orders to the table, like Spanish suckling pig with coconut rice and pickled pineapple; a sizable sous-vide lamb shoulder with guava and sweet potato gratin; and big bone-in ribeye dry-aged for 45 days.
Bomba rice dotted with seafoods and meats is another star of the show at night. “We have five different rices divided into colors and inspired by [various] regions and proteins,” says Limardo.
He doesn’t want pigeonhole the section by calling it “paella,” as each two-person order is wildly different and arrives in a square (not circular) skillet. A duck confit variety embraces Peruvian flavors alongside baby radishes, cremini mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, and brown butter puree. A vegan option comprised of roasted beet puree, pink sweet potato, and white fava beans ($40) joins a pescatarian’s dream dish of Mexican gulf prawns, Maine lobster, and New Zealand mussels alongside pearl onions, asparagus, garlic aioli, and tomato compote ($80).
Executive pastry chef Genesis Flores’s theatrical Spanish finales also hit different here. Blow-torched cotton candy melts into the “It’s Not Crema Catalana” dessert that showcases ice cream made from South American fruit (tamarillo). Porcini churros go goth with a mezcal guajillo chocolate sauce in a clear skull-shaped glass.
Sommelier Raquel Ortega sticks to a Spanish-heavy wine list of 70 labels, with lots of homemade sangria in sight, and beverage director Carlos Boada puts gin front and center at the bar. His opening list of nine colorful cocktails ($17-$23) come packed with plenty of fruits and florals for spring.
The 4,000-square-foot restaurant’s clean, raw, and minimalist look comes from an award-winning Spanish designer at OOAK who’s also behind Imperfecto across the street. Like its nearby sibling, TheSaga features a chef’s table and open kitchen to let guests watch the team at work. Natural materials like burnt wood and marble join earthy tones, homemade ceramics, and illustrated wall tiles meant to resemble cave murals.
A wraparound patio is expected to go live in the coming weeks. And Limardo’s culinary training will come full circle this summer when chef Ramón Freixa, one of his many Michelin-starred mentors in Spain, will do a guest cooking stint at TheSaga.
Next up for Seven Reasons Group: opening all-day restaurant Surreal at National Landing’s Amazon HQ2 later this year.