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The 100-seat newcomer is anchored by an illuminated marble bar.
Deb Lindsey

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Spanish-Themed Saga Is Chef Enrique Limardo’s Most Ambitious D.C. Project Yet

The West End welcomes an inventive Spanish restaurant full of Latin twists and turns

Tierney Plumb is the editor of Eater DC, covering all things food and drink around the nation's capital.

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).

Mexican Gulf shrimp, olive oil, butter, spanish guindilla, dried Calabrian peppers, chile de árbol, and lemon.
Deb Lindsey

“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.

“Steak tartare” (prime New York strip, cornichon, shallots, capers, marinated quail egg yolk, bread chips).
Deb Lindsey
The “pa amb tomaquet” features homemade sourdough, garlic, plum tomatoes, sliced Mexican tomatoes, tomato powder, and a tomato spritz finish.
Deb Lindsey

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.

Dry-aged ribeye with morita pepper butter, marble potatoes, shishito peppers, and cremini mushrooms.
Deb Lindsey

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).

Square-shaped skillets of Bomba rice come topped with an array of proteins.
Deb Lindsey

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.

Chocolate churros at TheSaga.
Deb Lindsey
Torched cotton candy melts into a flute of Crema Catalana foam, tamarillo ice cream, orange-hibiscus coulis, and honey comb.
Deb Lindsey

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.

The Exotic Cosmo (Grey Goose, Nordes gin, Yzaguirre vermouth rosado, strawberries, cranberries, mint, pears, orange, lemon, foamer).
Deb Lindsey
The namesake Saga comes with St. George gin, Disaronno, plums, Red Rooibos tea, lime, cinnamon, honey, and egg whites.
Deb Lindsey

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.

The Royal Negroni (clarified Roku, Astobiza, vermouth, melon, grapefruit, cardamon, turmeric).
Deb Lindsey
The dining room gets moodier with blown glass, dramatic drapes, and dark woods.
Deb Lindsey

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