Duck tongue chicharron?
It turns out there is something new under the sun, at least in Washington, where an ambitious chef from Baltimore is dazzling diners with dishes bridging modernity with Latin America, “from the Caribbean to Patagonia,” says Enrique Limardo, late of the stellar Alma Cocina Latina in Charm City.
Suffice it to say, Seven Reasons, introduced by the Venezuelan native on 14th Street NW in April, taps into what a lot of dining enthusiasts want right now. “We are at Seven Reasons,” texted a gal pal shortly after the three-story restaurant set sail. “All I can say is OMG!!!!!”
Her multiple exclamation points are warranted. Based on recent dinners, I can think of seven reasons Seven Reasons is a restaurant to watch — or better yet, book:
1) Before you have to ask, the menu lets you know it’s inclusive, with plenty of medium-size plates (my ideal) and dishes tailored for those who don’t eat meat. “I like a challenge,” says Limardo, 43, who plans to feature a vegan menu for three months sometime next year.
2) It might look like scrapple, cut into coins and strewn with cilantro microgreens, but the aforementioned chicharron may have you rethinking any allegiance to fried pork rinds. Limardo’s snack is at once crunchy and soft, striped with a sweet-sour amber syrup (infused with merkén, made with ground smoked chiles) and set on a swipe of butter and feta cheese. Dip, dip away.
3) Jelly tomato salad manages the neat trick of being both light and rich. Picture shimmering cubes of gelatin flavored with five kinds of tomato, arranged around a mound of biting greens with bits of fried potato, shaved black truffle and sheer melon. Summer will be a lot cooler thanks to this revivifying vegan dish.
4) Limardo went for a chic jungle look with the space, formerly occupied by Piola. Ivy and other plants are everywhere. “Nature is going to take over the place,” says the chef, who continues to add green to the scene. Comfort comes by way of Turkish leather chairs.
5) Behind the bar is Josue Gonzalez, whose previous drinks enhanced dinners at Bresca and St. Anselm. Count on such intrigues as the Star of Venezuela, featuring aged rum, lime and allspice — and a garnish of star fruit, of course. True to its menu description, the swirl is “refreshing, crisp, enchanting.”
6) Skate ravioli resurrects a taste of Alma Cocina Latina, where I was introduced to Limardo’s cooking, informed as much by his travels around the world (Dubai, Hong Kong, Paris) as a private chef as by his time in Venezuela, where the food borrows from Italy, Spain and West Africa. Plantains help create the dough for the fish-stuffed, sea urchin-topped, squid ink-sauced pasta, based on a childhood memory for the chef: “My grandmother made ravioli de chuchos every Sunday.” Her grandson adds a crisp flourish — seafood “paper,” hovering over the pasta.
The name? “I believe so much in the number seven,” a special digit in a number of cultures, says the chef.
Limardo’s business partner is Ezequiel Vázquez-Ger, who gave up a career as a political consultant to help the chef achieve his goal. His pitch to Limardo was direct, says the kitchen maestro: “I don’t want to travel to Baltimore to eat your food.”
Which brings me to a seventh reason for Washingtonian food lovers to cheer — a shorter commute to a terrific restaurant.
2208 14th St. NW. 202-290-2630. sevenreasonsdc.com. Medium plates, $17 to $27 (more for dishes designed for two or more).