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When he’s not running Slate Wine Bar + Bistro in Glover Park, Danny Lledó is conquering the competition at paella contests locally, in California, and even in Spain. Some contests have extremely strict rules—entrants are forced to chop their own wood to cook the paella over and can’t take any shortcuts with the broth. Racking up six first-place finishes over the past three years gave Lledó the confidence to launch a restaurant that specializes in the saffron-laced rice dish.
Xiquet (pronounced “chee-KETT”) will open in the sun-drenched top floor of the building that houses Slate Wine Bar. Lledó is installing two Green Egg smokers and a wood-fired paella pit that customers will be able to see from the 30-seat dining room. The wine bar will remain on the first floor after a design and menu refresh and the mezzanine level will become a lounge where diners can sip everything from Scotch to madeira before and after meals. The restaurant will close in July for renovations before reopening again in mid-August with both concepts.
Paella is in Lledó’s blood. He comes from the port city of Denía, Spain, south of Valencia—the birthplace of paella. “Denía is the second most gastronomically important city in Spain after San Sebastián,” Lledó says. “It’s rich in seafood. It has a port right there. And there’s a three-Michelin-star restaurant.”
That restaurant is Quique Dacosta and its former maître d’ of 12 years, Didier Fertilati, is consulting on both Xiquet and the reimagined Slate Wine Bar. “[Denía] is a small town even though it’s large during the summer because of tourists, but the old families in town all know each other,” Lledó says explaining how he built a relationship with Fertilati. “Everyone at Michelin knowns him. People always talk about the back of the house being celebrities, but he is the celebrity in the front of the house.” Fertilati will be in D.C. for the opening.
It’s fitting, then, that one of Lledó’s goals is to elevate the food and service enough to earn a Michelin star for Xiquet, though not necessarily in the first few years. His creative paellas should help. One features duck confit with black trumpet mushrooms, asparagus, and foie gras topped with either pomegranate or figs depending on the season. There will always be four to six paellas on the menu.
Lledó tapped Rachael Buehrer, formerly of wine distributor The Country Vintner, to serve as the general manager and sommelier of both restaurants. She’s building a wine list that will emphasize Spanish and domestic wines. Slate Wine Bar’s new menu will be made up of small plates more typical of a wine bar than the current menu that has appetizers and entrées.
When Xiquet opens, it will offer dinner Tuesdays through Saturdays. “This is a dream come true for me,” Lledó says. “It’s not a dream in the sense that it’s far fetched. It’s something that I’ve worked really hard at for years.”
Slate Wine Bar and Xiquet, 2404 Wisconsin Ave. NW; (202) 333-4304; slatewinebar.com