As the name suggests, the premise behind Imperfecto is that no restaurant is perfect, and its goal should be to continuously improve to achieve the best dining experience for its guests. The restaurant’s mission statement, as shown in its website, declares that it will seek perfection, but will never achieve it (and does not want to). In a world filled with self-absorbed star chefs so confident with their craft (in many instances, overly so compared to the actual product coming out from their kitchen), it was a very refreshing statement. And you know what? The ambitious restaurant from Venezuela born chef Enrique Limardo, who initially made his name in the DC dining scene with Seven Reason, deserves all the hype it received since its opening last year. When my wife Jun and I visited the restaurant back in January, we decided to go all-in on the degustation experience at the communal chef table. We loved it so much that we ended up visiting the restaurant again a few months later, again at the chef table.
On most of the weekends, chef Enrique is personally managing the counter for the chef table experience, meticulously preparing the ten or so dishes himself. Of course, you can get regular table reservations for either a la carte or tasting experience (which we have not yet tried yet), but really if your wallet condition permits (each seat last time I checked costs $210 per person, paid up front) for an eye-opening culinary experience, the chef table experience is the way to do it. The cuisine at Imperfecto, a loose blend of Latin America and Mediterranean if you are forced to somehow define it, was quite revelatory. Chef Enrique is not afraid to mix and match different ingredients for truly creative and delicious dishes. Both of our visits, the tasting menu began with a thin Oreo-like snack with tomato powder and Osetra caviar inside. After our first bite, we realized that our meal would be something special.
There were overlapping dishes during our two visits, such as tuna toro crostini shaped like cigars, with ricotta cheese and caviar on top, to give wonderful complexity of flavor and texture (it seems the regular tables also often offer some variations of this dish), or the wagyu with balsamic that was exceptionally juicy and tasty (both times, accompanied by some type of gratin side dish). My personal favorite, which appeared in both times we visited, was the impeccably roasted duck breast with pan seared foie gras and apple-coconut compote; we have pretty high standards when it comes to restaurant duck dishes, but both agreed that the one from Imperfecto is one of the best we have had in our culinary journey.
Other times, chef Enrique gave some changes to the menu depending on the season. During our first visit in the winter, I was especially fond of the wild kampachi dish that was grilled very well and accompanied by tomato-pine nut muhammara sauce and spiced eggplant to give extra flavor to the fish, as well as the Australian king prawn with snow crab cake that really showcased chef Enrique’s dexterity with seafood. On our second visit, the salmon and lubina swirl crudo in sea urchin and strawberry leche de tigre was a delightfully refreshing appetizer quite fitting for the month before the summer when we were visiting.
The desserts from the restaurant’s pastry chef Genesis Flores are also not to be missed. She seems to really understand how to play the dessert game with seasonality in mind. On our first visit in January, the tropical baba dish with baba au rhum and toasted milk ice cream was rich and complex in flavor that you would want on a cold winter night. On the return visit near the summer, she came up with this refreshing dish named “la nube” consisting of passion fruit lychee gel, amaretto vanilla custard, white chocolate foam and pistachio meringue that I couldn’t stop thinking about even a few weeks after I tried it.
Perhaps due to its price tag, reserving the seats at the chef table experience (available on Tock) wasn’t as challenging as some of the top dining destinations in DC, although both of our visits, the table was full. If you want to get as close to the front of the table where you have the opportunity to chat with chef Enrique, who is by the way very friendly and not afraid to answer any questions on the dishes, I suggest you show up as early as possible at the restaurant. The beverage offering at Imperfecto is also outstanding, with some creative and well-crafted cocktails that can help you get started on the meal, and a thoughtfully curated wine list from all over the world thanks to the energetic sommelier Raquel Ortega (who also hosts wine tasting events from time to time at the restaurant).
The sleek interior of the restaurant, as well as mostly very well-dressed dining crowds, gives you a very upscale vibe that is also a plus. My only suggestion for the restaurant to think about in terms of layout is to have a closed space for the chef table experience to give a bit more aura of exclusivity as it was at times slightly distracting to be in the open center of the dining space with other diners from regular tables walking around. Regardless, Jun and I are so excited we discovered Imperfecto, and look forward to visiting again and again in the future. It is hands down one of the best restaurants in DC we have been so since our move to the city from New York City last year. Chef Enrique certainly knows how to put his magic touch on his food, and I look forward to seeing how his culinary vision evolves over time.
KenScale: 9.0/10 (Jun’s Score: 9.0/10)
Address: 1124 23rd St NW, Washington, DC 20037
Reservation via Tock