A year ago, some people predicted that the pandemic would put an end to fine dining between the new takeout craze and Covid’s economic impact. But that hasn’t come true as diners are eager for experiences outside the delivery box, and chefs are catering to customers at a variety of comfort levels in creative ways.
Cue Imperfecto, the newest restaurant from Seven Reasons chef Enrique Limardo and partner Ezequiel Vázquez-Ger. The chic Latin-Mediterranean restaurant opens in West End on Friday, March 19 with luxe touches like a chef’s tasting table, artful cocktail bar, and 98-seat dining room for Limardo’s modernist menus.
The idea for Imperfecto (translation: Imperfect) was born over the last pandemic year.
“The idea is as humans, you can never be perfect. You don’t want to be perfect, because then you won’t learn or evolve,” says Vázquez-Ger. “The pandemic has taught us to evolve and be better every day, and we’ve improved everything: the food, the service, the atmosphere.”
Seven Reasons can be considered one of DC’s surprising pandemic success stories. The upscale Latin restaurant and national media darling opened in April 2019 with a lively bar scene and artful (re: not takeout-friendly) share plates. But the restaurant began to evolve quickly last March with creative to-go options like modernist cocktail kits and private at-home ceviche tastings, and hired back nearly all their full-time employees. When indoor dining resumed, they took an elevated approach with prepaid reservations and more prix-fixe options—finer dining features that inspired Imperfecto.
“When we reopened [Seven Reasons], we wondered, do we go for a lower price point and more volume? Or a higher cost and go for quality? We’ll never have volume in the pandemic, but if we go for a higher quality of product and service, that’s good,” Vázquez-Ger told Washingtonian last year. “We had a restaurant owner come in and tell us: before this place was too loud, too busy, now it’s perfect. The quality of food, the relaxed atmosphere, you can really enjoy what’s going on at the table.”
With that in mind, Vázquez-Ger says he plans to open Imperfecto slowly: indoor dinner service to start, followed by the opening of an adjoining 30-seat private dining room, then evenings on the 60-seat patio, and eventually takeout and delivery. Capacity and bar service will depend on DC Covid regulations.
Diners will have a few menu options inside the airy space designed by Greek-Swedish studio OOAK Architects, filled with Italian hand-cut marble, tables tucked into domed alcoves, and two long wooden tables for larger parties or chef’s tastings. The latter offers the biggest splurge: an 11-course menu ($140 per person) full of dishes that aren’t available elsewhere in the restaurant, which can be paired with Champagnes and other sparkling wines. Diners can also opt for family-style tastings at individual tables with omnivore or vegetarian options for $115 per person.
Limardo, a native Venezuelan who’s run restaurants from Caracas to Baltimore, is known for whimsical plates that blend classic and modernist techniques, and here, marry flavors of Latin America and the Mediterranean. For the a la carte menu, you’ll find dishes like a braised lamb terrine that Limardo has been perfecting over 20 years with creamy Robuchon potato puree, red cabbage confit, lamb jus, and truffle. Other plates fuse flavors like ricotta and harissa-stuffed ravioli with preserved lemon; tuna tartare with “Latin toum” and shishito puree; or foie gras with plantain brioche, soursop-grapefruit compote, and black truffle. Limardo says that more than ever his kitchen is taking a no-waste approach, sourcing whole animals and fish, and utilizing scraps in creative ways like a smoky black “vegetable ash” made from 40 different varieties of produce that flavors marinades or garnishes dishes.
“In the past year I’ve learned a lot of resilience, how to keep focused, and how to better use all your resources,” says Limardo.
Imperfecto. 1124 23rd St., NW. Reservations available via Tock, Tuesday through Sunday.