There’s a Fresh Crop of Boundary-Pushing Tasting Menus in DC. How Do They Compare?

Planning a special occasion?

There’s a Fresh Crop of Boundary-Pushing Tasting Menus in DC. How Do They Compare?
El Cielo's take on an old fashioned. Photograph by @4mybelly/Instagram.

Champagne and truffles? Sure, but a new breed of ultra-luxury tasting menus is pushing boundaries—and budgets—with chocolate hand massages and strawberries that require their own plane ticket. Here’s what you’ll find at four exciting newcomers.


El Cielo


Imperfecto Chief’s Table


14th Street corridor

1904 14th St., NW

Union Market

1280 Fourth St., NE (inside La Cosecha food hall)

Glover Park

2404 Wisconsin Ave., NW

Downtown DC

1124 23rd St., NW

Price Per Person


$185 to $228




Owner Ryan Ratino Colombian founder Juan Manuel “Juanma” Barrientos Owner Danny Lledó Co-owner Enrique Limardo

Number of Seats




10 to 12

for two seatings Friday and Saturday


Modernist food temple—the gleaming white tasting counter flanks a kitchen filled with tweezer-wielding chefs. Like dining in a gorgeous, plant-filled modern Medellín home. As if your stylish Valencian friend is hosting a house party—with aperitivo and snacks, a seated dinner, and vintage Madeira in the cushy lounge. Intimate and exclusive. The oak chef’s table, visible from the chic dining room, adjoins a kitchen with a stone oven where Limardo cooks directly for guests.

Number of courses


13 to 22

14 to 18

14 to 16

Drink Pairing

$195 for the “classic,” or $395 for the “iconic” pairing that showcases premier wineries, magnums of Champagne, and vintage sake. There are five-glass ($95) and ten-glass pairings ($150) with sips such as vintage Krug Champagne and boutique Chi­lean and Argentinean wines. $190 for prestige Spanish wines, sherry, and late-harvest Txakoli. $160 for wines curated by sommelier Raquel Ortega.

Standout Ingredients

“Auction grade” Hokkaido uni, and Japanese strawberries that require a connection through the Japanese Embassy and a trip to NYC to purchase. Exotic Colombian fruits including citrusy lulo and uchuvas (ground cherries). Red prawns from Dénia, Spain—Lledó claims to be the only chef importing them in the United States. Lemon ants make a citrusy syrup for petits fours, and earthy Amazonian termites are used to make a truffle salt.

Wow Moment

A duck that takes three weeks to plate. That includes dry-aging the breast, curing sausage, making duck tea, and pressing the bones for sauce. El cafetal, in which Colombian coffee is served with native plants ensconced in vaporous liquid nitrogen to mimic a misty mountain plantation. Wood-fired paella—Lledó is an award-winning paella competitor—such as oxtail topped with foie gras and truffles. Limardo begins brushing a giant slab of dry-aged A5 Wagyu with balsamic vinegar halfway through the meal. For the final course, he torches it at the table.

This article appears in the February 2022 issue of Washingtonian.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.

Ann Limpert
Executive Food Editor/Critic

Ann Limpert joined Washingtonian in late 2003. She was previously an editorial assistant at Entertainment Weekly and a cook in New York restaurant kitchens, and she is a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education. She lives in Petworth.