When I visited: April 2016
Team: Francesco Apreda (Head Chef)
Rating in the Michelin Guide: 1 star
What to wear: Men – shirt and jacket and nice trousers and shoes; women – a smart dress and/or smart trousers and a top
Ambience: Romantic, intimate
Course of the meal: Marinara risotto, mussels and black lime
If I could change one thing: Serve butter or olive oil with breads
Imago’s instant USP is its views over the city of Rome at sunset, which saw many guests glued to the windows to take photos of the ever-changing sky. The romantic, intimate atmosphere complements the friendly and professional service, the warm red décor and the slightly jazzy piano music.
My partner Owl and I started with a glass of Dom Perignon (2006) each, which was very dry and tasty and selected from a good range of aperitif choices. We were given some tiny but perfectly formed amuses bouches to go with the champagne – penne with chilli tomato, quail egg with fried pastry, and savoury ‘cheesecake’ with pumpkin.
While perusing the menus we sampled an impressive bread selection initially served in two bowls, including breadsticks, sesame flatbreads, and focaccia. During the meal they brought an extra bowl of dark and lighter buns placed over a burning candle to keep it warm. The breads were served with a creamy cheese; a slight improvement might be to also offer butter or olive oil as an accompaniment.
We went for the ‘classics’ tasting menu out of a choice that also included a different tasting menu with global elements. The Classics menu had Indian touches (although in fact the waiter informed us that the head chef used to manage an Italian restaurant in Tokyo) and made for an innovative, deft blend of Asian influence and Italian classics.
The whole menu was solid and courses were nice and small, rather than voluminous, and well spaced out so we didn’t get too full too quickly. Occasionally, the cutlery choices were slightly odd – for instance, different cutlery might have been better for the vermicelli – but the crockery was beautiful.
The sommelier helped us choice a bottle of white 2013 Viognier Crotin from Piedmont, Conti Di Calosso, which was wonderfully buttery and a good accompaniment to all the courses. The first course was red shrimps and cardamom with ham and melon – a good twist on an Italian classic starter. The next, mackerel and foie gras, was deliciously soft, and the Parmigiana “scallops style” with infusion of friggitelli peppers which followed was just as tasty.
The next three courses showed off the chef’s skill with sauces and broths. The Parmesan cheese ravioli in cold tuna broth, double malt and 7 spices was wonderfully balanced, and my “course of the meal” followed – Marinara risotto with mussels and black lime. The soy vermicelli with amber jack sauce demonstrated a good fusion of Japanese and Italian ideas, but wasn’t my personal favourite course – maybe “little worms” just aren’t for me!
The “mains” were a high point for me – no main course dip here. The sake-glazed black cod with purple vegetables was beautifully tender, while the tandoori-style duck breast with cocoa powder reminded me of some of the best dishes at Gymkhana. The desserts didn’t disappoint at all – the Napolitan sfogliatella in “Samosa” style with green tea ice cream avoided being over-sweet and made for a good palate cleanser, while the sweet Bufalo mozzarella with fruit and balsamic vinegar shaved ice came close to stealing the “course of the meal” spot.
With our green tea (served slightly minty in a traditional silver teapot) we got a lovely array of petits fours: a madeleine, pistachio mini macaron, mini raspberry financier, mini orange jelly, chocolate ganache, cocoa cookie, and mini lemon meringue. We even got a “takeaway” course to enjoy for breakfast – a sweet cherry muffin in an Imago red box.
Although perhaps none of the courses stuck out a mile as being the best example of that food I’ve ever eaten, which stopped this restaurant gaining 5 hoots, the overall menu was really solid and enjoyable, and the stunning view and great service definitely enhanced the romanza.