I'll be the first to admit that I rarely venture into that mystical land known as Northern Virginia even though it's basically right across the river and only a few Metro stops away. However, once in a blue moon (read: a couple times a month), I venture across to meet my partner in crime (and food) Graham for lunch, who works over in Rosslyn.
Instead of hitting up one of the millions of chain restaurants available in business-heavy area around the Metro station, we decided to try Kanpai, a small Japanese restaurant tucked away - like everything else around there - on the bottom level of a business building.
Today's NSOL features:
1401 Wilson Blvd, Arlington VA
While I'm pretty wary of Japanese restaurants which pander to the suit and tie lunch crowd - usually this means soggy seaweed and overly sweet teriyaki - I was actually pleasantly by Kanpai. More than anything, their extensive lunch specials cost around or the same as what your average desk lunch would cost - $10 or thereabouts.
As expected, none of this was particularly mind blowing but I was compelled to write about this place simply because most of the lunch menu items are tasty, filling and literally cost less your average Panera or Chipotle* meal.
So, to summarize:
What's the deal: Decent Japanese food at an extremely competitive price, caters to the business crowd in the Rosslyn area
Wallet damage: Most lunch special items are under $10; they come with miso soup and salad as starters
What to get: The various donburi rice bowls, definitely the tempura. Skip the raw items.
*At least it does with me. My Chipotle order is a sofritas/carnitas bowl on a bed of lettuce. It costs almost $10 or more, especially with the extra guac (DAMN YOU CHIPOTLE).
I will complain to anyone who listens that the District proper is severely lacking in good Asian food (with the possible exception of Vietnamese food), be it Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Filipino and so on (RIP Burma). Trekking out to Northern Virginia and parts of surburban Maryland does prove more fruitful but on a weeknight, or even during a busy weekend, this is hard to make time for.
In comes Crane & Turtle, which is by no means an "authentic" (I hate that word, with regards to food) Japanese restaurant but was something I eagerly anticipated anyways by checking on the progress of its storefront in Petworth.
Basically a French-Japanese fusion restaurant, C&T is another brainchild of Paul Ruppert who is also the co-owner of other DC favorites Room 11 and The Passenger, among others. Former CityZen chef Makoto Hamamura looks after the food, which as said before, is a combination of both French and Japanese techniques, flavors and ingredients.
One Sunny Friday evening, I was able to score a coveted reservation slot via their email system and we headed north to Petworth.
And so to the food:
In the background is a sea trout carpaccio, which is kind of like a more interesting take on salmon tartare, done here with avocado mousse, smoked ikura (YAAAAS) and dill creme fraiche. In the foreground was the daily "amuse de mer" special, mackerel sashimi, which I absolutely cannot say no to. All of this was delicious and demolished in about five seconds. I especially liked the shiso leaf with the mackerel, which was a good foil to the dense, oily fish.
Thought it was a little weird that you got the bread after the seafood "amuses" but no harm done. Pretty good quality though perhaps not baked on the premises? Similar to the very well-appointed decor of the restaurant, this was served in a very lovely wooden bowl and teeny tiny butter knife. The flatware for all the other courses were pretty and complemented the presentation as well.
Skate wing tempura with cucumber and grapefruit in the background here. The batter was ridiculously crispy and the fish was served piping hot which is crucial. I'd never had skate wing done tempura style before, so this was a nice, new bite to experience. In front is the now famous pork "ramen", where the "noodles" are actually fried pork rinds. Probably (and predictably) my favorite dish of the evening - great smoky and meaty broth, the fried "noodles" soaking everything up and fall apart in your mouth pork.
My main course, the Szechuan-style duck. The biggest disappointed of the night in a meal that'd be going very well until that point. Despite being a visually perfect medium rare, the duck breast itself was actually fairly chewy and I found the dandan sauce (which is supposed to be simultaneously spicy and numbing at the same time) too anemic. I did like the inclusion of the yuba, or tofu skins, which something I had frequently as a kid in Hong Kong but sadly not so much as an adult.
On the flip side, the other entree of the night was drop dead delicious: charcoal grilled short ribs which was meltingly tender and had a fantastic smoky flavor from the coals. Summer English peas in the barley risotto were a fun play on traditional risotto, all set off a bright green bordelaise sauce that tied everything together.
We were pretty stuffed by this point so we plumped for a "Mount Fuji" lava cake with caramel sauce and ice cream to share. It was...fine, like most other lava cake desserts you've had at literally every other restaurant. (This is probably why I don't get desserts </grump>)
Food: 4.5/5. Creative flavor combinations and actually manages to pull off the dreaded "fusion" approach, if not for a few minor missteps.
Drinks: 4/5. Good and actually quite affordable wine selection. Markup on "exotic" Japanese whiskeys is a bit outrageous though - we all know about those by now.
Ambiance: A lovely use of their small Petworth space, with their signature blue and white and homey touches integrated throughout.
Jasmine says: A solid 4.5 chomps. Would definitely come back for thoughtful, well-flavored food that won't leave you overly satiated and rolling out the door. Now if only we could do something about the location...
Crane & Turtle is located at:
828 Upshur St NW, Washington D.C. 20011
Reservations available via email at: email@example.com
It's always nice to be able to take a break and head home to LA for a few days. While the Washington DC food scene is certainly improving, the District itself still very much lacks good Chinese food options, unless you make the trek out to certain suburban areas in Maryland and Virginia where there is a larger Asian immigrant community.
I get my love of food from my family so obviously each visit home to my parents means good eating, whether it's at home or out at local restaurants.
One woman's journey to eat all the food. Or at least, most of it.