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
One woman's journey to eat all the food. Or at least, most of it.