Let’s cut straight to the chase: Last week’s dinner at Crane & Turtle was my favorite meal of the year thus far. And as much as I want to preface about how Rachel and I surprise each other for where we’re going to dinner on our respective birthdays, I figured out the destination of our reservation rather quickly as the both of us have been wanting to try Paul Ruppert’s latest restaurant since it opened last year.
Nestled in a residential area of Petworth and located directly across the street from sister restaurant Petworth Citizen, chef Makoto Hamamura skillfully blends his Japanese heritage with his French training, which makes Crane & Turtle’s menu one of the most unique in the District. And with only 25 seats, it’s also one of the most intimate, too.
Take for instance our first course, the beautifully-presented big-eye tuna tataki. The tuna, which was smoked over hay, added a new dimension to the dish as the smokiness really added some flavor to the already high-quality slices of fish. Atop a satay sauce and garnished with pieces of socca, which is essentially a chickpea pancake, the combination of crunch and smoke really won us over after the first bite.
The warm bok choy salad was another departure from your typical appetizer. Accompanied with a blend of bamboo shoots and snow peas, fried shiitake mushrooms, and a mild ban ban ji sauce, the salad made for a terrific dish for a warm evening.
The highlight of the evening, however, was the Szechuan-style duck. The pan-roasted duck breast was perfectly cooked as the meat was wonderfully juicy and tender. The duck was paired with with pea shoots, braised yuba (also known as tofu skin), and was brought together by a flavorful dan dan sauce. Overall it was an exceptional entrée.
Rachel had the pan seared Maine scallops with asparagus, mores, red pearl onions, couscous, and sauce cardinal. Perfectly-seared scallops are generally good wherever you go, but the accompaniments really made the dish, especially the fresh spring vegetables.
As for dessert, our mutual affection towards molten chocolate cake led us to ordering the aptly-titled Mount Fuji. Complemented with salted caramel and coconut ice cream, the warm, gooey chocolate cake made for a delightful sweet and salty combination.
And then there’s the atmosphere, an element which deserves its own recognition. A good portion of that is attributed to none other than floor manager Elizabeth Parker, formerly of Rose’s Luxury. It’s no coincidence that Crane & Turtle shares some of Rose’s charm not only due to its intimacy but also because of its inviting, unpretentious vibe, and Ms. Parker plays a substantial role in that. In fact, she was not only our waiter but also crafted the featured rose menu as she oversees the restaurant’s beverage program. Some fun add-ons to the tab were reminiscent of Rose’s as well.
Oh, and they take reservations! I can’t stress how important this is since we’re parents that need to plan ahead when hiring a babysitter for the evening. Considering how en vogue it is these days with some restaurants only offering first-come, first-serve seating, it’s refreshing to see Crane & Turtle buck this trend. You won’t find them on Open Table though; they are using a new service which can be found through their website.
Another great component of Crane & Turtle is their patio menu, which basically offers all of their small plates and appetizers out in the front and can accommodate a little more than a dozen guests at time. It’s certainly a more affordable way to experience the restaurant given that the majority of the entrees start at the mid-20s.
There’s no denying the fact that Crane & Turtle has quickly ascended up the charts as one of my favorite restaurants in the District after just one visit. Between the homey atmosphere, wonderful staff, and inventive cooking, Mr. Ruppert’s latest venture might be his best yet.