When you know that you will be leaving a city (possibly for good), your neighbor's yapping dog looks a little cuter, and that list of restaurants that you told yourself that you would try seems a little more urgent. I had actually given up on trying restaurants in DC because for a while, everything seemed so mediocre. DC is flanked with steakhouses, white tablecloths, and dark wood-paneled places serving some version of an unadventurous meal, always including roasted/fried chicken, steak, beet salad and spring mix lettuce. If I ever see the incredibly dull spring mix salad or beets and goat cheese salad on a menu, I unfortunately discount it immediately. Many say that "That is DC" and most people are not going to step out of line when you live with the strongest government power in the world in your backyard. In my opinion, that is reason to.
In the year that I have been in London, more than the usual trendy food truck has opened. There has been serious growth in the restaurant and food industry, demonstrating encouraging levels of appetizing creativity. Don't get me wrong, a lot of pointless places have opened too, which will ,continue to feed the expense accounts of the city's palette-less elite, But I can finally say that the cooking population is finally starting to step out of the box. And maybe, just maybe, DC could be inching closer to the reputation for interesting dining of our Big Apple Yankee neighbor.
One such restaurant moving DC in the right direction is Crane and Turtle. This is a very small Japanese/ French inspired eatery in DC's Petworth district. This area is still off the map, allowing you to avoid tourists and most everyone else who does not live in the vicinity....although not for long.
We sat at the chef's counter which feels like it takes up half of the tiny eatery, and provides great entertainment. The chefs are calm perfectionists, taking a few minutes to chat with the diners between chopping and frying.
The whole menu is seventeen items long and does not cater to vegetarians (except for one fairly simple vegetable dish) nor any sort of an adaptation of the genre. The only shortcoming is perhaps The appetizers and "Amuse de Mer" selections create a powerful opening act, showcasing some of the freshest fish in the city. The Sea Trout was a beautiful bright orange. On the meaty side, the very creative Pork "Ramen" is made with crackling pork instead of noodles. (Low-Carb friendly for all of you fanatics.)
Moving on to the main dishes provides a tough choice. Crispy, tender Scallops, Halibut with green tomato chutney and Szechuan Duck seemed to be most popular on our visit. With such compliments as a schmear of miso-cured egg yolk, acting as a savory custard, or the braised and buttery satisfying Yuba, every dish is incredibly flavorful and interesting to eat.
Crane and Turtle knows what it is doing and I expect that the new Washington will understand and appreciate it.