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When restaurateur Paul Ruppert opens a new spot, the space and people come before he ever decides on a concept. So it wasn’t until the co-owner of The Passenger, Room 11, and Petworth Citizen found chef Makoto Hamamura that he decided his next venture, Crane & Turtle, would be a French-Japanese restaurant. After all, Hamamura grew up in Japan and had a stint as a sushi chef but also worked as a butcher’s apprentice in the French Alps and spent six years at fine dining establishment CityZen.
“We built the restaurant around Makoto and his experience and his creativity and career,” Ruppert says. “I didn’t say to myself I want a Japanese-French restaurant, let me go and find a great chef for that.”
The Petworth restaurant, opening today, is located across the street from Petworth Citizen, which Hamamura also oversees. While the chef had never created a bar food menu before Petworth Citizen, Crane & Turtle aims to let his skills shine.
So what the heck is French-Japanese food? Hamamura describes it as a combination of French and Japanese techniques and ingredients. For example, tataki big-eye tuna is hay-smoked with a chickpea flour crepe called socca found in the south of France. The chef’s family owned a catering company in a fish shop growing up, so seafood plays heavily on the menu.
But the dishes do not just include French and Japanese influences; Hamamura also took inspiration from all over the world. A pork “ramen” uses thin strips of fried pork rinds rather than noodles, and sautéed Maine scallops are accompanied by similarly textured chorizo tapioca dumplings. Appetizers range from $7 to $12, while entrees are $18 to $26. (Check out the full menu below.)
The drink menu focuses mostly on wines, ciders, and sake. There’s not a lot of room to mix drinks—the bar currently consists of a tiny ledge between the entrance and the restroom—so cocktails are limited for now. To start, there are only two stirred classics: a martini and a Manhattan, both $12. The restaurant hopes to expand that list along with its selection of Japanese whiskies.
The cozy 25-seat dining room is one of the prettiest to open recently with hanging plants, blue accents, and origami-esque banquette fabrics. Nick Pimentel, who designed the restaurant, describes the look as “rustic, rough-around the edges” French countryside meets the clean lines of Japan.
Reservations will be available for most of the dining room, except for the seven counter seats that overlook the open kitchen. (Email firstname.lastname@example.org.) Come September or so, there will be an additional 15 seats on the outdoor patio.
Crane & Turtle is open every day except Monday, from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Crane & Turtle, 828 Upshur St. NW; (202) 723-2543; craneandturtledc.com
Photo by Jessica Sidman