Petworth’s Crane and Turtle, the latest neighborhood spot from restaurateur Paul Ruppert, is called a “French-Japanese” restaurant. This merging of cultures and traditions makes sense when Ruppert explains that the menu reflects the experience of chef Makoto Hamamura, who grew up in Japan, “with a pit stop in France.” (It makes more sense when you try the food, which effortlessly combines ingredients and cooking techniques from both cuisines.)
Skate wing, a mainstay in French cuisine, is cooked tempura style. Seared hamachi and tuna are accompanied by rich dressings, and a pork cheek “ramen” offers a rich, playful take on the Japanese dish. Crane and Turtle isn’t an overly trendy fusion place—every dish is thoughtful and well balanced. In fact, even the name represents this merging of cultures. It comes from a Japanese fable about cooperation and friendship between two unlikely creatures. The turtle saves the crane during a flood, and then the crane saves the turtle in a drought. “Thus marrying two different things into one unit,” Ruppert says, “like our combination of French and Japanese influences.” (Well played, Ruppert.)
The careful preparation in the food is mirrored by the attention to detail in Crane and Turtle’s small space. Besides the original tin ceiling, everything in the former wholesale bakery was redone by designer Nick Pimentel. And when we say it’s a small space – we mean it. There are just a handful of tables. The best seat in the house? At the bar, which looks in on the open kitchen.
Like Ruppert’s other ventures, Room 11 and Petworth Citizen, Crane and Turtle is first and foremost a neighborhood restaurant, but you’d be forgiven for considering it a destination. The restaurant is “focused on serving the needs of our Petworth neighbors,” Ruppert says, but they’re “lucky that people from all over DC are interested in our places, and we've had guests from Maryland and Virginia as well.” The truth is, with Crane and Turtle and Petworth Citizen, neighborhood favorites Domku and Chez Billy, and one of the city’s best coffee shops, Petworth is becoming the place to go for diners looking for elevated cooking with a neighborhood vibe.