Crane and Turtle: Sautéed Maine Scallops

Scallops

The doors to Crane & Turtle just opened, giving Petworth’s Upshur Street yet another upgrade. Benches outfitted in sea-colored upholstery  line the walls of this shoebox sized French/Asian restaurant from Paul Ruppert, and an ellipse of counter seats look into the busy kitchen. Its small size may be an adorable anomaly in this city, but in Japan (where charming corner cafes dominate) Crane & Turtle would fit right in.

The Best Thing on the Menu: Sautéed Maine Scallops with Chorizo Tapioca Dumplings, Arugula and  Gingered Coconut Foam is something you’d expect to see somewhere exquisite…like CityZen. Oh wait, Chef Makoto Hamamura was a fixture in that kitchen for seven years, so it all makes sense. He’s a true talent and now has a spot to call his own.

The scallop dish may just be the best thing we’ve eaten THIS YEAR. Perfectly seared scallops sit in a bubble bath of coconut foam and bitter greens where they are joined by tapioca dumplings stuffed with single pearls of chorizo sausage. The party of textures is divine.

Fish

Other top dishes on the menu include hay smoked crudos and cherry gazpacho with clams and kakiage. If it’s possible to have one gripe though, it’s with the “drunken fish” dessert. It’s presented like the traditional Japanese festival dessert called “taiyaki” which has now autocorrected to teriyaki ten times. Ahhhh. The treat is typically a piping hot fish-shaped pancake filled with a sweet red bean paste central to most Japanese desserts. Crane & Turtle’s take is a chilled taiyaki cake that’s been soaked in booze (very fitting for the summer months). But why the fig filling instead of adzuki beans? Fig seeds are gritty and turn the dish into a Fish Newton.

Click here for more pictures from the meal.

Maine scallops not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.

The Fainting Goat: Porchetta

Fainting Goat Porchetta

A block off the intersection of 14th and U Street sits The Fainting Goat: Middle ground between the cheaper but more blasé food of U Street and the more inventive, but sometimes overpriced, food of 14th Street. Read: Food that doesn’t know how great it is yet!

The menu categories at TFG – nibble, graze, chomp and feed – hold no more than four selections each, making the menu easy to conquer for four diners willing to share. Start with The Best Thing on the Menu: Porchetta sandwich with fennel, dill and parsley on cibatta. It blew our hoofs off.

So what the pork is porchetta? It’s been popping up on a lot of menus lately, and for good reason. Typically a whole pig is prepped (we’ll spare you the gory stuff) then lovingly layered with stuffing, meat, fat and skin. Next, it’s rolled, spitted, and roasted with a heavy hand of salt and sometimes garlic, rosemary, fennel or other herbs. Thank you Italy, we were grateful for Barolo, but this is better. At TFG, the chef spreads cibatta with a miracle paste made of fresh dill and fennel before generously applying the porchetta.

 Is it criminal that we didn’t go with goat for the BTM? Perhaps, but we gave it a good hard try – two different ways in fact. The Fainting Goat offers their namesake meat as an appetizer tartare and a juicy seared entree. Our BTM pick doesn’t so much shun the goat, as it does celebrate the best damn sandwich we’ve had in months.

The Fainting Goat Garden

Other top picks? Seared scallops that taste of vanilla, and a bowl of warm winter vegetables called “The Garden,” that’s topped with caper-sized mustard seeds. Click here for more photos of the meal.

Porchetta not your BTM? Share your favorites in the comments section.

Ripple: Cru Beaujolais Dinner

Ripple

Have you tried wine from all ten Beaujolais appellations? How about trying them all in one night? Oh, and by the way that night is a Monday. This Monday funday wine safari, called a Cru Beaujolais Dinner, was held at Cleveland Park’s Ripple. Executive Chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley and her team joined forces with Best Thing on the Menu’s favorite wine shop, Weygandt Wines, which also calls Cleveland Park home. The two were a perfect pairing from the start.

Wines from Saint Amour, Juliénas, and Chénas started the night, paired with farm fresh beets, red onion and orange salad; broccoli raab, tomatoes and chili; and a mini charcuterie platter. All dishes were served family style at this intimate gathering of 40 Ripple and Weygandt Wines loyalists.

Ripple Cru Beaujolais Dinner

Chef Meek-Bradley put together an earth-driven dinner to match the earthy wine. In an interview with Best Thing on the Menu, she shared her inspiration for cooking. “I believe that my biggest inspiration is the farmers and people that I work with,” she said.  “Being from California, I was raised to believe that food is something to be shared with people and nurturing. Also that you should cook seasonally and locally. I try to follow these rules when writing our menu,” she continued.

photo

After savoring the first course, we moved on to Cote de Brouilly, Brouilly and Régnié, which boldly accompanied the chef’s scallop served with Andouille sausage, sweet corn and uni. The chef took a different approach to the class scallop and bacon combination by going with smoky, spicy sausage instead. And, who doesn’t love a little dollop of uni now and again.

The main course of Berkshire pork shoulder, farro risotto, mushrooms, crispy kale and braised swiss chard was served with the Morgon, Moulin à Vent and Fleurie.

Ripple

Dessert was vanilla bean-ginger panna cotta, which received a pour of the last remaining “cru,” Chiroubles. We no longer trust folks who say you can’t drink red wine with dessert. The pairing was magical.

There you have it, all ten crus were consumed before the check came. But what do we mean exactly? Beaujolais generally refers to the powerhouse wine region of southern Burgundy. There are ten small villages (aka “crus”) that comprise the upper echelon of the area. Experts say that each one has a unique terroir that is imparted during the wine making process. The goal of the dinner was to taste, appreciate and differentiate between the ten different terroirs of neighboring villages. An even playing field was created because all of the wines (except one) were from the same vintage. The grape you ask? It’s gamay.

The food and the wine both impressed, so we will surely return to Ripple to dine off of Chef Meek-Bradley’s menu. The Chef recommends her Carrot Cavatelli with Lobster. “People seem to love the combination and say the dish is rich, yet light at the same time,” she said.

Now that we’ve taken Ripple special events for a test drive, we happily recommend their upcoming Farm Dinner Benefitting the American Cancer Society on September 4th. Learn more here.  Before dinner, be sure to check out Weygandt Wines across the street. Tim O’Rourke and his team are always pouring samples over a great map of France and will enthusiastically educate you on what you’re drinking.

Been to Ripple? Share your favorite dishes in the comments section.

Le Diplomate: Sea Scallops with Spring Peas, Orzo and Carrot Vinaigrette

Le Diplomate Scallops

At last, Philadelphia food mogul Stephen Starr has made his DC debut with Le Diplomate. We hope that this cousin to “Parc” in Philly is the gateway drug to many more Starr restaurants like Alma De Cuba, El Vez and Jones making their way down 95 South to the District.

The restaurant interior, as well as the patio seating, has succeeded in capturing a French feel. This holds especially true for the “Garden Room,” which is appointed with green tiles and a glass ceiling, lending a very Gatsby vibe to your dining experience.

Chef Adam Schop churns out wonders from the kitchen including The Best Thing on the Menu: Sea Scallops with Spring Peas, Orzo and Carrot Vinaigrette. What the menu doesn’t tell you is that the carrot vinaigrette packs a curried punch. This perfectly balanced dish took us by surprise. Come for the frites; come back again and again for the scallops.

There’s something on the menu for every season at Le Diplomate. When November rolls around, we’ll be sure to visit and order two helpings of the Beef Bourguignon to prepare for hibernation.

One note of caution, if you make your dining decisions based on decibels, Le Diplomate reaches the upper echelons of being boisterous. But to most, that’s part of the charm.

The talk around Logan Circle tables these days seems to center on determining if the mussels are better at B TOO (Previously covered on BTM here) or Le Diplomate. We want to hear from you, share your favorites in the comments section.