At the soon-to-open Cranes, shishito peppers are teamed with kumquats, bonito flakes, sesame sauce and seeds.
Listen to Barcelona-born chef Pepe Moncayo speak, and you’ll get an immediate sense of his culinary wisdom and deep respect for the food of all lands, specifically those of the two that will come together in perfect harmony at Cranes, his Spanish kaiseki restaurant opening in Penn Quarter later this year. “Cranes is not only about the marriage of the cuisine, [but] rather the culinary culture,” he says. It’s a project three years in the making, one that deftly blends similarities via techniques, flavors and service. It’s something he first discovered when he launched Spanish-Catalan chef Santi Santamaria’s restaurant in Singapore. “I remember asking him... how we’d be able to do our cuisine without the right ingredients,” shares Moncayo, who also operates Bam! on the Asian island. “He smiled and told me that we are vessels carrying the culture, hence the [cuisine] of where we are from. So go to the other side of the world; find the ingredients; and pass them through your filter.” He’ll do it through dishes such as amadai fish, cooked scales on. Hot oil is poured over it to make the scales crispy, and it’s served with gazpachuelo, a classic Spanish sauce. Sake will play a pivotal role too, as it “brings the taste experience to a different level.” There will be a sake lounge and cocktails poured with the rice wine. The restaurant’s name even nods to the drink—cranes are mystical animals in Japan. They fly to Spain as a winter respite from other European countries. To come full circle: “We came across a Japanese legend of a crane dropping a sprig of rice over bamboo filled with water as the origin of sake,” closes Moncayo. “We knew we had found our name in that moment.” 724 Ninth St. NW
Photography by: GREG POWERS