Bad Saint, an upcoming restaurant from Room 11 owner Nick Pimentel, and his wife, Genevieve Villamora, announced a pop-up at Crane & Turtle last weekend. My roommate made reservations as soon as the phone lines opened for a Saturday night dinner (five courses including tip and gratuity for $60). Thank goodness he gave me a heads up because the event sold out within two and a half hours, which is impressive for a spot that has yet to open and had no menu details available. Pimental and Villamora plan to open in Columbia Heights (3226 11th St. NW) sometime this winter, and have already had one pop-up at the Dolcezza Gelato Factory & Coffee Lab which brought crowds who lined up down the street for a taste.
Saturday was a cold night, and I was feeling a little out of it as we bundled up and headed up the hill to Petworth. After a quick espresso at Qualia, we arrived at Crane & Turtle just in time for our 5:30pm reservation. This was my first time to Crane & Turtle, and I found the tiny French-Japanese restaurant absolutely adorable. The space is very small, with an open kitchen, and just a few tables. Genevieve gave us a warm welcome (which I appreciated because the coffee had still not hit me at that point) before seating us and giving us a quick explanation of the menu. The dishes ended up being delicious comfort food that we eagerly inhaled for the next few hours. We started with some chicharones (fried pork rinds) with a shrimp paste, followed by a fresh pomelo salad. I was excited to see that the third dish was bitter melon with egg and black bean, because bitter melon is not exactly my favorite vegetable. I find the taste normally too bitter and intense for my liking and was eager to see if the Bad Saint way of cooking could change my mind. It did indeed make me rethink my attitude towards this vegetable, as the sauce and black beans mellowed out the bitterness, and the eggs were impossibly fluffy. Genevieve stopped by our table to bring us complimentary eggs rolls which were DA BOMB. Inside the crunchy wrapper was a pork and beef mixture, along with cornichons (who would have thought?) which added the perfect sour, tanginess to each bite. The next course was a steamed white fish wrapped in banana leaves. This was my absolute favorite dish of the night. The fish was just so tender and fragrant. It felt like sweet butter sliding down my throat, and at this point I started feeling a little full but I assumed the next dish would be manageable. Well, the next dish was a heaping plate of lamb neck. When the server placed the bowl down onto our table, I exclaimed, “THE SMELL!!!!!!!!!!!!” It smelled smoky and meaty and just like a something I wanted to shove my face into. It tasted exactly how it smelled. The lamb meat fell apart and melted into my mouth into a pool of thick, smoky juice. Unfortunately, I was getting pretty stuffed so I tried to concentrate on making each bite last as long as possible in my mouth. If I could replay those fifteen minutes of eating, I seriously would put that moment on repeat. For dessert, we had a small creme brulee with caramelized pomelo peel which was wonderful. Looks like a good start for a much needed Filipino restaurant in the district.