Cranes Brings Spanish/Japanese Tasting Menus and an Eclectic Sake Collection to Penn Quarter

Chef Pepe Moncayo offers both a la carte tapas and a six-course set menu.

Shrimps are torched and adorned with shrimp-lime-chili oil. Photo by Rey Lopez.

What’s in a name? For chef Pepe Moncayo, who is about to open Spanish/Japanese restaurant Cranes, the answer is: a lot. His restaurant’s name alludes to Japanese fables and symbolism. And Spanish birds. But really, it is meant to evoke the migratory nature of the Barcelona native’s cooking.

“My cuisine is traveling; it’s a live trip,” says Moncayo, who became enthralled with Japanese cooking during his decade in Singapore. At his Penn Quarter small plates and sake restaurant, opening tomorrow night, he ties the culinary knot between Spanish tapas and Japanese kaiseki (a style of multi course menu).

Patatas bravas with citrusy yuzu-kosho ketchup are served alongside short-rib bao buns dotted with ikura. A dash of squid-ink-tinted potato puree accents a plate of octopus with sake butter and smoky paprika.

Short rib bao buns. Photo by Rey Lopez.
Short rib bao buns. Photograph by Rey Lopez.

In Singapore, Moncayo opened a sake and omakase spot called Bam!. Before he moved to the island, his mentor, chef Santi Santamaria, told him: “You find ingredients there…find the best, and then apply our cuisine. Our culture filters through you.”

At Cranes, Moncayo’s six-course, chef’s choice menu is $88 with an optional beverage pairing for $45. The sake selection is prominently displayed at the bar, where a kaleidoscopic collection of bottles brightens the moody, 250-seat restaurant.

Octopus with smoked paprika oil and sake butter. Photo by Rey Lopez.
Octopus with smoked paprika oil and sake butter. Photograph by Rey Lopez.

While Spanish Cava may be the more traditional pairing for dishes like jamon iberico, Moncayo says sake draws out the umami flavors in dishes like his sansho pepper-accented jamon. Bar manager Monica Lee, a Daikaya Group alum, oversees the sake and cocktail program. Both sake and wine offerings are split into flavor profile categories like “delicate, aromatic, complex” and “bold, vibrant, fresh.”

The blue and grey-hued dining room. Photo by Rey Lopez.
The blue and grey-hued dining room. Photo by Rey Lopez.

The restaurant plans to offer $28 bento boxes for lunch in upcoming weeks. Happy hour on weekdays from 4 PM to 6:30 PM offers discount food and drinks.

Cranes, 724 Ninth St., NW. Open Sunday through Thursday from 5 to 10 PM; Friday through Saturday from 5 to 11 PM.

Daniella Byck
Lifestyle Editor

Daniella Byck joined Washingtonian in 2022. She was previously with Outside Magazine and lives in Northeast DC.