Cranes Chef Will Open a Spanish Restaurant Near Judiciary Square

Pepe Moncayo will serve charcoal-grilled fish and paella at Arrels in the Arlo hotel.

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Photograph of Arrels and Cranes chef Pepe Moncayo by Leading DC.

Arrels at the Arlo Hotel. 333 G St., NW.

At Cranes in Penn Quarter, chef Pepe Moncayo fuses Spanish and Japanese cuisines on his tapas and omakase menus. But at his next restaurant, the Barcelona native is focusing in on his Spanish roots. Arrels—meaning “roots” in Catalan—will bring modern interpretations of classic dishes to the new Arlo hotel near Judiciary Square this fall.

“What I want to do is to visit those early days of my career,” says Moncayo, who worked in Michelin-starred restaurants in Spain before opening restaurants in Singapore and then DC. “I’m a modern chef, and it’s not my intention to do very rustic, old-school menus, rather something modern but backing from tradition.”

Moncayo’s cooking at Arrels will revolve around a charcoal grill and oven. The menu is still in development, but expect grilled whole fish, a Tomahawk steak, charred vegetables, and several rice and paella dishes with a smoky finish from the oven. Just one example: Moncayo plans to add some finesse to his mom’s artichoke-and-rabbit paella by cooking the rabbit sous-vide then finishing it on the grill and adding a pop of acidity from preserved lemons. The food will be paired with gin and tonics and sangria.

Given its hotel location, Arrels will be open for breakfast with dishes like sourdough toast with grated garlic and tomato, topped with a Spanish omelet and jamón ibérico. “That to me is the breakfast,” Moncayo says.

The 120-seat dining room will be styled like a modern Spanish farmhouse with a courtyard.  Moncayo drew inspiration from his mentor, the late Spanish chef Santi Santamaria, whose three-Michelin-star restaurant El Racó de Can Fabes was built on farmland his family had lived on for more than 200 years. “That’s the whole design of the restaurant: the connection of tradition and modernity, but without being pretentious,” Moncayo says.

Moncayo is also Culinary Director for the entire Arlo hotel and will be creating menus for a healthy grab-and-go cafe and a rooftop bar.

Jessica Sidman
Food Editor

Jessica Sidman covers the people and trends behind D.C.’s food and drink scene. Before joining Washingtonian in July 2016, she was Food Editor and Young & Hungry columnist at Washington City Paper. She is a Colorado native and University of Pennsylvania grad.