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When discussing cooking and dining with friends I often profess that cooking is an art. Granted, that's no profound revelation, but it's the truth, and the moment we approach cooking as art we can appreciate it as such and identify how we can modify recipes, make them our own, and as a result, create our own art. It's all about the power of ones imagination, and other than the skills required for execution, imagination alone is the only thing holding back progress, experimentation and pushing boundaries in every art form.
Take fusion cuisine for example. Mankind has been eating for pleasure, versus necessity, for centuries, but for some reason fusion restaurants only came to existence in the 1970s. That's quite recent on the timeline of restaurants & cooking as a form of entertainment. I imagine that the first fusion restaurant came to be through passion and imagination - see what I did there. Undoubtedly someone who was exposed to, and had passion for, two different cultures & cuisines, who had enough imagination to combine them. Common examples are texmex, combining south Texas cooking with Northern Mexican influences, and we're all familiar with restaurants blending a variety "Asian" cuisines on the same menu; non traditional ingredients in sushi rolls, for example. These two fusions were conceived somewhat naturally through geographic proximity, but ponder all the different cuisines around the world, then add those we aren't familiar with, and the possibilities of fusion cuisine are endless.
At the cross streets of Spanish tapas & Japanese kaiseki, downtown Washington, D.C., you'll find Cranes, a one Michelin Starred restaurant. Tapas has now gone global, and for those unacquainted with kaiseki, it is a Japanese cuisine style consisting of multiple courses prepared using various cooking techniques. The Catalonian native, Chef Pepe Moncayo, has quite the illustrious career under his apron having worked with compatriot Chefs at two and three Michelin Star restaurants throughout Spain before reuniting with Chef Santi Santamaria in Singapore. In 2013 Chef Moncayo would go on to open his first solo project in Singapore, "Bam!". After having lived in Singapore and traveling the region for 10 years, the continent has left a lasting impression on his culinary skills & influence. Cranes opened in early 2020 - earning its Michelin Star just 14 months later - where Moncayo has created a fusion à la carte and tasting menu incorporating Spanish dishes with Japanese influences; think paella with unagi (eel), for example. The open kitchen, split level restaurant includes a sake lounge bar and large dining room where sleek metal & geometric design elements are softened by wood paneled walls and furniture.
Whether savoring the umami of Cranes' curated sake collection or Sipped That your favorite variety of vino tinto, the similarities and flavor combinations that Chef features on the menu will make you appreciate fusion cuisine in a whole new light.
Duck Rillette Gyozas - Chive, Noisette Vinaigrette
The Rose Garden
Cava, Aperol, Lemon, Pomegranate, Cava Foam, Rose Water Essence
White Ponzu, Smoked Eel, Snap Peas, Jalapeno Allioli
Cranes open concept kitchen & interior
Genmaicha Raspberry Custard -
Raspberry Sherbet, Sweet Basil Vinaigrette, Puffed Sweet Rice
Coincidentally, the only other fusion Michelin Starred restaurant that I've Dined There, Sipped That is Sant Pau in Tokyo, also Spanish and Japanese fusion. Cooking is in of itself an expression of freedom & creativity and exploring the realm of fusion lends to the opportunity for even more new dishes and possibilities. This blogger, for one, is looking forward to what's next in the world of fusion. For more information on Cranes visit www.Cranes-DC.com .
For more cuisine that redefines diners preconceived notions of what a certain cuisine "is" or "should be", see my feature on Punjab Grill.