As soon as cherry blossoms start to show up on trees, cherry blossom specials pop up on DC-area menus. Restaurants are selling everything from pink cocktails to pink cupcakes in celebration of the season, but some of these limited-time specials are, of course, better than others. Want to celebrate peak bloom with food and drink? Here’s what you should look out for.
Hot: Savory items that embrace springtime with seasonal ingredients like radishes, asparagus, edamame, watercress, and fennel.
- Spring veggies make an appearance on the Cherry Picks menu at Art and Soul on Capitol Hill in the Yotel Washington DC hotel (415 New Jersey Ave., NW). Offerings include a pea and burrata salad with watermelon radishes, and house-made spaghetti with fava beans and roasted mushrooms.
Not: Drinks from the regular menu dyed pink with food coloring. Also excessive pink food dye in general.
Hot: Incorporating real cherries (poached, jammed, or dried) in thoughtful ways to get around the fact that fresh cherries aren’t in season until summer.
- Indian street food restaurant Bindaas (3309 Connecticut Ave., NW; 2000 Pennsylvania Ave., NW) is offering a $16 dish of basmati rice, dried cherries, cashews, saffron and caramelized onions. For dessert, there’s cherry kulfi dessert with cherry sabayon, saffron noodles, and pistachios.
- Seven new blossom-themed creations are on offer until the end of April at Victoria Lai’s local Ice Cream Jubilee shops (1407 T St., NW; 301 Water St., SE). Flavors include Smoked Vanilla Sakura Cherry, made with house-made cherry jam, cherry blossom syrup, and black tea, and Cherries Jubilee, which combines the shop’s black cherry flavor with brandy and melted chocolate.
- District Doughnut’s spring menu includes a tasty sounding Cherry Blossom option: a vanilla bean doughnut stuffed with cherry pie filling and topped with a cream cheese glaze and pie crust crumbles. It’s available at all five locations in DC and Arlington.
Not: Fake maraschino cherries plopped in drinks or topping desserts. Cherry blossom trees don’t actually produce cherries, so going the cherry-flavored route requires more creativity than a hot pink chemical bomb.
Hot: Menu items that honor Japanese culinary traditions and ingredients with a unique spring twist.
- Dupont Circle Hotel’s Doyle Bar (1500 New Hampshire Ave., NW) is offering four different cocktails that incorporate Japanese ingredients such as plum sake, yuzu bitters, and green tea. Each cocktail is $16, and the restaurant is also offering a $29 cherry blossom-inspired whisky flight with three one-ounce pours of Japanese whiskies: Yamazaki 12 year, Hibiki Harmony, and Suntory Toki.
- At Spanish-Japanese fusion restaurant Cranes (724 9th St., NW), Michelin-starred chef Pepe Moncayo will fill a specialty bento box with five mini-courses and dessert inspired by Japanese and local spring ingredients. It’s available all day for $48. While the menu varies slightly week by week, boxes may include items like pork belly yakitori, Brussel sprouts with buttermilk togarashi dressing, and a flan-like passionfruit dessert. At the bar, guests can also try the $16 Fly Samurai, a cocktail made with dsakura-infused gin, ume sake, Aperol, shochu, lemon and egg whites.
- The twelve cocktails on Captain Gregory’s (804 North Henry St., Alexandria) new Winter in Tokyo menu use fun ingredients like wasabi bitters, smoked plum vinegar, and ginger root liqueur. Food options like crispy pork belly and Peking duck rolls also feature Japanese flavors like yuzu and lotus root.
Not: Food and drink that tastes floral, like those little soaps in your grandma’s bathroom (looking at you, Cherry Blossom LaCroix).
Hot: Food-centric cherry blossom experiences, like picnics and afternoon teas. Restaurants and bars that go all-out on decorations get kudos, too.
- Desserts hang from the branches of a cherry blossom tea tree at the St. Regis’s Cherry Blossom Afternoon Tea (923 Black Lives Matter Plz., NW). For $75, guests can enjoy a selection of Dammann Frères teas, including a custom blended cherry blossom variety, alongside sweet and savory bites. The special is offered Wednesday through Sunday until April 24.
- The luxe Mandarin Oriental, which is located within short walking distance of the Tidal Basin cherry blossoms, offers a sumptuous Cherry Blossom Tea in its Empress lounge. Reservations ($122 per person) include sweets and savories like foie gras macarons in a cherry-hued shell, soy-cured salmon nigiri, pink sakura cream rolls, and cherry-almond cake. To drink: custom teas, rosé wine, or boozy tea-tails ($122 per person; available at 1:30 PM and 3:30 PM, Thursday through Sunday).
- Two of the world’s best bartenders are celebrating the springtime blooms with an Insta-worthy pop-up bar at Silver Lyan (900 F St., NW) from March 31 through April 2. The collaboration between Masa Urushido, owner of NYC Japanese-American cocktail bar Katana Kitten, and London-based Ryan Chetiyawardana (aka Mr Lyan) will aim to capture the tradition of “hanami,” or flower viewing, by going all-out on springtime decorations for guests to admire while enjoying Japanese snacks and cocktails.