With the emphasis on outdoor dining right now during the pandemic, the Japanese tradition of appreciating the season of sakura (cherry blossoms) has never been more timely.
The forecast may be for rain but you can still enjoy Japanese dishes to accompany hanami (flower viewing) during sakura season in a variety of ways, either at home, on a patio, or—if the weather picks up—out as a picnic.
Here are just a few fine-dining options to consider.
Chef Hidezaku Tojo of the renowned Tojo's Restaurant (1133 West Broadway) has created a special multi-layered picnic box to complement hanami season.
This seasonal set includes traditionally prepared food items—root vegetables braised in dashi, sablefish marinated in sake kasu (lees leftover from sake production), fuki (Japanese butterbur) miso sauce—and dishes such as halibut cheek with shio lemon marinade wrapped in kombu with pickled sakura, and artfully presented chirashi.
This picnic box ($180, serves two) can be ordered online and is available for pickup from this Friday (April 30) to Sunday (May 2).
Straddling Kitsilano and Arbutus Ridge, Yuwa Japanese Cuisine (2775 West 16th Avenue) has been featuring some special sakura- and spring-inspired menu additions available only during the month of April.
Among them have been grilled French white asparagus with shiso shio-koji miso, topped with leaves and cherry blossoms; toro sawara saikyo yaki, or grilled mackerel in saikyo miso with daikon bettera-zuke pickes; and madai kobujime ohitashi salad, with kelp-cured Japanese snapper sashimi with ohitashi-style canola flower and aparagus.
For dessert, Yuwa has been offering sakura roll cake, with custard cream, strawberry, pistachio, caramel lace tuiles, and mint; and ranman 爛漫 (cherry flowers in full bloom), with reversed sakura mochi wrapped in cherry-blossom coloured an (bean paste) and sakura gin jelly with sakura and sencha tea kanten.
Yuwa has a heated patio for up to 12 guests and takeout is also available.
For a Peruvian take on hanami, Ancora’s two locations are serving their five-course sakura tasting menus ($59 per person) until Thursday (April 29). They’re available for patio dining, pickup, or delivery, and full details are available at the Ancora website.
At Ancora False Creek (1600 Howe Street), diners can enjoy a menu (by executive chef Sebastián Delgado) spanning a nigiri trio, sakura-infused seared tuna causa, corn pops with queso fresco, grilled prawns anticucho, and cherry mousse. There’s also the sakura-inspired cocktail Tokyo Blossoms and Okunomatsu Sakura Daiginjo sake ($64 for 300 mL).
At Ancora Ambleside (1351 Bellevue Avenue, West Vancouver), guests can take in menu (by executive chef Jorge Kim) featuring a nigiri trio, tuna causa with sesame seared albacore, smoked sable croquettes, sakura-infused grilled prawn anticucho with popcorned broccoli, and roasted rhubarb compote with whipped yogurt. Also available is Tamanohikari Classic Yamahai Junmai Ginji sake ($75 for 720 mL).
A kaiseki experience
Similar to haute cuisine, kaiseki is a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner, involving meticulous preparation of tasting dishes. Miku (70–200 Granville Street) is launching a special two-week Kaiseki Experience that will feature two limited-edition menus (plus a vegetarian option) by executive chef Kazuhiro Hayashi.
The eight-course Miku Kaiseki ($150 per person) includes a chef’s sashimi selection, pan-seared Hokkaido scallop, shinshu akamiso-cured Brome Lake duck breast, shio koji Haida Gwaii wild sablefish, aburi prime nigiri omakase, A5 Miyazaki wagyu nigiri, and a chocolate Earl Grey choux.
The six-course Waterfront Kaiseki ($98 per person) includes a chef’s feature amuse-bouche, aburi beef carpaccio, a seasonal sashimi selection, AAA sterling silver filet mignon, signature sushi selection, and Miku’s classic green tea opera dessert.
Optional sake pairings are available for both menus ($55 per person for Miku Kaiseki and $40 per person for Waterfront Kaiseki), featuring Miku’s bespoke Aburi Ginjo, Kozaemon No. 6, Dassai No. 45 Junmai Ginjo, and Gokujo.
These special menus will be available during dinner service, with two seating options available on Miku’s oceanview patio, from Monday (April 26) to May 9. Reservations are required and can be made online or by phone at 604-568-3900.