Hungry for Hanami

Hungry for Hanami

Tokyo’s hotels get cooking for sakura season


Originally published on on March 2010

Ludmila Vitouchkina

Hotel New Otani

The storied Trader Vic’s lounge at the Hotel New Otani unveils a trio of sakura-inspired cocktails and pairs them with… a full rack of spareribs. The Spring Fragrance (¥1,700) is a sweet-and-sour concoction made with cherry brandy and peach flavoring, while the Sakura Mai Tai (¥1,700) is a cherry-scented take on Trader Vic’s signature drink. Teetotalers can opt for the Miss Cherry Blossom—more like a dessert than a cocktail, it’s made from sakura ice cream and sponge cake, served in a bowl-like glass (¥1,200). Trader Vic’s classic spareribs are said to have been a favorite of Frank Sinatra’s, and just for the season they’re being cooked in a cherry wood-fired oven (¥580 per rib).

Until April 11, 5-10:30pm. 4F Garden Tower, Hotel New Otani, 4-1 Kioi-cho, Chiyoda-ku. Tel: 03-3265-4707. Nearest stn: Nagatacho.

Four Seasons Hotel Tokyo at Chinzan-so

It’s no surprise that hanami-loving Tokyoites flock to the Four Seasons—with 19 varieties of cherry blossoms and 82 trees, the sprawling grounds of Chinzan-so bloom in a glorious riot of color. Flagship restaurant Il Teatro has come up with a lunch menu to match, a five-course feast that can be enjoyed while gazing at the garden through floor-to-ceiling windows. The “Il Ciliegia” plan (¥7,000) starts with cherry-cured Norway salmon with sweet tomato dressing, followed by housemade sakura-leaf spaghetti with clam sauce. Next up is risotto seasoned with parmesan cheese and sour cherries, while the main dish of red sea bream (sakuradai in Japanese—get it?) is garnished with sakura leaves and swirls of cherry sauce. The meal is topped off with yogurt mousse with sweet-and-sour cherries.

Until April 11, noon-2:30pm. 2-10-8 Sekiguchi, Bunkyo-ku. Tel: 03-3943-6936. Nearest stn: Edogawa-bashi.

Royal Park Hotel

With a placid interior that looks out onto a classic Japanese garden, Genjikoh feels far removed from its downtown Nihombashi surroundings. For hanami season 2010, the classy restaurant at the Royal Park Hotel has unveiled a kaiseki meal highlighting seasonal fish, vegetables and fruits, all served in traditional ceramics and lacquerware (¥15,750). Available at both lunch and dinner, the procession of raw, steamed, simmered, grilled and fried dishes emphasizes fresh flavors and creative presentation. The meal begins with a selection of appetizers that includes tazuna sushi rolls, and mussels and clams with mustard-vinegar dressing, and moves on to a mini-nabe of sea bream, awabi and konbu, followed by a rice pot with fresh spring beans and tsukemono. Plus lots, lots more.

Until March 31, 11:30am-2:30pm and 5:30-10pm. 5F, 2-1-1 Nihombashi-Kakigara-cho, Chuo-ku. Tel: 03-3667-1111, ext. 3721. Nearest stn: Suitengu-mae.

Century Southern Tower

Overlooking the sakura-filled Shinjuku Gyoen, “French-inspired” Tribeks restaurant is serving up an affordable springtime lunch course brimming with seasonal ingredients (¥2,800). The hors d’oeuvre plate includes both rillette of fresh fish with sakura cream, and bacon-onion quiche with green sauce. Diners can choose a main dish of seafood (steamed whitemeat fish and scallop mousse with spring mikan sauce) or meat (grilled beef filet with a flan of green asparagus and wild-onion “beignet”). Can’t decide? Pony up an extra ¥500, and you can have both entrees. Lunch ends with a dessert of white chocolate mousse with sakura macaron; the deal also includes a salad bar, bread and coffee. The Century Southern Tower is one of Shinjuku’s best-kept secrets, located just a couple of minutes’ walk from the station’s bustling south exit.

Until April 30. 10F, 2-2-1 Yoyogi, Shibuya-ku. Tel: 03-5354-2177. Lunch daily from 11:30am. Nearest stn: Shinjuku, south exit.

The Hotel Okura

A well-stocked bento is essential for any hanami party, and just in time for sakura season, The Hotel Okura Tokyo has elevated the humble lunch box to gourmet extremes. The Yamazato Special Hanami Bento (¥5,250) is a two-tiered masterpiece that includes shiitake mushrooms, spring bamboo shoots, cherry-simmered tako, and saikyo miso-marinated fish wrapped in sakura leaf. Carbs come in the form of soboro meat-topped rice. The Okura is also offering an even more impressive Gourmet d’ Printaniere bento (right; ¥10,500 for two people) featuring the likes of smoked scallops, fish terrine, beef croquettes and grilled foie gras. Both lunch boxes must be ordered three days in advance by calling 03-3224-6653.

The Yamazato Special Hanami Bento is available until the end of sakura season; the Gourmet d’ Printaniere until April 30. 2-10-4 Toranomon, Minato-ku. Nearest stn: Toranomon or Tameike-Sanno.

Prince Hotels

For a sweet ending to your hanami excursion, book a table at one of the three Prince hotels in Shinagawa. A variety of restaurants, lounges and tearooms at the Grand Prince Hotel Takanawa, the Grand Prince Hotel New Takanawa and The Prince Sakura Tower Tokyo are offering up cherry-infused pastries and desserts. Sink your fork into the Sakura Mont Blanc, meant to portray the image of a “swirling cherry blossom” (¥550); the Sakurazaka Roll Cake, with azuki beans, cream cheese and a salty leaf topping (¥550, whole cake for ¥1,500); and the Fuku Fuku Sakura, a soft rice cake filled with red-bean jam whose shape and color call to mind a cherry blossom (¥500). The area around the hotels is also home to 233 sakura trees, so visitors can enjoy a feast for the eyes as well as the palate.

Until April 11. See for more info.

Translations by Risa Koide