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The HotPlate: Get Your Cherry Fix

As the cherry trees begin blossoming around Washington and the National Cherry Blossom Festival kicks off Saturday, D.C. chefs and bartenders are seizing the opportunity to infuse their menus with cherry flavors.

Cherry- and Japanese-themed dishes and drinks will sprout up on restaurant menus in honor of the festival March 27 through April 11.

At the Oceanaire Seafood Room (1201 F St. NW), sun-dried cherries will jazz up the sauce served over seared Japanese sea scallops (pictured).

On Capitol Hill, Charlie Palmer Steak (101 Constitution Ave. NW) will offer a tasting of spring cherries comprising cherry cobbler, buttermilk panna cotta and sweet cherry compote, cherry consommé, and sour cherry and chocolate brioche with black cherry sorbet.

As part of a three-course dinner at DC Coast (1401 K St. NW), green peppercorn cherry sauce will dress up pan-roasted duck breast, and for dessert, a cherry almond tart will be served with sour cream ice cream and kirsch vanilla bean syrup.

At the Willard Room (1401 Pennsylvania Ave. NW), diners can enjoy a three-course cherry blossom lunch or dinner. Lunch ends with a chocolate coconut sushi roll with chocolate chopsticks and sherry sake soup, and dinner offers optional sake pairings. Or head to the hotel’s Round Robin Bar where bartenders will shake up special saketinis.

The Kennedy Center’s Roof Terrace Restaurant (2700 F St. NW) will also offer a specialty libation — a knotted cherry stem cocktail concocted from cherry brandy, cranberry juice, gin, sour mix, 7UP and two cherries tied together at the stems.

Call individual restaurants for reservations and details.

Sake It to Me. Sushi lovers, mark your calendars: Master sushi chefs from Japan and area restaurants will turn the new Mandarin Oriental hotel into Washington’s largest sushi bar March 31.

Part of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, the third annual sushi and sake tasting will be held from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Tickets are $79 per person and include sushi and a choice of sake or Japanese beer. Call (301) 294-1300 for reservations. The hotel is located at 1330 Maryland Ave. SW.

Crab Cakes Redux. The brief affair between the shrimp and the crab cake has ended. Just a month after the Hot Plate reported that shrimp had been added to the Market Lunch’s crab cakes, the recipe has reverted back to its original shrimp-less form.

“The shrimp experiment is over,” said Tom Glasgow, who runs the Market Lunch at Eastern Market.

The reason? “Just too many people are allergic to shrimp only, and they want to eat crab cakes every Friday,” he said.

Regardless of the motivation for the switch, crab cake purists and people with shrimp allergies can breath a collective sigh of relief.

On the Horizon. Washington diners can look forward to some exciting restaurants entering the ever-burgeoning downtown restaurant scene.

In the former Bice spot at 601 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, well-known chef Yannick Cam is returning to the District after most recently serving as chef of Le Relais in Great Falls, Va. Cam has been credited by many with introducing nouvelle cuisine to the nation’s capital in the ’80s with his French restaurant Le Pavillon. His new restaurant, Le Paradou, is slated to open soon, possibly early April.

On the Southwest waterfront, the arrival of the Mandarin Oriental hotel bodes well for D.C. foodies. The hotel’s announcement that Eric Ziebold, chef de cuisine at the world-famous French Laundry in Napa Valley, will head the kitchen of its signature restaurant, has caused quite a stir in the restaurant community.

Ziebold’s experience at the French Laundry working with one of the world’s most celebrated chefs, Thomas Keller, makes him a huge catch for the District.

The Mandarin’s as-yet-unnamed restaurant is slated to open at the end of August.

Also later this summer, look for IndeBleu at 707 G St. NW. According to ZagatWire, the restaurant will feature a ground-floor lounge and a more formal dining room upstairs. The cuisine will fuse French and Indian cooking.

All That Jazz. Starting this Sunday, the Blue Bar at the Henley Park Hotel (926 Massachusetts Ave. NW) will offer live jazz along with a special Southern-accented menu.

Diners can enjoy jazz tunes from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. while snacking on Bourbon Street chicken and shrimp gumbo, pulled pork barbecue sandwiches with onion rings and slaw, and Jazz Alley crab cake sandwiches with remoulade sauce.

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