April 30 marks the official end of the extremely-short season when shad and its roe appear on menus across town. Every March the saltwater fish makes its way up from the Southern Atlantic Ocean and back to northern freshwaters where they spawn. (Location update: They've been most recently fished out of the Carolinas, and they'll be swimming past Virginia any day now.)
Bistro Bis GM Sean Patrick Applegate says the regional fish has a "fanatical" following this season in a way he's never seen before in his 10 years at the restaurant. What once was considered an "old school" fish suited for an older generation's palate is now an up-and-coming menu item—almost like a delicacy, he says.
Droves of 20 and 30-somethings are coming in to taste test Bistro Bis' roe appetizer, and some are even asking to double up on the egg sacs to create an entrée out of it. Blacksalt almost always sells out of its eight-roe shipment the same day it arrives.
Known for having an oily texture, many chefs erase shad's fishy flavor by soaking it in milk or buttermilk, and the shad may be slow-roasted to melt its tiny bones. Others just serve the fish's roe, with bacon acting as a popular compliment.
You've already missed the boat at some locations; Et Voila, Rappahannock Oyster Bar, and Equinox already stopped serving shad and its roe within the past few weeks. Others like Brasserie Beck decided not to bring back the fish dish this year.
Luckily, there are places to still find shad and shad roe on menus through the end of the month (but best to call ahead, as shipments are unpredictable):