Hokkaido food review part 2

Seafood

Although you can get seafood from any part of Japan, Hokkaido justifiably lays claim to having a special association with seafood. Prior to visiting Hokkaido, the seafood we ate, when visiting the other parts of Japan, were limited to Sushi and Bentos.

While in Hokkaido, we had the priviledge of trying a few things we never did before, such as Uni (sea urchin) and crab (see part 1). I just found out that the summer months actually fall outside of the sea urchin harvesting season, but you will still get to eat them since they are farmed.

Uni Murakami was the restaurant specializing in Uni that i chose to sample this interesting sea creature. The squishy stuff actually tastes pretty good! It’s like one of those wonder ingredients that a Michelin 3 star restaurant would use.

3 way seafood Don. Obviouly, this was cheaper than getting a bowlful of Uni.

Tempura which included Uni as well
Grilled Uni that is served in its shell
Grilled rice, a very popular dish in Hokkaido, topped with Uni
Mackerel Hokkaido style. Fish is often marinated and dried prior to cooking, and though i prefer fish retaining its original juiciness, this was quite okay
A very interesting fish with top and bottom fin but swims like a Stingray

I do recommend visiting Uni Murakami to sample Uni. Very cozy ambiance and reasonable price.

The Hakodate morning market is well known as a place to enjoy fresh seafood. Having already visited Uni Murakami the evening before, i wanted to have just a simple breakfast without spending too much, so we went to the restaurant just above the seafood market since they offer 500 Yen seafood rice bowls .

It’s not a big bowl, but it’s much more than i would expect for only 500 Yen
Since the kids are not used to eating raw seafood, we ordered this rice bowl which without knowing that it was Jingisukan, or Mongolian BBQ lamb. Well, we’re not fond of lamb, so this turned out to be a cheap way of sampling Jingisukan which is popular in Hokkaido
Hakodate morning market
To supplement the not-fully-satisfying rice bowls, we had noodles and grilled squid from the market food court. It was pretty cheap too.
Premium melon sold in slices. This was a cheap way of trying them instead of buying a whole melon, which cost upwards of 3000 Yen. It had melt-in-the-mouth texture, and was sweet and juicy, needless to say. You can see from the photo that the flesh was edibly soft all the way to near the skin.

On the way to visit Shiretoko National Park, we stopped by ウトロ漁協婦人部食堂 at Shari for lunch. They’re famous for Uni Don but those were either sold out or not in stock the day we visited. It is possible that they only serve it when it’s available fresh from the sea.

3 way seafood Don. The Sashimi seemed to be marinated and tastes heavenly. Extremely fresh.
Grilled fish set. The fish felt more fresh than the one we had at Uni Murakami.
Miso Ramen, in classic spicy style. Tasty.
Fish being dried with a fan right outside the shop

Sweets

Hokkaido sweets is arguably better known than Hokkaido seafood or even Ramen. No doubt, Hokkaido sweets are excellent, due in large part to Hokkaido’s high quality dairy produce.

We visited the LeTaO outlet near Otaru station for breakfast since it was the nearest to our hotel. They open at 10am and they counter seating for 4 people.

Signature Double Frommage cake. Very creamy, and actually the taste of the whipped cream stands out more than the taste of cheese
Cream puff. Very nice crumb. The cream is more watery (applies to all the cream puff in Hokkaido) than i am used to.
Ogaru Pie. I love the crispy layered pastry of this one.

Enroute to Hakodate from Otaru, we stopped by Milk Kobo in Niseko. It was a worthwhile detour as all the items were excellent!

Soft serve in milk and cookies and cream flavours. The milk flavour which is their No 1 flavour truly stands out. For someone who dislikes drinking milk, i found the milk flavoured soft serve quite nice, so you can be sure it’s good. So good i can forgive the uneven icy-bits laden texture
Souffle and cheese tart
Cream puff topped with interesting sweet bits

After visiting Onuma Park, we stopped by Yamakawa Farm for soft serve. It was quite ordinary in my opinion, suggest skipping.

The best sweets shop i visited in Hokkaido was Fuka. They are kind of a hidden gem, because few people would travel as far as Abashiri. Also, they are located outside of town, and you will likely not hear about them unless you did research using Tabelog. It was their high review score that grabbed my attention.

Everything looked so good you’re tempted to order them all
Look at the delicately crafted layers. Snaffle’s omelette mille crepe looks crude in comparison (see below).
The cheese tart was so good we ordered another one. It’s more savoury than sweet, and has a complex taste to it, as did the cheese cake. You can see that the top is evenly darkened. The best in Hokkaido.
The best soft serve in Hokkaido. Edges out Kinotoya’s. Thick and smooth, and comes in caramel flavour too which was so so nice. The fragrance of the caramel lingered on for quite a while.
A final order of a Mont Blanc. Nice rich taste.

The sweets place that takes second place in my opinion is Rokkatei. You get to enjoy savoury items also if you dine in the cafe on the second floor of their Sapporo office. I strongly suggest doing so instead of eating at the high bistro table downstairs. The cafe opens from 1030am, which suited us just fine for our breakfast. Free coffee refills!

Trio of signature items, clockwise from top – Saku Saku Pie, Yukikon Cheese and Marusei Ice Sandwich
Look at that plump pancake!
Croissant with cream filling
Quiche with onion and bacon

To complete my sweets tasting in Hokkaido, i had to go to Snaffle’s and Kinotoya of course, and the best way to do so is to go to Bisse Sweets, conveniently located at Odori station. Both Snaffle’s and Kinotoya can be found in this food court style cafe, so you kill two birds with one stone.

Catch cakes, sold in a box of 4 or more. Basically baked lumps of cheese. It certainly takes more skill to make this than cheese tarts since there’s nothing to hold the cheese together.

Is it only me? My instinctive impression of Snaffle’s logo is seeing a guy pointing a pistol at the lady.

Mille crepe with nice eggy crepes
Kinotoya’s signature items, Omelette parfait and cheese tart. The cheese tart is cold.
Sweets lovers’ dream come true, sweets buffet! And it’s inexpensive too. Reservation required. There are other sweets places in Sapporo that also offer buffet.

If you wanted cheese tart served warm, which is my preference, then you’ll have to head to Kinotoya Bake in Pole Town.

Besides the famed cheese tart, they also had apple turnover. The layered pastry is awesome.
Kinotoya soft serve. Very rich and smooth, and huge too.

The final sweets place that is worth mentioning is Popura Farm in Furano. Well, it’s worth mentioning because i think it’s hype and not really worthwhile going.

Honestly speaking, there was nothing very special about this combination.

Grilled meat and seafood

When it comes to grilled meat, Butadon first comes to mind. You can enjoy a pretty good Butadon in Mitsui Outlet Park food court – Butadon Nobutahage – if you happen to be there.

The featured set comes with spring onion instead of peas. The meat is probably just the same anyway. Nicely charred.

When it comes to Butadon, everyone knows about Pancho in Obihiro. We arrived at 3pm and it was virtually empty. We were quite hungry, so it was a no-brainer to get the extra large set.

Always served covered
8 pieces. I suppose the peas are for decoration only?

The Hong Kongers next to us were commenting that it tastes like Char Siu, which is true to a certain extent, but i would say it is lightly marinated in comparison and retains more of its original flavours.

Kushiro is one of the foremost places in Hokkaido where Robata has been well established. There is even one restaurant that is simply called Robata which i decided on not going owing to reviews that suggest they were overpriced. Instead, we went to Robata Renga, a kid-friendly place with an iPad pictorial ordering system in English.

Entrace. A huge place where you probably don’t need to worry about being shown the “Ultraman” crossed arm without making prior reservation.
An extensive menu that includes Sashimi. Fresh and good.
The most plump oysters i have eaten. Served warm. Oishii desu ne!
Fried octopus
Cold noodles that is not Soba, surprisingly tasty! Be sure to try this if you do come here.
Cod and autumn salmon grilling in progress. Yes, the smallish fish is a type of Cod.
Beef, pork, eel
Eel takes some time to grill but is very rewarding

When it comes to grilled meat, our absolute favourite in Japan has got to be BEEF. Onuma beef is supposed to be pretty good, and there is really only one restaurant near Onuma park where one can sample the beef specifically, Challenge Beef.

Beef ribs set. Marvellously marbled despite the small price.
Sirloin set. The fillet set was sold out so we got this instead, and it’s still very good of course.
Can’t get enough of this especially when kids also fight for it

In Sapporo, Gurumanzuitou is the top rated Yakiniku place. They are the kind of beef specialist that offers you rare parts. We went without any reservation and they were able to accomodate us only past 10pm, so we had Ramen first and walked around Susukino. Service here was top notch.

Handwritten menu!
We were given explaination as to which part of the beef we were ordering but i can’t remember a thing, not that it matters
Portion was quite okay for the price
Vegetables for grilling
We were really novices when it comes to doing the grilling. It would be better to tone down the flame to avoid zapping away all the flavourful fat

Alcohol

Besides being lovers of beef, we are also big time alcohol lovers – beer, sake and whiskey. Nothing washes down food better than these. This was the first time we visited the plants that produced alcohol in Japan – Nikka distillery and Asahi brewery. Both are owned by Asahi. Both offer free tasting, and that was largely the reason i wanted to be there. Cheapskate, yes.

Whiskey barrels
The reward for your visit. You can actually go straight to the tasting if you wanted to. If you’re driving, you’re supposed to identify yourself and you will not be entitled to the alcoholic drinks. I cheated.. not suggesting you do this though.

I planned the visit to Nikka distillery such that we would have lunch at the on-site Restaurant Taru. It would have been lunch time anyway, and the restaurant has decent reviews. Plus, it gives me time to allow the effect of the alcohol to wear off

Soba and Tempura set
Roast beef set. Satisfying meal especially when it comes with quite a few items.

Most people would go to Sapporo brewery when in Sapporo, for obvious reasons. I went to Asahi brewery because they offered free tasting, whereas you have to pay for the beer tasting at Sapporo brewery.

Bus loads of Korean tourists

To get the free beer, you’ll have to call ahead to make a reservation. The receptionist speaks English.

Nice brochure explaining the process of making beer. I guess you’ll only fully appreciate it if you make beer at home.
You get 3 drinks, and they do offer 3 different types of beer. This is the 30th anniversary Super Dry
The “extra cold” version in dark and light versions. There is also a more heavily hopped premium beer. You have less than 30 minutes to finish the beer, and they actually provide you with some snacks to go with the beer.

3 glasses of draft beer. Completely free. Extremely satisfied.

The alcoholic drink that we enjoy most when in Japan is Sake, or more precisely, Nihonshu. There is nothing quite like it. Like Japanese rice, it is not readily available outside of Japan, and i reckon that’s because it’s made from Japanese rice. You probably don’t get the same kind of taste and sweetness if it were to be made with rice from elsewhere.

We had Sake with every dinner meal. A cheap way to enjoy Sake is to buy it from the supermarket.

The carton version is the cheapest, at less than 700 Yen for 900ml

Everything else

We try to have a Sushi meal once during every trip, because it is quite costly. There are quite a few Sushi places in Susukino where we were staying in Sapporo, but expectedly, they were all full. We eventually just walked into the 9 seater Sawa すし. I guess unless you go for the mass-produced conveyor belt Sushi, it really can’t be bad. We had the 9 piece and 11 piece sets, at 2000 and 3000 Yen respectively, which is considered cheap for Sushi. No fanciful Sushi here, but it was delicious.

So fresh, and the rice is no ordinary rice
I especially like the taste of the seaweed
Chef at work, and he was a super nice guy

The kids couldn’t eat any of the Sushi (thankfully!), so we went to the Gyoza place Suguruya すぐるや just a few steps away right after. As with the one-man-show Sushi place, this place was sized accordingly with only 7 seats.

Immaculately maintained kitchen
Perfectly pan fried regular Gyoza. Handmande to order.
Unknowingly, we ordered curry dumplings
Frist time trying curry dumplings. I find the filling a little too watery.
Boiled dumplings in vinegarish gravy

Soba is almost as common as Ramen in Japan. It is usually included in the menu of those restaurants that serve a variety of food, but if you want really good Soba, you’ll have to look for restaurants that specifically serve only Soba. Teuchi Soba Mansaku (まん作) is one such restaurant in Furano, and they were awarded one Michelin star.

Cold Soba set with Tempura. Cold Soba turned out better than warm. The noodles were slightly thinner than usual.
Warm Soba with fried rice mochi fritters, which were very tasty
Warm Soba with duck. The duck was good, as was the soup

Instead of going to one of those restaurants that serves hordes of tourists that is so common in Biei/Furano, you might want to check out Teuchi Soba Mansaku to enjoy a quiet and refined lunch.

I suppose poultry is less popular in Japan than seafood or beef or pork, and chicken is more often than not served in the form of Yakitori or Karaage. In that sense, Naruto is an interesting fried chicken joint.

The head store in Otaru
The signature half fried chicken. It is very lightly marinated. Nicely deep fried, tenderly cooked through with very thin crispy skin.
Another signature item. Not sure if this was called Karaage but it’s along that line.
My better half ordered this without knowing these were chicken buttocks. Well, i didn’t touch anything but she was raving about how fragrant it was.
This was the only place we have visited that served Asahi beer. I guess Asahi has a hard time gaining ground in Hokkaido. Otaru craft beer also offered at Naruto.

To wrap up this never ending posting, lets not forget the food you can get from a supermarket or convenience store.

Besides the “Only Hokkaido” Sapporo Classic, you will also find “Only Hokkaido” seasonal beer
Godiva ice cream bar at only 350 Yen
Tasty fried rice that is almost good enough for a meal, served warm, for only 120 Yen
You can get a melon for under 900 Yen from a supermarket. It’s not the premium type of course, but it doesn’t cost 3000 Yen

 

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