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.
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 .
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.
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.
Enroute to Hakodate from Otaru, we stopped by Milk Kobo in Niseko. It was a worthwhile detour as all the items were excellent!
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.
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!
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.
Is it only me? My instinctive impression of Snaffle’s logo is seeing a guy pointing a pistol at the lady.
If you wanted cheese tart served warm, which is my preference, then you’ll have to head to Kinotoya Bake in Pole Town.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
To get the free beer, you’ll have to call ahead to make a reservation. The receptionist speaks English.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
To wrap up this never ending posting, lets not forget the food you can get from a supermarket or convenience store.