For a change this trip, we decided to take a break from skiing and do a day trip with AL, YW, her mum and Baby G to Windsor Hotel at Lake Toya, about 1 hour and 15 minutes car ride from Niseko Village. We had planned this in advance with NG another friend who was staying there with her family and arranged for us all to have a nice pre New Year catch up at the famed Michel Bras Lake Toya location.
Breathtaking views of Lake Toya.
Lake Toya is a large volcanic lake spanning 228 km along the coast of Hokkaido, and may have seemed unusual as the choice location for Michel Bras offshoot from his famed Bras restaurant Laguiole, France which has held the accolade of 3 Michelin stars since 1999. But, in separate interviews with him which I read online, he said that something about this location charmed him when he visited this place back in 2001 after the hotel approached him and as they say, the rest is history.
Michel Bras Toya work with the local producers and farmers to source for local ingredients, and what you have is a very strong menu using Japanese ingredients cooked with in Bras’ style French cooking. It was also the first restaurant to have been awarded 3 Michelin Stars when Michelin Guide came out briefly with one for the Hokkaido region.
The location of the restaurant is something quite special as well, located inside Windsor Hotel, the only lone building at the edge of this volcanic lake. The views from the restaurant during lunch are breathtaking allowing one to enjoy the entire views of the lake, and the snowcapped mountains during this winter time, on this rare sunny day.
Had to sit here for a perfect pic before joining the group lunch.
Cedric Bourassin is the current chef and director of the restaurant running a 30 pax team, and we had the privilege to meet with him when we arrived, taking a group picture and seeing the kitchen where all the magic happens!
Michel Bras kitchen, which we got to tour before we started lunch.
A copy of the menu reads like this:
Gargillous of young vegetables;
Seeds & herbs, chicken milk perfumed
A local fishing:
Hokki just pan seared with black sugar, parsnip, mustard from our garden; navette emulsion
The loin of pork from ebetsu; cauliflower puree; green beans.
Cheeses from France & Hokkaido
From the original idea of a coulant in 81; warm chocolate biscuit & pumpin coulant; strong coffee ice cream.
Sweets & fruits cocktail… canailleries: cones filled as you desired.
After settling in to our large table and ordering our wines, we were served some light nibbles, a light pastry tart, and wafer thin bread crisps, that looked like an origami creation inserted in a stone, with homemade butter. This was super addictive!
Loved the homemade bread crisps.
Amuse bouche to start.
Next, we had a gorgeous pumpkin soup with a light pastry perched on top, with daikon, codfish and pigeon croquette on top. The pumpkin soup was sweet and not too heavy in texture and the combination of this trio was a lovely surprise. Next came the start of the official menu – Gargouillou of young vegetables, seeds and flowers, which gave testimony to the freshness of the local produce.
Pumpkin soup – delicious!
Healthy salad to line our stomachs!
At this point we were told, that in France they keep the tradition of keeping the same knife through the courses and if it’s dirty, we can ‘clean’ it on the bread that we eat on the side, this was quite refreshing for a change instead of always clearing all the cutlery after each course.
We had a fish next which wasn’t that memorable for me, although it was good, and my favourite was the last dish, the ebisu pork with black cheddar cheese on side with lemon powder. At this stage, 3 young Japanese staff came out and whipped and pulled what looked like mash potato to be served with the last course, known as aligot, which is made from cheese blended into mashed potatoes and is a classic from the L’Aubrac region of France. For me, it was a more of novelty looking at how it was made, can’t say I really liked it.
Ebisu pork with black cheddar cheese or aligot.
Making aligot = lots of arm strength.
Aligot up close.
Next came the cheese courses, and the cheese trolley came in with some really fantastic selection of cheeses all sourced locally of course. Amongst the 3 I chose included a rather interesting goat cheese washed with sake.
Digging into my cheese selection.
Amazing cheese trolley!
Last, the famous dessert, well known to be patented by Michel Bras in 1981 – called the coulant, is his version of the famous runny molten chocolate cakes we’ve seen springing up everywhere around the world from top notch restaurants to your neighbourhood café. This had a chocolate biscuit, which I quite enjoyed, given it a nice texture and bite.
The highlight for me had to be the last – the gelato trolley, with amazing selection of ice cream flavours with plain or chocolate cones. Be sure to keep some reserve stomach space for this, you won’t regret the calories.
Michel Bras famous ‘coulant’.
Digging into my cheese selection.
Love these mini ice cream cones.
Overall, I did enjoy the meal at Michel Bras, although there were some dishes that I didn’t like so much like the aligot and the fruit cocktail like bon bons served at the end. The flavours were very clean and yet there was a lot of complexity in the cooking, made better with the incorporation of Hokkaido ingredients throughout.
When you do come here for a meal, remember to take the summit cabin up and down to see the gorgeous views (buffer at least 30 minutes), which is much better during the day time. We did just that before lunch and it was absolutely breathtaking. Enjoy my homemade short video with my favourite Julie London Christmas song – Warm December, clearly not the case when we were there, it was definitely a chilly winter.
Important point to take note is Michel Bras doesn’t allow children and babies, so if you are travelling with children, it will be best to find a baby sitter for that few hours otherwise it will not be possible to dine here. The good thing though is there are other kid friendly restaurants in this hotel and chock full of play areas here that are children friendly including the baby green ski slope. I couldn’t help but also get into some action like riding the snow mobile and running in and out of the snow igloo!
Fun activities for the kid in me.
11F, Windsor Hotel Toya, Shimizu, Toyako, Abuta District, Hokkaido Prefecture 049-5613, Japan
We paid around 32,950 yen per person (including wines) for lunch at Michel Bras. Children and babies not allowed. Reservations a must.