Niseko, nestled in Hokkaido and one of the world’s top 10 ski resort GO TOs for any avid snowboarder and skiier has also a decent selection of restaurants. Having been to Val D’Isere and Zermatt, by comparison the advantage of Niseko is obviously its fantastic choices of Japanese food, which I can never tire of. The downside is that there aren’t really that many fantastic gourmet choices in the mountains, as all the restaurants good or bad are pretty much based at the foot of the mountain in the town or outskirts.
Even then, as I went to Niseko earlier this year in March, I was still rather delighted I managed to discover some new favourite rest stops and eats, which I will have no qualms going back to anytime, so read on here!
Hanazono 308 Cafe 328-1 Iwaobetsu, Kutchan, Abuta District, Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan
Tel: +81 136-21-6655
Having dined at the food court style places in Annapuri which am sorry to say feels like a sad school canteen type of food, this is by far way better, all worth it for the Hayashi rice with Omelette topping. I like how they don’t scrimp on the curry and egg and it’s a perfect balance of protein and carbs! Definitely a great stomach filler and warmer after ploughing through the powder snow. And don’t worry about transport if you are skiing elsewhere in Hirafu and don’t have a car, as there’s a 20 minute interval shuttle bus that connects the main ski village in Niseko. It’s super convenient! Check out the bus route here.
Japanese curry rice bowl! My favourite!
431, Niseko, Niseko-cho, Abuta-gun, Niseko Town, Hokkaido, 048-1511. Tel: +81-136-58-3170
This tiny hole-in-the-wall soba restaurant not far from Annapuri village was our group’s all time favourite, enough for us to return a second time in the same week of skiing. Run by a husband and wife team with their son, it’s a great experience to come here, sit by the counter and watch the master work his hands making, kneading the flour to make the soba noodles from scratch, and then handcutting them. They are real foodies themselves seeing their pictures with Rene Redzepi at Noma in Copenhagen and recently in his pop up in Tokyo. Even Anthony Bourdain has trekked down here to dine at their shop.
All customers that come in have to remove their shoes upon entering the entrance, which is quite a hassle if you have your snowboots or ski boots on, but this slight inconvenience is well worth it. Given the no reservations, it’s wise to come in early before 12 noon to get a table, otherwise the wait can be painfully long (ie. minimal 45 mins if the restaurant is full house).
Over here, the menu is limited during lunch with simple seasonal vegetables tempura, simple plain cold or hot soba, or the same with duck – to choose from. For me, this is good enough as every dish is done perfectly, and duck and soba is my favourite combination. What you have here is soba noodles that’s really fine, smooth, and light, and they taste different cold and in a hot soup. Personally after trying both styles, I find the cold soba with the hot duck soup (1500 yen) was the winner, as you can really taste the texture of the soba in all it’s perfection especially in a chilled mode. Also the assorted vegetable tempura (700 yen) is a must order to start with. We heard from some friends that it’s worth checking out their omakase dinner, something for me to review the next time 🙂
Assorted vegetable tempura.
L’ocanda 〒044-0081, 北海道虻田郡倶知安町字山田76−12 Tel: +81 136-55-8625
A simple family style Italian restaurant located just 3 mins (yes by car!) from the main Niseko Village was a nice choice for lunch. Well so nice that Y and I forgot to take pictures but thank god for friends who happily snapped them away. We each opted for the 1600 yen set lunch, which comprised of a simple salad and bread followed by pasta for our main and a dessert and drink from their selection. The pastas we ordered to try included the spaghetti vongole and spaghetti with homemade Salciccia and spicy tomato sauce, which was perfectly al dente and tasty. We discovered on the way out they did fantastic whole cakes like Japanese style chiffon cakes which we needed to pre order 1 day in advance, so the group used me as an excuse to order a cake for my so called marriage union with Y’s friend TW. Hmmph! Of course my heart belongs only to Tenderheart Bear!
Yakitori Akaya 3 Chome-4-18 Kita 6 Jonishi, Kutchan, Abuta District, Hokkaido Prefecture 044-0056, Japan, Tel: +81 136-22-0607
Another wonderful recommendation through friends is this yakitori restaurant located in Kutchan. Very casual place with some bar seating, and private rooms with tatami mat seating, which is how yakitori should be enjoyed anyhow, and honestly I liked the quality of this place better then Michelin starred Birdland in Tokyo, Ginza for instance which I tried back in February and was totally overrated. This yakitori place serves mainly chicken but also has a great selection of sides, like buttered corn. We ordered tons of chicken anything variation ranging from traditional chicken thigh to tsukune (meat balls) to gizzard. The most original dish here has to be the gyoza with chicken skin! Can you imagine that? And it was succulent and crispy on the outside, it was a like eating a fried chicken wing but with the gyoza filling. The only thing about coming to this place is probably you need a car to bring you here.
Exterior of the Yakitori shop, given it’s dim lighting, be good to take note of how it looks.
A nice little coffee break and crepe stop in the heart of Niseko Village, worth the sugar fix for sure. After having had a hearty meal of soba noodles and tempura, we headed here for some dessert fix. One can never go wrong with crepes in Japan, and this place did not disappoint. We ordered the Nutella Crepe, and the Apple crepe, which was cooked with brown sugar, rum, and Hokkaido butter, which was simply heavenly!
Boulangerie Jin Japan 〒048-1614 北海道虻田郡 真狩村桜川45-8 Tel: +81 136-45-2773
Well, I didn’t get to go to this, but the picture below was courtesy of my friends who skipped skiing in the morning to takeaway some fresh bread for us. Recommended by a friend’s friend that comes here regularly, we were told it’s probably the best bakery around here, located in Abuta district (a 30 minutes drive from Niseko village) and a hidden secret which many locals go to, so by the time my friends reached the place at 10 am, pretty much all the bread was sold out. So you have been warned, go early! Unfortunately, the bread got eaten as fast as it got snapped up at the bakery, so no pictures to tempt those on some kind of carb free diet, but you can see the beautiful scrumptious creations on the Tabelog page here.
The cute sign of Boulangerie Jin.Writing about all this, is making me hungry again, hope it made you hungry too, and don’t forget to check them out when you are visiting Niseko for your next ski holiday!