15 April 2016

NISEKO: Where to Eat

After nearly 6 months of living in Niseko-Hirafu, it is now time for me to leave. Although I'm sad to say goodbye, the time is right, as the town changes from a bustling ski resort back to the sleepy village it was when I first arrived in October. Besides, the snow has now turned to rain, and if I wanted rain, I would have stayed in England!

So in typical Foods for Thought fashion, I'm writing a post to look back on some of the meals I've had during my time here. There are so many great places to eat in the area that I could easily write a whole series of posts on my favourites. Maybe I will, when I return to work a second season here this coming winter. As I was working as a concierge this season, it's been part of my job to know where to eat, and I've been lucky enough to also dine at some restaurants through work. I've had too many delightful meals to be able to mention them all, but I've listed some of my favourites below.

This tiny izakaya in lower Hirafu was one of my favourite discoveries this year. I was particularly interested to go there as I knew they served oden, which is a Japanese dish I had never tried despite holidaying in the country a couple of times previously. Although I've eaten a lot of Japanese food, there's still plenty I haven't tried yet! The oden was wholesome and satisfying in its simplicity. I was impressed by the quality of the other dishes on the menu too, plus Ebisutei is a bit cheaper than many other restaurants in the area, which is always a plus.

A selection of sashimi

Deep fried oysters with tartare sauce

Teriyaki chicken

Oden: tofu, daikon radish and fish cake

Squid tempura

There's something really comforting about a hot pot dinner when it's cold outside! Sessa specialises in sukiyaki and shabu shabu of wagyu beef. The broth of your choice is simmered on a tabletop gas stove, and you add the vegetables and beef to cook to your liking. I personally really enjoy the sweetness of the sukiyaki broth and think it compliments the beef really well. With sukiyaki, you also traditionally dip the cooked meat into a raw egg before eating it. Although initially a bit odd, I actually quite like the texture the egg 'glaze' creates when covering the meat, but in terms of flavour I don't think it adds anything. Once only the broth remains, you can add udon noodles or rice to the pot to soak up the broth and finish your meal.

Sukiyaki broth with raw vegetables added to cook

Cooking the slices of wagyu beef

Yo (Hurry Slowly)
Yo is a great place to have a traditional Japanese set menu in a cosy, intimate setting. You have to choose the set menu you want to order when you place the reservation, and can choose from options including meat, seafood, vegetable, shabu shabu or irori (cooking over a sunken hearth).

I chose the meat set menu when I went. As well as the main course, which consisted of marinated beef and vegetables which you cook yourself over a gas stove at the table, the meal also included appetisers, salad, chicken kamameshi, chawanmushi, thinly-sliced rare roast beef, slow-cooked pork spare ribs, tonkotsu ramen and dessert. Altogether quite an epic meal!

Meat main course: cooked by the diner over a flame at the table

This restaurant is definitely one for lovers of seafood. They source their fish from both local fisheries and Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo, and serve an impressive quality of sushi and sashimi as well as other seafood dishes. They take pride in presenting their dishes very attractively too, so the table is always a feast for the eyes (and the camera!). The below dishes were all served as part of the set menu, and I actually lost count of how many dishes they brought to the table...

Sashimi platter

Hairy crab

Blackened cod

Seafood salad

Sushi platter

Seafood miso soup

Ichimura Soba
This restaurant on the outskirts of Hirafu is a great soba alternative if you fail to get a reservation at the famous Rakuichi. Ichimura Soba make their own soba freshly each day and are only open for lunch. When I visited I ordered the Kamo Seiro, which is cold soba noodles served with a hot duck and spring onion broth. I prefer to order cold soba noodles as they retain their texture better if they're not submerged in hot soup! You can then dip each mouthful of soba noodles into the soup to soak up some of the broth as you eat. The soba noodles had a wonderful texture here, and the soup had a surprisingly rich, gamey flavour. 

Kamo Seiro lunch set

Other notable mentions in the Niseko dining scene go to The Barn (mouth-watering French-style food made with local produce), A Bu Cha 2 (lively izakaya), Asahikawa Ramen Tozanken (hearty ramen with 100% Hokkaido wheat noodles), Green Farm Cafe (great breakfast/lunch/brunch spot) and Graubunden (continental style sandwiches and delicious cakes).

One of the things I love best in Niseko is the amount of great restaurants. There are far more (and better quality) restaurants within a mile radius of where I work in Niseko than there are in the neighbourhood where I used to live in London - and London is known for its foodie scene. I'm just glad that there's a mountain where you can ski off all the food, or I would be leaving significantly heavier than I was when I first arrived!

Do you have a favourite restaurant in Niseko? Have you been to another ski resort with an impressive selection of dining spots?


  1. Mmmm wish I could eat in Niseko. Are these pictures from your new camera? They look great!

    1. Yes, all the pictures for the blog now are from my new camera :) It's a great little camera, I've been really happy with the quality of the shots! I still need to take the time to work out how to use more than just the basic functions though... maybe I should actually read the booklet that came with it!