Booming and bursting with a menu of options – this, undeniably is the best way to describe Niseko at the moment. The once quiet village currently occupies a vibrant spot as among the best ski resort towns in the world, as clearly manifested by its expanding collection of modern and luxurious accommodations. Yet another reason Niseko is now considered a world-class holiday destination is the city’s fast-growing restaurant scene. For regular visitors, there appears to be something new to emerge every year – new dining places that are always ready to dish out only incredible food.
So when the thrill generated by the nerve-wracking ski runs begin to subside and when the relaxing effect of onsens begins to sink in, the next exciting thing to do in Niseko is to indulge on its gastronomic offerings, which by the way are aplenty. Heading out for that mission, the list below should serve as the ultimate guide on the best eating places in town.
Here, it will be seafood and premium meat galore – all picked methodically by the restaurant chef, who makes the dish preparations mixed with the seasonal harvest of Hokkaido. On a given day, diners can choose from the regular 6-course menu or the day’s special called Omakase. It is worth noting that Kamimura boasts of Michelin star, a badge that proudly indicates of first-rate cooking, courtesy of the in-house chef.
The resto, inside and out, mirrors the traditional Hokkaido farm architecture, and the use of the design language was deliberate if only to signify the ideals of minimalism and simplicity. But when serving, The Barn settles only for the best that Hokkaido has to offer and that means high-grade oysters, scallops and salmon on the plate.
Green Farm Café
When looking for a full-packed breakfast experience in Niseko, there is nowhere to go but the Green Farm Café. This is the place where organic is king, and fittingly customers get to taste the best that Hokkaido farmers produce in abundance. Alongside the vegetables on the menu, the highlights are sausage, eggs, bacon, hash brown and salad on the side. Practically an instant pick for habitués would be the Eggs Benedict, which is best served with a piping hot cup of coffee.
True to form, Hokkaido produces one of the best dairies in the world. The island’s fresh milk is magically morphed into tempting desserts by Niseko’s iconic Milk Kobo. Its cream puffs generously stuffed with fresh vanilla cream, ice cream and cheese tarts have, for the longest time, been the favoured sweets not only in the town but also in the entire prefecture. The milk used for the desserts flow in from a neighbouring ranch, ensuring that its freshness is duly trapped during the production process of the sugary treats.
As Izakaya Raku sits at central Niseko, the restaurant mostly caters to diners that stop by, in most cases holidaymakers composed of family members. Coming hot off the grills are Hokke fish, king crab legs and salmon belly that usually is done crispy. Also listed as to-die-for apart from the line of kushiyaki mentioned above is the fried chicken karage, described by foodies as the perfect beer match. And that’s saying a trip to Raku is just incomplete without a gulp of the world-famous Sapporo Beer.
Okonomiyaki is the version of pancake in Japan with a twist because the ingredients are only limited by the chef’s creative imagination. The rendering, therefore, is a lot tastier as seafood, pork and vegetables or a mix of everything can be thrown on the flat pan. The result is a savoury Japanese treat, thus looking like an American pancake, that needs to be devoured with a hot sake or ice-cold beer. At Okonomiyaki Ju, the feasting is normally accompanied by chatting, drinking and playing games with patrons.
When looking to temporarily escape from the biting Niseko cold, Bo-yo-so happily offers a warm and safe haven. The most adventurous seek the place, which stands on the slopes of Grand Hirafu, for the shelter, the soothing beer and the epic vista. The foods, of course, are equally delightful and consist mainly of ramen, tempura and Japanese curry. The hot snacks too function as a bonus for the souls that braved the bitter cold just to reach Bo-yo-so.
The main attraction by Ryougoku is the Chankonabe Hotpot Feast – a concoction that in Japan is part of Sumo wrestlers’ diet. Needless to say, it is a heavy meal and is in fact served for wrestlers looking to beef up their fats and muscles.
The folks at SnowBoard.com best illustrated on what to expect when ordering the hotpot: “It started with the most beautiful piece of tuna on a paste and Shiso leaf. The tuna was divine and while the Shiso leaf looks like simple garnish it is a MUST eat. The care and flavours in its preparation were sublime. Next up was a plate of beef ribs, followed by a platter of the freshest sashimi I have ever consumed, and then came the beast … A Hotpot with 21 different ingredients. Two of us couldn’t even eat half of it.”
Food Trucks of Niseko
Literally, the food trucks of Niseko is the resort town’s version of street foods but with a snowy, white setting. For the taking are pizza rolls, chips, fish, curries and a whole plethora of tasty treats dispensed by servers housed in several vans and trucks parked on an open lot. As one can imagine, the mercury is way below zero where and when the food trucks are operating so covering up in layer of clothes is recommended when venturing to this place.
A hidden gem and a pride of Snow Dog Village at Niseko Village, Upashi Seta has garnered praised from foodies around the world for its authentic cuisine that includes servings of breakfast and dinner. The dining experience is further boosted by highly-trained staff, which many customers lauded for being extremely accommodating and professional at the same time.
After a day-long activity of exploring Niseko, Upashi Seta is simply the perfect place to retreat to for its unique brand of Izakaya as well as the Hokkaido pork stew, cheese and potato croquettes and the radish salad. After discovering the Snow Dog-owned restaurant, one diner lamented that he wished he had known Upashi Seta earlier because “there are very few places like this left in Niseko.” If planning to swing by anytime soon on the best place in town to satisfy one’s cravings, please take note that happy hour starts at 6PM.