What's your favorite restaurant guys?
I'm often asked by guests which restaurants I recommend in Niseko so I thought it time to put together some sort of list. A lot of people want to know 'where the locals eat' which is a tricky question because Niseko Hirafu is basically a tourist town. Even so, there are several places that have been popular for many seasons with Niseko regulars and Nisekojin. They are BANG BANG, ABUCHA, KAMIMURA, RIN, THE BARN and NISEKO PIZZA. All of these restaurants have thrived because they are good and many regulars focus on getting bookings in these restaurants only, more or less. (AN DINING is heading into its third season and is also building a following.)
Most of the places I like are places run by husband and wife teams, whose committment to excellence is always higher than restaurants run by managers. That's definitely one of the features of dining in Niseko Hirafu - a high proportion of owner-chef teams. People talk about a world class dining scene here, but I prefer to think of it as ramshackle, eclectic and evolving. There are a lot of entrepreurial young Japanese chefs turning it on for ski crowd, interpreting what they think Japanese experience is or should be. Recently 'hotpots' have come to dominate the menus in the village, with GOSETSU UDON in Momiji St a new addition as well as RYUNABE in the upper village. Seafood is everywhere which is natural because Hokkaido is now an international brand name in the world of seafood.
Getting in to the popular restaurants is difficult in peak season if you leave it to the last minute, so I recommend concierge bookings, but if you can't, don't stress -- there is a good range of cheap and cheerful eateries in Niseko Hirafu such as EBISUTEI, YUMMY'S PIZZA, KOGETSU, YAMABITO, WILD BILL'S and MANPUKUTEI. If you can't get into one you should be able to get in to one of the others. And half the fun is discovering a cosy restaurant with sake and beer and hot Japanese food. Also, FUJIZUSHI on the corner only takes walkins. If you want to go on an eating expedition, go straight to MOMIJI ST then continue down to the lower village to Yukoro Onsen (bus stop 7) where you will find a few other fun watering holes as well as some on the way!
Anyway here are my NISEKO HIRAFU dining recommendations. Not necessarily the best, just places I personally like.
1. KAMIMURA - Located in the SHIKI building on 343, Kamimura is an iconic Niseko restaurant that has been around for about 10 years in Niseko. Chef Kamimura, trained by the gods, always puts on a special dining experience. Michelin starred, but not intimidating. Superb quality and service by Miyuki san and her front of house staff. You are looking at approx ¥14,000 per person (ex drinks) for a course of petite seafood, game and red meat creations. The wine list is easily the best in Niseko. It's not ideal environment for kids, especially young kids. You'll need to reserve well in advance for peak season, best to do via concierge. (Their downtown Kutchan off-shoot SAKABA is also excellent).
2. ABUCHA 2 - Located on the main street Hirafu zaka and in the swish SUIBOKU apartment complex, Abucha is probably the most popular Niseko restaurant. Wide range of dishes including sashimi, hotpot, grilled foods and good selction of Japanese SHOCHU and plum wines. Probably around 100 seats and a long bar where you can set up camp until you get a table. The staff are all Japanese and service is always friendly and prompt. They save tables for walkin every night. The overall quality of the food -- including seafood - is high and price reasonabe. Suitable for kids. Average around ¥5000 per person. Recommend. Reservations taken by phone.
3. YOSAKU - Tasty Yakitori (grilled chicken skewers) on 343 at the top of Momiji St. It has been around for a few years now and the food is good - the smokey grilled yakitori is as good as anywhere in Niseko. Tramp in in your snow gear, all good. Open till midnight, it's got a ramshackle feel. Easy enough to get a resevation, but walk in also a good bet. Something like ¥4000 per person with drinks.
4. RIN - Small Izakaya run by one of Niseko's favorite characters - Yukari san who is there cooking every night. Grilled and fried food prepared with lots of flair, reasonanly priced, people fall in love with the cosy atmosphere. Its in the lower village and you should make a reservation in advance. Its a small restaurant so not recommended for big bookings over 6 people. Aussie John will take your reservation and get your credit card details up front. ¥5000 per person.
5. NAGOMI - Small Izakaya opposite Ebisutei, simple but striking wooden design and illumination - you won't miss it. Stylish interiors to match and friendly service from a Japanese team. Grilled skewers, tofu dishes, basahi. Great selection of Italian reds - but you won't need to go past the house Tuscan wine. Hard not to form new friendships. Reservations and walkins.
6. SHOKUSAI - Classy Japanese restaurant in the Alpen hotel at the top of Hirafu zaka. Very authentic. Only really good tempura in Niseko. Seafood is more about presentation than freshness but overall very high quality. I have actually cracked their sashimi/garnish ratio: double the sashimi minus two. For example if there are 5 types of sashimi there would be 8 different garnishes. Very pretty. Sake and draft beer recommended - wine selection not great. Average ¥7000 per person.
They are my personal favorites. I can't claim to have eaten at all of the restaurants in Niseko - I wish I could but I'm always fully engaged running our place - EZO SEAFOODS OYSTER BAR. But there you go. This season, look out for new eateries in the ODIN PLACE building, at the intersection; and in Kabayama, where a new ROBATA YAKI restaurant will open. NANIWATEI I think it is called. NISEKO RAMEN has relocated to Izumikyo in front of JOJOs - still the best ramen in Niseko.
Finally, I recommend TRIP ADVISOR as a good place to research your culinary programme. Most of the top ten restaurants in the "Kutchan" section are there on the back of genuine reviews.
If you have any feedback or your own recommendations don't hesitate to let me know.
Ezo Seafoods Oyster Bar