There’s no hiding the fact that Niseko has possibly the best restaurant scene of any ski town in Japan. With everything from michelin star cuisine to tiny ramen houses that have a permanent queue of hungry worshippers out front – a culinary adventure awaits you when you eat out in this bustling new-age Japanese ski town.
Here are a few of the Mabey Ski team favourites…
431 Niseko, Niseko-cho, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido 048-1511, Japan
Led by Soba Master Tatsuru Rai, this 12-seater restaurant is about as authentic as they come. Hidden behind snow walls on the other side of a narrow wooden footbridge you’ll find a little restaurant in a patchwork wooden building where you’ll be greeted by Tatsuru, his wife and their two sons.
Once seated you will witness the rhythmical process performed by Tatsuru to make soba noodles — which is well worth the visit on its own. The menu is set and the food is served Kaiseki style; small, unique dishes using local and fresh ingredients focused around the best 100% pure buckwheat soba noodles you’ve ever tasted.
Ezo Seafoods Oyster Bar
170-165 Yamada, Kutchan, Abuta District, Hokkaido 044-0081, Japan
The minute you step inside Ezo Seafoods you’ll realise you’re in for something special. You won’t find any paper menus, instead the staff will walk you through what’s in the live tanks and help you make an “Omakase” or “Chef’s Selection” style order.
Whether you choose your seafood, or leave it to the team, there is a recommended flow; start with cold seafood like oysters, crab and sashimi, then share some cooked dishes like fried scallops or whitebait, then choose a fish or two to share on your table. A trip to Hokkaido is simply not complete without a seafood experience, you might as well go for the best.
78-5 Hanazono, Kutchan Cho, Abuta Gun, Hokkaido 044-0084, Japan
Soak up the tranquillity of nature and experience some of the essential elements that make Japan so unique — tradition, craftsmanship, art, food and spectacular scenery. The cafe and gallery operate inside a re-purposed 150-year-old traditional Japanese home and has culinary offerings that include a Chef’s Lunch Course, Tea Ceremony with Bento Box and a Chef’s Table Dinner. The Somoza dinner is a truly unique immersion into Japanese culture that is not to be missed.
Note that the Chef’s Table is only available by reservation for groups of 5 or more.
3F Odin Place, 190-13 Yamada, Kutchan Abuta-gun, Hokkaido 044-0081, Japan
When it’s time to make a departure from local fare for something more familiar and comforting, head to The Alpinist for cheese fondue, Swiss raclette and French alpine cuisine that will make you melt in your seat.
With an open fireplace and dramatic views of Annupuri mountain, you can feast on foie gras, double rib-eye steak, confit duck leg and Mediterranean style charcuterie boards. But the fondue and raclette are what you should save your appetite for. Served in the traditional manner you will not leave disappointed, rather, you’ll be looking forward to your next trip to the Alps or reminiscing about your last.
188-24 Yamada, Kutchan, Abuta District, Hokkaido 044-0081, Japan
One of Hirafu’s most popular restaurants and famous for their ‘yakitori’ — grilled meat and vegetable skewers cooked over hot charcoal and seasoned with traditional sauces.
With a cosy atmosphere this is a great place to get a taste of a more local experience and sample some good old-fashioned izakaya-style food. Watch out for their char-grilled Hokkaido beef loin steak, salmon sashimi and Akkeshi oysters — oh, and don’t forget the green onions (seriously).
Please note that reservations in Niseko are highly recommended, and many restaurants are open for bookings up to 3 months in advance. Bear in mind that most require a credit card to make a booking, and last-minute cancellations are considered very rude in Japanese culture.