In 2016 December (yes Winter), we did our very first free and easy, self-drive trip to Hokkaido with 2 young kids (age 8.5 and 2.5 years old)). As it’s a DIY trip, knowing where to get food is important. Moreover as it’s Winter, where to get WARM cooked food is even more critical. Unlike Singapore, eateries in Niseko are not located near each other and one has to sometimes brave sub-zero temperatures to drive/catch a shuttle bus/walk there. Some eateries require reservations while others would require you to queue. Hokkaido food in general is good but when faced with so many choices, it’s good to have at least a list of restaurants/cafes you know won’t go wrong.
Here’s our list of recommended eateries in Niseko (based on our dining experiences there last year). Hopefully it will make your stay in Niseko an enjoyable gastronomic adventure too.
1. Ryunabe Niseko 龍鍋
Cuisine: Fusion – Hong Kong and Japanese
What we tried: Cantonese Hot Pot and Jap Sashimi
Ryunabe specializes in premium authentic Chinese hot pot. Chef Alex and majority of the staff are from Hong Kong. The cuisine here is a cross between the best of Hong Kong hot pot using traditional homemade soup bases combined with top quality ingredients of Hokkaido.
Must try: The Sashimi, especially the Uni. We’ve never tasted Uni that is so sweet! The ocean fresh Sashimi platter truly made our day!
The hotpot with milk: The stock is slowly brewed over 36 hours without any MSG. Added with Hokkaido milk, it is one sensational stock. The Wagyu Beef and Iberico Pork Shoulder are fresh and tender. Simply shabu-shabu them in the stock for 2-3 mins and they literally melt in the mouth!
We ended the dinner with the chef Alex’s specialty – Soup Rice. This is one dish which you would not want to miss…even if your bellies are full. Premium Japanese rice and other condiments are slowly poured into the soup base, then slowly stirred to infuse with the soup. Served straight from the hotpot and consume. Really flavorful!
The service here is top-notch. The staff are warm and hospitable. Most that we spoke to, including Chef Alex hail from Hong Kong and they are ever ready to indulge in some chit chat about Hong Kong, Hokkaido and everything in between! We would definitely return.
2. Yukitei Niseko 雪庭
Cuisine: Japanese. Serves Shabu Shabu (Hot pot)
A Shabu Shabu place that serves exceptional Hokkaido Wagyu Beef and Kurobuta Pork (Not all wagyu are created equal!) Very tender and fresh, the meat absolutely melts in the mouth. You can request for a fresh egg to dip your meats ala sukiyaki style. Fresh Hokkaido veggies complement the hot pot meal very well.
We ended our meal with their Macha Ice-Cream and Yuzu Sherbet which sweetened the dining experience. Both ice-creams were delicious particularly the zesty Yuzu which was so refreshing! This is one eatery is mid-sized and chic. Service is friendly. We would return.
Address: Japan, 〒044-0081 Hokkaido Prefecture, Abuta District, Kutchan, Yamada, 170-144
3. Teuchi-Soba Ichimura 手打蕎麦いちむら
Cuisine: Japanese Handmade Soba
What we tried: Soba and Tempura
The original ramen restaurant we wanted to go does not allow children below 12 years old. The hotel concierge recommended this alternative and it was a blessing in disguise!
We were well rewarded with excellent handmade Soba that soaks up the flavourful miso soup – the perfect Japanese noodle meal for a cold winter’s day. We also love their freshly fried tempura. The batter was fried crisp but the vegetables and prawns inside are still succulent! Goes so well with the miso dip.
This little restaurant is located in the middle of a beautiful winter-scape. Step outside to have a look at the ethereal landscape of pure powder snow dotted with Alpine trees and you’d feel like you’ve stepped into a winter calendar.
Address: Japan, 〒044-0081 Hokkaido Prefecture, Abuta District, 倶知安町山田68-4
4. Guzu Guzu Hirafu Bakery & Café
Cuisine: Japanese Western Menu and Bakes
What we tried: Coffee and Croissants
Right next to Teuchi-Soba Ichimura is a quaint little bakery café with a simple sign, “Café and Bakery”. Located on the outskirts of Hirafu, Guzu Guzu is somewhat of a local’s secret. The memorable name is Japanese slang for ‘an action that happens slowly and lazily’.
Step into the shop and you feel as if you are in grandma’s kitchen. A charming wooden interior, the aroma of freshly baked bread and relaxing, soulful music makes Guzu Guzu a true gem. Don’t be surprised to find loyal Japanese customers inside sipping their coffee and savouring their fine home made pastry creations. We love the croissant and the bread. As this cafe shares the same ethereal winter-scape as Teuchi-Soba Ichimura, linger longer to admire the scenery. You may want to walk around within the shop to appreciate some of their knitting crafts which are on sale.
Address: 68 – 5 Yamada, Kutchan cho, Abuta gun, Hokkaido
Cuisine: Japanese Western Fusion
We tried: The semi-buffet lunch
This is slightly out of the way from our hotel at in Niseko but we threaded through the snow and wind to try this and the bakery next to it – Milk Kobo. We not only lived to tell the tale but we highly recommend a visit.
This relatively large eatery serves dishes ala carte main courses with salad and desserts in buffet style. We tried the pasta which was perfectly done – al-dante and light. A perfect dish for the kids too.
Then came the pork steaks. The medallion sizes were a little small for my tummy but they were well-seared on the outside but yet tender and tasty within. The salad and dessert buffet complements the mains very well. Some items stood out – the Jap potato salad, the tofus, the steamed sweet potato, the butter cake, the award –winning milk yogurt among others is a must try – thick, creamy yogurt…yum! Paired with their free flow of coffee or tea, a meal here can convince you to linger indoors and not venture out into the cold!
Address: Japan, 〒048-1522 Hokkaido Prefecture, Abuta District, ニセコ町Soga, 888_1
6. Milk Kobo
Cuisine: Fusion: Western/ Japanese bakery
We tried: Hokkaido Cheese Tarts, Hokkaido Cream Puffs, Japanese Pastry
This mid-sized bakery housed in a red barn-like house has its name reaching far and wide. Surrounded by snowy landscape and knee-high snow, we trudged 5 mins across from Prativo to taste their famed tarts and choux puffs. It would have been faster without the thick snow; nevertheless, it was worth it. The cheese in their legendary cheese tarts are so silky smooth yet we can ‘feel’ the cheese swirling around the taste-buds. How did they do that?
This is a mid-sized café which, like its neighbor Prativo has a commercialized feel. It does pack a bit of a crowd coming in to buy their tarts and pastries. Apparently it’s a hot favourite among Singaporeans. If you have the time, do order a few pastries and sip away the afternoon with coffee of tea while soaking in the ethereal view from the window. Don’t rush!
Address: Japan, 〒048-1522 Hokkaido Prefecture, Abuta District, ニセコ町曽我 888_1
7. Niseko Ramen Kazahana ニセコラーメン風花
Cuisine: Japanese (Ramen and Gyoza)
We tried: Potato Foam Ramen and Chicken Wings
I will always remember this eatery which was recommended by the hotel concierge. Our hotel shuttle had dropped us at the edge of their route – the local convenience store ‘Lawson’, and we walked on foot, with 2 kids in tow for 10 minutes on the dark icy road. And then there it was, a small wooden hut of sorts, warmly glowing in the dark – kind of like a beacon of warmth in the little match girl’s story!
This small, intimate eatery is set in a wooden house reminiscence of an old Hokkaido cottage. When we arrived at 6.30pm, the eatery was already full. Fortunately, there was one last table for us. What joy!
The locals highly recommend the Potato Foam Ramen and that is exactly what we tried. In fact, the ramen alone is dope! Fresh, twangy ramen bathing in rich, flavourful stock. The layer of potato foam on top gave the broth a creamy, fuller texture. So unique, so tasty, a must try! This eatery gave an authentic homey Japanese feel. The staff are friendly and efficient as they served their patrons. We would return!
Address: Japan, 〒044-0081 Hokkaido Prefecture, Abuta District, 倶知安町Yamada, 179_36
8. Tsubara Tsubara スープカレー＆和Dining つばらつばら
Cuisine: Japanese (Curry Soup Rice)
We tried: Curry Soup with Rice, Sashimi
We overheard the local shuttle bus driver recommending this place to a passenger on the bus and took note of it. We then heard about this place again from our concierge. We were intrigued – two locals had recommended this place on separate occasions. Surely we have to hunt it down…and we did! This is a mid-sized Japanese eatery with staff that spoke mainly Japanese. We tried the soup curries which comes in various spiciness ‘strength levels’ ranging from 0 to 10. The staff recommends that we try ‘level 2’ as we were sharing the meal with the kids.
We chose different varieties of curries and unanimously we agree that they were all Oishii!!!! For my Pork Curry Ramen, they lightly toasted the greens (capsicum, carrots and bean sprouts). That tinge of charcoal-roast gave the ramen the extra bit of depth! The Sashimi starter set we ordered came with juicy seared scallops and thick tuna slices which we paired with Sake.
Now for the curry. The curry stock is very uniquely delicious. There was no coconut milk or milk of any kind added which makes this curry more of a soupy gravy. In addition to the expected Jap curry taste, they seem to have added some Italian herbs (I thought I tasted oregano!). The herbs gave it that special twang which made us go ‘wow…what was that?’ The vegetables used (brinjals, carrots, lotus roots, potatoes etc.) are grown and harvested in Hokkaido, so sweet and fresh. Now we know why the locals recommend this place!
The staff speak mainly Japanese but they were friendly and with a bit of hand-waving, our requests get met. We will return for the curry. Slurp!
Address: Japan, 〒044-0081 北海道倶知安町 字山田132-14
9. Asahikawa Ramen Tozanken 旭川ラーメン登山軒
Cuisine: Japanese (Ramen, Gyoza)
We tried: Ramen
This was our last eatery before we headed to the airport. The one cafe we had wanted to visit was closed and we needed somewhere for lunch. This was just right next to the shuttle bus stop and below a popular souvenir shop – read: convenient.
This was clearly a commercialized ramen shop and very popular with tourists due to its prime location. They serve genuine Asahikawa Ramen made from 100% Hokkaido wheat noodles, served in a smooth and rich soup. The ramen and gyoza here are about the same quality as what we would get in a Japanese restaurant within a commercial mall in Singapore. Serving is huge and service is fast and prompt. It’s a safe bet if you need a quick meal.
Address: Japan, 〒044-0081 Hokkaido Prefecture, Abuta District, Kutchan, Yamada, 191-31
10. Seico Mart Niseko Hirafu
Not every meal in Hokkaido has to be a sit-down meal. If you are budget-conscious (like we do), Seico Mart has a hot food section that provides ready-made meals. This quintessentially Japanese convenience store, or combini, is a gold mine of random snacks, beverages and everyday essentials. Its location in the centre of downtown Hirafu makes it a popular stop on the way to pretty much anywhere. We bought lunch there on 2 afternoons and consumed it back in our apartment hotel. The bento sets are cheap and delicious.
To the right of Seico Mart is a line of food trucks selling pizzas, kebab wraps and other take-aways, these make good alternatives for lunch and dinner too.
Address: Japan, 〒044-0081 北海道虻田郡倶知安町 字山田190番地
Phone: +81 136-23-3271
Eateries that didn’t make the list:
Angie did an extensive research on Trip Advisor to see which eateries came recommended by online travellers. While most met or exceeded our expectations, we found Abuchan 2 highly over-rated. The Shabu Shabu set and Ikura Don which we ordered were both too salty. There are many better restaurants in Niseko so either give this a miss or order other items on their menu.
We heard rave reviews of this cafe from our Niseko-loving friends but lady luck wasn’t shining on us. It remained closed throughout our 1 week stay in Niseko. We’ve to KIV it for our next visit.
P.S. Most of the popular eateries in Niseko require reservations and you need to provide credit card details to confirm (a small penalty may be charged in the event of a no-show). For those that do not require reservations, it’s best to arrive early (around 6 to 6.30pm) before the peak dinner crowd starts streaming in at 7 pm. Some eateries open throughout the day while others only open for dinner. Check the opening times daily. You wouldn’t want to be stuck out in the freezing cold waiting for a restaurant to open. Our list is far from being exhaustive, we have a ton of restaurants yet to check out in Niseko. If you have a personal favorite, do drop us a note too!