After dinner at Hyousetsu no Mon, we decided to take our time walking back to our hotel. There was a wonderful, crisp chill in the air, and for some reason, a holiday feeling that just kind of resonated. Folks were out and about enjoying the Christmas lights and displays in Odori Park. I guess this is why we decided to visit Sapporo. It was just joyfully chill; both figuratively and literally.
Odori Park sure was lit up brightly with a number of displays. There's just something about this place that felt right.
On an interesting note; we really enjoyed the snacks in Sapporo....man, all the shops and samples really lured us in. We bought so many snacks for my MIL, that we had them shipped to her from the Post Office here in Sapporo!
We slept well and awoke the next morning refreshed; though not quite ready to leave.
The Missus had what She has deemed Her favorite breakfast buffet. No kidding.....look at what She ate!
She had always said that shiokara was one of the worst things She's ever eaten. And yet, do you see it on one of Her plates! Apparently things have changed!
I was going to miss the black bean natto, which I loved.
Man, what a breakfast.
We checked out and left a bit early for New Chitose Airport. For some reason, it's one of our favorite airports. It's not super huge, but there are a ton of shops.
With tons of food!
Just in case you needed to pick up some seafood for that person you forgot about......
I think one of the reasons we loved the airport were the easily accessible lockers and all the samples.
There's this one chocolate corn snack that I just loved......melon flavor....I know...me...mister I-don't-really-like-sweets. But man, that was so good. We'd arrived early so we could check out Hokkaido Ramen Dojo in the airport. But ended up stuffed by all the samples folks kept handing to us, that we were too full.
That will have to wait for the next time we're here.
I'm thinking it will be a matter of when; not if.
Before we knew it; we were on our flight, on JetStar Airlines.
The Missus loves crab, I have never seen anyone destroy a pile of crab with speed and efficiency like the Missus and Her Cousins. So I decided on what I read was he oldest crab specialty restaurant in Sapporo; Hyousetsu-no-Mon. Located in the Susukino district, we had made reservations on our first evening in Sapporo. We had a rather difficult time finding the place the first time and we headed over a bit early just in case we got a bit lost. Funny story about our reservation. The restaurant is multi-level deal, you have to find the level with the front desk, which we did. The studious looking gentleman behind the front desk was very professional and serious looking. He spoke decent English and we worked out a time for our reservation. Then he took down my name.....with a big look of surprise....then a huge smile, "Aaaah, Xxxxxxxxx-san, Xxxxxxxxx-san!" He was so friendly, like a different person. He didn't think I was Japanese! He then wrote my name down in the book and showed it to me. Now, I'd never, ever seen my family name written in Japanese, so I just smiled and nodded. By this time, the Missus was cracking up!
The Missus couldn't help but laugh when we walked up to the reception desk, and the gentleman saw me and called out a greeting!
We were taken to one of the private rooms. The woman serving us was probably in her 60's, but was amazingly efficient. While walking to the restroom, I saw the youngers girls trying to keep up with her. When she slide open the door, I looked at the table and went "oh-oh". I dread having to sit on the floor, it's just an accident waiting to happen. Luckily, the floor below the table was sunken. Whew.
I had ordered the Live Hairy Crab and King Crab Course for the Missus (13,000¥ - about $125/US) and the King Crab Full Course (9,300¥ - about $90/US) for me.
Of course you needed sake; we started with something from Otokoyama, the kuniyoshi nona torizake (1,010¥ - about $10). A nice, crisp, and clean tasting sake.
While we met our guest of honor.
And the appetizer course arrived.
Man, we loved the crab roe!
The Sashimi Course was three hairy crab legs
So sweet, if a bit on the chewy side.
And a nice crab claw.
I gotta say, the King Crab Claw meat has maybe the best flavor of all the pieces I had. It was really sweet and had a very clean taste.
Then a portable stove and hot pot was delivered to our table.
We were both given King Crab Legs and some vegetables for the hot pot. This was nice, but no big deal. We just made sure not to cook the legs too much. For some reason, I thought the hot pot broth tasted quite good on its own.
The grilled king crab was nice, with rich, smoky touches, and quite delicious.
Then came what I call the Missus's course; the steamed hairy crab. I let Her have all of it; She does love Her crab.
While I ordered Chitosetsuru Junmai-Daiginjo (1,375¥ - about $14/US). Floral, on the light side.
While my steamed King Crab Legs arrived.
Rich and buttery, nice clean flavors.
Up next were the tempura courses; which both the Missus and I thought were light and crisp, but nothing especially distinctive.
The next two courses weren't our favorites. The crab in a vinegar sauce was too sour and you couldn't make out anything.
The King Crab Gratin was a bit too rich for us and you really couldn't make out any crab. It was quite filling though.
Our last sake was our favorite, simply called Maruta (935¥ - about $9/US). Considered one of the best examples of Ginpu (a sake rice grown on Hokkaido) Junmaishu.
Crisp with an interesting tongue feel.
I wasn't too sure about the Crab Nigiri, but it was quite good, served Aburi (torched) style, which helped to develop the flavors and texture.
We both enjoyed the final course, which was an egg drop porridge. It helped to finish things off and really did have that "aaah" factor.
And the serving was quite generous.
The nice palate cleansing sorbet was the dessert.
This was quite a meal. You'd think we'd be stuffed. But because of the pacing, both the Missus and I, while full, didn't feel like we were bursting at the seams. The service was excellent. While I don't think we'll be doing this again, it was a fun experience and we were glad we did it.
Hyosetsu-no-Mon Minami 5 Jonishi Chuo Ward, Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan
We really enjoyed our time in Sapporo and were kind of sad to be leaving the next day. So we took the long way back to the hotel......
After sampling a few brews at Otaru Brewery we walked back to the JR Station. Just to the right of that station stands a rather nondescript street and a very discreet doorway. Behind that door is Sankaku Market. It really doesn't look like much from the outside, but walk thru that door and you'll enter a bustling little market.
Full of some of the most wonderful seafood I've ever had a chance to see.
Opposite the stands are restaurants....more like stalls with tables. One of them had a crazy line of people waiting to eat. I looked at the menu and saw that it was the cheapest place in the market.
Right before that stood another shop, this one was also busy, but we decided to just take a chance. The woman in charge gave us a paper with a number and we stood off to the side to wait.
I went for a walk to the loo....which is how I noticed that the crowds here gather around the area where the restaurants were.
After about 15 minutes, the woman in charge found us and we were seated and a little bowl of ika; which looked like it was colored with squid ink was placed before us.
We were given menus and here's where I'm glad I took a photo of the menu since folks here don't believe the prices we paid for lunch.
Not realizing how much rice was in these bowls we ordered three! Later on during the trip, Kat mentioned that we could order half portions of rice. Which we'll do when we return.
We shared the three bowls. The first to arrive was the most expensive one (2000¥) a bit less than $20. Geez Louise, look at all of that sweet crab!
Which I thought was the weakest item in the bowl. The salmon was nice and mild in flavor, fatty, with a wonderful texture. I've had Hokkaido Uni before and thought it to be very briney and intense in flavor, but this was so creamy, slightly sweet, with the wonderful flavor of the ocean. Like you took a bite of the cleanest, sweetest, water of the Pacific. The ikura were perfect, briney, not overly salty, with a wonderful snap to them. For around twenty bucks!
We also ordered this which cost 1300¥. More of that wonderful ikura and those scallops were super sweet.
The ebi were tender, but very mild in flavor and not particularly interesting....but that ikura.
I was curious what a 980¥ (about $9.50) bowl of salmon would look like. Sheeesh......
10 pieces of fresh and delicious salmon. I'm very cautious about getting salmon in restaurants; but the stuff in the market looked so fresh and of good quality. We really didn't need the wasabi as everything tasted clean and fresh, just a bit of soy sauce for the salmon. We did feel bad having so much rice left over, but we'll know what to do in the future.
This was one heck of a meal for under forty bucks....remember, there's no tipping in Japan. I came back and mentioned how good the Hokkaido Uni was to Tommy at Catalina.....which he wasn't too happy about, but what the heck.
Man, we left fat and happy. We managed to get back to Sapporo and squeeze in a nap and a nice walk before dinner, which was to be at the oldest crab specialty restaurant in Sapporo. We sure were eating well!
Full of historic buildings that are now glass and souvenir shops, tons of restaurant, and a little sweets kingdom known as LeTAO.
We loved the charming streets, the buildings just gave off a nice vibe, especially since things weren't especially busy.
We were getting a bit chilly, the warming effects of the umeshu was wearing off, so we decided to stop in at this charming little coffee and tea shop built in the former location of the Kubo Store, which was built in 1907.
The Missus got a nice cup of matcha and I a well made pour over, very smooth, but with enough of a nice kick for me.
The barista was a wonderfully dignified looking woman, who just rocked her lavender highlites perfectly. A study in aging well, gracefully, but with just the perfect amount of hipness and edge.
Refreshed and energized, we ended our little walk at LeTAO, which several folks told me I "had to" visit when going to Otaru.
This a multifloor deal, with a sweet shop upstairs, a very popular hot chocolate stand....but the item that LeTAO is known for is their cheesecake.
The cheesecake portion of the shop actually looks more like a jewelry store.
For some reason, I wasn't too keen on the stuff here, but of course, I don't have much of a sweet tooth.
LeTAO 7-16 Sakaimachi Dori Otaru, Hokkaido, Japan
We headed back around and took Rinkosen Street back to the canal area. There was one last stop I wanted to check out before heading to lunch. I'd enjoyed the bottle of Otaru Weisse I had in Hokkaido. I also recalled Kat's post on Otaru Brewery, so I thought we'd give it a try. The place has quite the Bavarian Beer Garden look and makes some interesting claims on the English menu.
Hmmmm.....not hangover with the beer here, eh? Well, let me have at it! I ordered the Dunkel, which had quite a head. The finish reminded me of caramel-burnt sugar with a touch of stone fruit mixed with a bready yeasty fragrance. Not bad at 5.2 ABV....clean finish, sugary flavors lingering, not too bitter.
The place filled up pretty quickly as most folks were starting up on lunch. Several large parties; all Japanese came in, and a couple looked like they were doing some kind of brewery tour finished up as well.
For some reason, I just wasn't motivated to eat here.....we were in Otaru and I wanted to finish up with some seafood.
The Missus got the Weisse and like the bottle I had previously, it had that banana thing going on. I read that in addition to the classic Weisse wort used for the product, it's also sticking to the traditional brewing method and tightly controlling the 4 VG level (4-vinyl guaiacol), hence the increased banana flavor (iso-amyl acetate) and less of the spicy clove that I'm used too. It's quite a pleasant beer, easy to drink, light, high carbonation, very nice overall.
We enjoyed stopping here, it was relaxing, though he place started getting really busy when we left.
Since we're supposed to have record heat this weekend, I'd initially planned on doing yet another Bun Bo Hue post. But in the end, common sense prevailed and I decided that doing a short little post of our early winter visit to Otaru might be a cooler option.....
We had a fun time in Asahikawa on our first day in Hokkaido. On our second day we hit the rails again; this time to the charming port town of Otaru. We headed out with no firm plans, not quite sure of what to expect and in the end, in spite of the place being rather touristy, we really enjoyed ourselves. It's a short 30 minute train ride on the Hakodate Line from Sapporo Station to Otaru. As we walked out of the station, we were greeted by light flurries of snow....those little dots in the photo below.
Chuo Dori is the street that goes straight from the train station to the canal. It's lined with hotels and other interesting diversions.
Along the way, there are more than a few markets/shops where you can pick up seafood which they'll cook up for you.
At the intersection right before the canal stands what I was told is Hokkaido's Oldest Standing Commercial Warehouse, built in 1893, which now houses the Tourist Information Office, some souvenir shops, and a pretty interesting "Christmas Tree" made out of glass floats.
I'm fascinated by those because I'm old enough to remember finding the small glass floats from time to time on the beach back home!
Inside was a tower made of wine glasses. Otaru is known for their glasswork, so I guess this makes sense.
Meanwhile, outside was a certain character I remember reading about in Kat's post. That nattily dressed statue is of a famous firehouse dog named Bunko. According to this post, Bunko was a brave mutt who would help the firefighters and apparently rode to a thousand fires. I actually saw the children's book about Bunko!
Crossing the street we reached the canal, but really had no plans.
It had warmed up to a balmy 34 degrees Fahrenheit.
Upon crossing the street and noticed a bit of hustle and bustle as folks walked into a parking lot. It looked like some kind of festival was taking place. Then I came across the sign and read the one little English sheet on the poster, "Looks Strange Tastes Good", then below, "Shako"......oooh, Mantis Shrimp!
I guess this was a mantis shrimp festival! Talk about my lucky day. Man, when was the last time I had mantis shrimp?
Things were just starting up when we arrived.......
But there was a fairly long line forming on the other side of the parking lot. The Missus, not one to miss an opportunity grabbed some money and went straight into the line.
I walked up to the front to have a peek......
And noticed the gentleman dumping baskets of mantis shrimp into a cauldron.
Yep, this was the right line.......
Miso soup with a very sweet mantis shrimp; quite nice! Of course, man (nor the Missus) lives on miso soup alone. We wanted something to warm us up a bit, even if it was only 1030 in the morning!
We could not ignore the simple three letters H-O-T....plus the Missus could make out some of the Kanji.
Nothing like a nice steaming cup of umeshu to warm you up. Just the right thing to make you almost forget about the cold!
Just then, there was a little commotion on the other side of the parking lot. It was a Taiko Drum Group!
Man, it was freezing......but check out the folks in shorts!
Of course, it's the "old timers" who really have a good time!
We stayed for the whole performance and slowly drifted away after. Here's the festival website.
We saw the interesting "fellows" above while headed to Sakaimachi Hondori. At first we thought he was just a rather eccentric local walking his dog. Then he whipped out a camera and starting taking photos. So I'm not so sure....does he travel the country with his faithful canine? Then the Missus read the dog's jacket which said "In Memory of....." with a caricature of a dog.....so does this dog wear a sweater in memory of this guy's previous dog? Hmmm....... Well, at least we were finding that Otaru was far from boring!
It was early in the afternoon when we returned from Asahikawa and it was time a nice afternoon nap. After the light snooze and freshening up, we decided to head out for dinner. Walking through the lobby we noticed, not one, but three weddings taking place!
I guess the Old World charm of the Hotel Monterey makes it a hot spot for weddings!
We noticed that it wasn't very cold out as we walked to our dinner destination. I was told that we absolutely should try Jingisukan (Genghis Khan) while in Sapporo and while it was kind of touristy, we should at least check out the Sapporo Beer Garden. It was a pretty relaxing, quiet walk.
There are several restaurants on the premises. We chose the very casual "Kessel Hall", which has a large beer cauldron, made in 1912 looming over it.
While the place seemed a bit busy, we had no problem getting a table. In an interesting move, we were given large plastic bags for our jackets.....which should have been a hint as to what we'd be exposed to.
After a rather large breakfast and ramen for lunch, we weren't very hungry, so while the all-you-can-eat option wasn't even in the plans, we just ordered a single portion of the mutton with vegetables.
And some other items from the menu that we were curious about. Loved the nice piece of fat used to coat the griddle.
We also got a mug of the Sapporo Hokkaido Limited which I thought was a bit lighter and sweeter than the usual Sapporo lager I have once in a while.
In an earlier post I mentioned Hokkaido produce and dairy products. We had a chance to try a few items from the menu; first Hokkaido baked potato....which, unlike the potatoes in Peru and Spain, were really mild in flavor. Also, being cheese lovers, we jumped at the chance of trying Hokkaido cheese, this one being a nice and creamy, but very mild in flavor. We both prefer Camembert with a more full bodied riper flavor.
The mutton actually had a pretty strong, gamey flavor which we both enjoyed.
The fat basted the bean sprouts and the onions added a mild pungent flavor. It was just enough for the Missus and I.
There was one interesting downside to eating here. Remember I mentioned the plastic bag for our jackets? Well, we should have actually worn plastic over our clothing as the place has no ventilation.
It was so thick that it could almost knock you over. We ended up quarantining our clothes from this visit until we had access to a washer in Tokyo!
Sapporo Bier Garten 9-2-10, Kita7Jo, Higashi-ku Sapporo, Hokkaido, Japan
There was one thing we learned about at information center. A very nice woman was giving out samples of Hokkaido corn soup, the stuff is made from a powder, so I've always been leery. It was actually very good! The Missus really wasn't interested in trying it, but I had Her try a sample and She was hooked. We bought a couple of boxes home with us and though we can't find the exact same brand here in San Diego, we found one that is a reasonable facsimile. It's great as a little snack or even breakfast on a colder morning.
We took a short detour on the way to the hotel.....trying to stay downwind from folks as we visited the basement of Daimaru looking for some snacks.
There was a Hokkaido Products shop along the way and I purchased a little "nightcap" for me.
This was a nice Hefe, for some reason the fragrance reminded me of bananas! It was a mild, but refreshing beer, which I enjoyed. We were headed to Otaru in the morning and I recalled Kat and Satoshi had visited the brewery a few years earlier. So we now had another item for our agenda!
And no, we weren't headed to Asahikawa for the weather, which was actually pretty nice at about 36 degrees Fahrenheit when we left Sapporo, but for more hedonistic endeavor.
The weather changes quickly here....from the mild near freezing drizzle and the rainbow above, to the sudden snow during our 90 minute ride to Asahikawa.
But things had cleared pretty quickly by the time we had arrived.
When we mentioned visiting Asahikawa to folks who knew about the city, the first thing mentioned was Asahiyama Zoo; though they really couldn't fathom going there at the end of November. And when they found out what our real purpose was....well, they kind of thought of us as being a bit, well, as my Mom would have said, "きちがい".
To get to the first destination, we had to leave the train station and cross several streets to one of the many municipal bus stops. From there, it was me, using my terrible, quite limited Japanese, to ask if the bus passed the destination. Once on the bus, I used Google Maps with pocket wifi to figure out when we were getting close. Lucky for us; the wonderful and friendly driver remembered that I had asked about the place and made sure to let us know. And when we started walking in the wrong direction, stopped, opened the door of the bus and pointed us in the right direction. You gotta love Japan!
So where was this? Well, while I have a favorite splurge sake that I enjoy, my favorite (not) everyday sake is made by Otokoyama. If my liver could only speak. Sam used to call me Mr Otokoyama ages ago and Ed from Yuma and I really enjoyed our Otokoyama in our younger days eating at Sakura.
So a visit to Otokoyama Brewery was a must.
The sake museum was interesting, I didn't know that Otokoyama has been around for almost 350 years!
You get to see the brewing facilities, a collection of scrolls, and vintage brewing tools.
Loved the various displays of various awards and the world wide distribution....heck, I even recognize some of these places!
And then of course, there's the tasting area......
Just when we started tasting various sake, a busload of Chinese tourists invaded. The Missus was laughing as many of them complained about having to use the steps to go upstairs! We decided to take a break and sit at one of the desks; which had a collection of reading glasses of various magnification....I don't recall seeing anything like this before.....
When things calmed down a bit, having tasted most of the free samples, we went to taste the "good stuff" which you had to pay for.
It is a tiny shop, a few simple tables and bar seats.
As with most ramen places we've been to in Japan, you help yourself to the ume and pickles.
What did we order? Well, that was a no-brainer. Shio Toroniku style of course. Which was delivered in the signature thick sided donburi, designed to keep the broth hot during your entire meal.
There some slight, though significant differences with regard to the ramen. The noodles were even more chewy and just had a wonderful texture. The pork cheek was sliced much thicker than what we've had here in San Diego, and yet started to fall to pieces when dipped in the broth. The big difference? The broth tasted less salty, but had a mild seafood flavor, this totally reminded me of the flavor of Sanouka's shio broth when they first opened. I don't really pick that up in recent bowls in San Diego.
Since we'd had a rather large breakfast, we shared the single bowl, and also ordered a boiled egg and some rice, which was cooked perfectly, and went well with the pickles.
One constant between Santouka here and Santouka in the states is.....the boiled egg is still mediocre as it's hard boiled. At least this one didn't have that sulphuric tasting green ring around the yolk that indicates a terribly overcooked boiled egg.
In regards to the ramen, the Missus claims this is the best bowl of ramen She has had to date. Me? Well, I'm not so sure..... Still, I can now say I've been to the original Santouka.
We walked back to the train station with bellies full of warm ramen.
The train was pretty empty, I guess it was the slow time of the day.
My friends actually did pretty well, since I bought them a bottle of the Otokoyama Kitamiduki, which I was told you can only purchase in Asahikawa. They told me it was delicious. For some reason, I think that we'll return to Asahikawa one day. After all, the Missus loves Santouka!
After having our hybrid late lunch - early dinner at Ramen Zero, we decided to check out the Tanukikoji Shopping Arcade which is almost a kilometer long. Along the way we passed by this interesting looking market.
This shop had two parts; one side a small collection of eating establishments called "HUG Eat" and the other half a market selling Hokkaido produce, dairy, and other Hokkaido food products.
Yes, I said dairy. Hokkaido has a sizeable dairy industry and you might be surprised to find items like Hokkaido milk, yogurt, and yes, cheese are quite popular.
Some of the produce had photos of folks I'm assuming are the farmers who grew the product. It was kind of charming, even though some of the photos looked like mugshots.
I really enjoyed this shop and will definitely drop by if I'm ever back in Sapporo.
Dosan-shokusai HUG Tanukikoji 5-chome Chuo-ku, Sapporo, Japan
We made our way to the other end of the shopping arcade, then decided to head back to the hotel.....
Of course we got joyfully lost along the way. Finally ending up at this chocolate shop.
Where the Missus bought a couple of treats for Her mom and a few for Herself.
Le Petit Boule Chocolatier 8-2-7 Kita 1-jo Nishi Chuo-ku, Sapporo, Japan
In spite of not having a sweet tooth; I really enjoyed the snacks in Hokkaido. New Chitose Airport was "sample heaven" and I loved this particular melon flavored corn and chocolate snack that I normally wouldn't have given a second glance to.
Darkness had fallen quickly, and even though we got turned around a couple of times, we ended up at the Daimaru located next to Sapporo Station.
Which was close to our hotel.
We finished up the evening with some snacks and another thing we picked up in Hokkaido; really flavorful black bean tea!
One of the reasons Akiko had recommended staying at the Hotel Monterey was for the buffet breakfast, which the Missus loved.
I'm usually not a big buffet fan, but this was a bird of another feather. There was a section with typical Western style breakfast items; then some typical Japanese items like chicken karaage and such. Of course there was Hokkaido dairy products and I had a chance to sample the milk and yogurt. It was the selection of more traditional items that we really took to. The Missus discovered that She loved mentaiko, shiokara, and other items She deemed "too fishy" here in the states. As an egg lover, She blissfully consumed the onsen tamago. I loved seeing the Missus enjoy eating this way.
I'd never had black bean natto before and we both found it delicious. I felt totally at home having these items for breakfast. I did notice that most of the younger folks; all Japanese went for the Western pastries and such and the older folks (I guess I'm an old fart) took to the more traditional items.
Good call Akiko! We loved the breakfast buffet!
And we needed a healthy start to the day. There were small snow flurries the night before, but it had all melted in the morning sun. Still, the temps were in the mid-30's.
And we were headed to the city where the lowest recorded temperature (think of where Celsius and Fahrenheit meet) in the history of Japan was recorded.
Our flight from Seoul to New Chitose Airport was perfectly uneventful. The airport is about 30 miles from Sapporo. It might easily be one of my favorite airports....there are a number of shops selling; well, everything! It's not a large airport and easy to maneuver....and good lord, the samples! We ended up buying a load of snacks for my MIL.....so much, that we ended up mailing it Sapporo! As regular readers will know, I'm not much of a snack person, but I was totally taken by this Hokkaido corn snack, which was light, refreshing, and not too sweet. More on that in a later post. After sampling a load of stuff and buying some snacks, we activated our JR Pass and got to Sapporo Station in no time. Our good friend Akiko had made our hotel reservations at the Hotel Monterey Sapporo, telling me that I'm "going to love the breakfast buffet". It was a nice choice, just a five minute walk from the station.
After checking in, freshening up, and relaxing for a bit, we headed out. First stop; the ATM at 7-11, the easiest, most convenient ATMs in Japan. Be it 7-11, Lawson, or whatever; the snack selection and prepared food at these shops are something to be reckoned with.
In spite of it being close to Thanksgiving, it wasn't too cold....yet! So of course the Missus wanted to walk to our lunch destination. Which wasn't so bad after putting in all those miles walking in Seoul. That's the Sapporo TV Tower located in Odori Park.
Strangely, we didn't come across too many people during our walk....perhaps it was a bit cold? Or perhaps folks were just a lot smarter than us and used the subway, which ran just a block from our hotel.
I'd read about Nijo Market before our trip and it was along the way to our destination so we decided to take a look around.
Seeing all that seafood and knowing we'd be around here for a couple of days really got the Missus excited.
The prices were no joke!
But it did get my heart beating a little faster since I knew we'd be looking for some crab for the Missus.......
The Missus had declared this to be a "discovery of ramen and yakitori" trip. Our last stop before leaving Narita for Seoul was for some Seabura (pork backfat) Ramen at Miyamoto. So it only made sense that we'd try some ramen here in Sapporo. It only made sense that we visit a place famous for what I heard called their "flame torched chashu", Ramen Zero, which, being in the Tanukikoji Shopping Arcade was really easy to find.
We entered......and of course came across the ramen ticket machine!
As with most places in Japan, the folks here were really nice......most of the labels didn't have kanji characters, but a young lady came out and we made it through punching the right buttons with a combination of really bad Japanese...at least I know what we wanted and could order it in Japanese......it was a matter of finding the right buttons.
We were in Sapporo; so it was only right that we get a Sapporo Classic "Only in Hokkaido". A light Pilsner, easy to drink, great head, with a sweet finish.
So, like I said, Ramen Zero is known for this......
Will you look at that piece of pork belly. This obviously wasn't one of those one thin slice of chashu places. I really liked the pork, which was tender, but not falling to pieces, smoky, with a nice pork flavor. The Missus thought they put too much black pepper on the beast. She also got a nicely soft boiled egg and some rice, which was just perfect.
Since this was Sapporo, I got the Miso Ramen....with the pork of course!
Man, that pork...plus the bowl was about $11 US and totally worth it. The noodles were nice, of the thicker variety,, curly, and firm. The broth was the most un-miso, miso broth I've ever had. It was very mild, slightly thick, with a touch of sweetness, and we made out what seemed like a rather strong ginger flavor. In other words, everything took a back seat to that pork.
As you can tell, we didn't leave hungry. It seems we lucked out as I heard the place often sells out of items early in the evening.
Sapporo Noodle Zero Minami 2 Jōnishi Chūō-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaidō, Japan
Due to the season, night was falling like a curtain as we left. Still, we had a bit of exploring to do before heading back for the evening.