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!