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......
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!
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.