Hokkaido Day 5: 小尊政壽司 Masazushi in Otaru

On our final day in Hokkaido, we only had time for one more meal … and had I known about Sushi Zen, I suppose we would’ve just stayed in Sapporo. Instead, we took at 30-minute JR train ride to Otaru (quite a bit of trouble for lunch don’t you think?), which is a sea-side town northwest of Sapporo.

The town was known for its port and at one point, the Otaru Canal (小樽運河), ran through the middle of the town, but now only a portion of it has been preserved.

Otaru Canal Warehouse (小樽運河)

Otaru Canal Warehouse (小樽運河)

Otaru Canal (小樽運河)

Otaru Canal (小樽運河)

So, having seen the canal (the only tourist attraction we had time for), we randomly found a sushi restaurant to fill us up, which turned out to be pretty decent. Here’s Masazuhi using Google Map.

The restaurant is on the second floor and has very clean design and decor. The staff team is very accommodating and very well-mannered (as you would usually expect in Japan).

Masazushi in Otaru

Masazushi in Otaru

The chefs do their thang after we made our order …

Chef Preparing Our Food at Masazushi 1

Chef Preparing Our Food at Masazushi 1

Chef Preparing Our Food at Masazushi 2

Chef Preparing Our Food at Masazushi 2

And while we wait for the chefs to prepare our sushi platters, we poured ourselves soy sauce for the sushi … AND for the sashimi.

Soy Sauce for Sushi ... and Sashimi?

Soy Sauce for Sushi ... and Sashimi?

Masazushi is one of only a few Japanese restaurants I’ve been to that serves both soy sauce for sushi and soy sauce for sashimi.

Japanese soy sauce brands such as Kikkoman develops sauces which ranges from light, sweet and mild to dark, less sweet and rich. As a general rule of thumb (and correct me if I am wrong), sashimi uses the lighter one while sushi would be better paired if it had been dipped into a slightly richer / darker sauce. The logical reason I guess is because sushi has a block of rice, which itself is … bland, I suppose. Its all about the balance! … Yeh .. yeh, I’m right.

“The balance of sweetness and saltiness, as well as a special blend of natural ingredients, pairs well with wasabi (Japanese horseradish paste) and heightens the flavor of sushi and sashimi” … an excerpt from the Kikkoman website.

Sushi Platter at Masazushi in Otaru

Sushi Platter at Masazushi in Otaru

They were all so good and fresh … but what stood out in particular was the roe on rice. The roe was slightly bigger than most of what I’ve tried before, but much juicier and much more complex (probably a bit sweeter as well).

Uni, Amaebi (Sweet Shrimp), Hamachi (?) and Toro Nigirizushi

Uni, Amaebi (Sweet Shrimp), Hamachi (?) and Toro Nigirizushi

The marbling on the toro almost looks like marbling on an A5 Kobe!

Toro Sashimi - Cut 1

Toro Sashimi - Cut 1

Toro Sashimi - Cut 2

Toro Sashimi - Cut 2

Here, we were given 2 different cuts of toro sashimi to try. Both equally as good … but subconsciously, it feels like the second cut is better … probably because it was thicker. They should just give me 20 ounce of it to chew on …

Toro Sushi ... Again!

Toro Sushi ... Again!

Tako Sushi and Something Else (Sorry, I Forgot)

Tako Sushi and Something Else (Sorry, I Forgot)

We had tako sushi and something else as well, I can’t quite remember (I’m going to have to get back to you) … but its a really fatty fish, and is usually consumed half grilled, as you can see from the photo.

In the end, I almost want to say “this is as fresh as it gets” since we’re sitting in the north-most town in Hokkaido (even though the seafood might’ve still gone through a pretty elaborate supply chain), but I want to save that line for that day when I catch the fish from the sea 🙂

Masazushi (小尊政壽司)
Otaru, Hokkaido
Japan

Advertisements

Hokkaido Day 4: Ramen Alley in Sapporo

Again, using Google technology (and why not? Japan’s cities is one of Google’s most mapped-out places on earth!), you’ll find the Ramen Alley (ラーメン横丁) if you right click the arrow (right arrow) 5 times.

You’ll see a nightclub called “Club Taliswomen” (lol, I like how they just turned “Talisman” into “Taliswoman” which makes no sense), and the famous Ramen Alley is on its immediate left. Yes, the area is known for its nightclubs … there are literally, hundreds of them around. By the way, gentlemen, I’m sure the “Ramen Alley” excuse has been used numerous times … you might want to use something a little more creative … “Honey, I’m going to grab some ramen with some buddies tonight, … sorry its an all guys thing … don’t wait up tonight” just ain’t going to work!

Anyway, the place where we had our ramen was located right in the center of the alley on the left (if you are entering from the Club Taliswomen side).

The Ramen Alley in Sapporo

The Ramen Alley in Sapporo

I forgot which one it was …

¥800 Authentic Japanese Ramen? Deal!

¥800 Authentic Japanese Ramen? Deal!

I suppose 800円 isn’t exactly cheap for a bowl of ramen, but given the size and quality of the ramen, it was pretty good value. This meal also turned out to be one of the cheapest of the trip, but its definitely up there as one of the most memorable.

If you look closely at the menu, you’ll see something that says “四代目店主” … that means the ramen noodle joint has been operating for 4 generations now, and this chef (pictured below) is the latest bloke to run the family ramen business. Let’s all hope he has a child to continue the legacy.

Yes, the 4th Generation Chef is Frying our Ramen Soup-base and Stuff

Yes, the 4th Generation Chef is Frying our Ramen Soup-base and Stuff

Here, the 4th gen chef is seen putting garlic, spring onion, onion and some secret ingredients into the wok and frying it before adding the soup base.

The Best Damn Bowl of Ramen, I Have Ever Had ... So Far ...

The Best Damn Bowl of Ramen, I Have Ever Had ... So Far ...

The result? The best ramen I’ve had. The ramen noodle itself is also home-made. Its fresh, chewy and soft (but not too soft). It taste and feels as if it had absorbed a little bit of the soup on its outer layer. Yep … I’m that good with food now.

The soup-base which is pretty much just oil anyway … its really hot (also from the oil) and flavourful. Definitely garlicky, a bit soy-saucy (like I said, its thick!) and somewhere in there, I can almost taste sesame, corn and carrot.

Well, that’s the stuff that you can’t really see in the photo … but what you can see, the half-sliced egg, and the not-so-generous slice of pork was like a 3-point from the half-way line that sealed the game. The egg was boiled to a point where if you slice it in halves, the yolk is a little runny still … and that’s how you know its a good ramen egg 🙂 We used this egg-method to gauge the quality of the ramen joints in the alley.

The pork was also very well … porky. It wasn’t dry and it wasn’t cold … but that might be because it was sitting in a boiling bowl of noodle for so long. The only downside to the pork is, there’s too little meat (and too much fat!).

Gyoza

Gyoza

The gyoza was only so-so though … nothing to write home about.

Will I be back? No doubt. But then there are another 19 (assuming there are 20 ramen restaurants in the Alley) to try out … what to do?!

Ramen Alley in Sapporo
Somewhere in Sapporo (Check above Google Map)

Hokkaido Day 4: 二十四軒 Seafood Market (Part Two)

As mentioned, this restaurant is connected with the market next door, serving only the freshest of seafood “straight from the sea!”. The decor is pretty simple and while we were there at 3-4PM, there were surprisingly quite a few groups of people coming in to enjoy the seafood, and most of them are local! Somehow, that tells me we found the right spot.

Menu at 海鲜食堂 at Nijuyonken Seafood Market (二十四軒)

Menu at 海鲜食堂 at Nijuyonken Seafood Market (二十四軒)

Menu 2 at 海鲜食堂 at Nijuyonken Seafood Market (二十四軒)

Menu 2 at 海鲜食堂 at Nijuyonken Seafood Market (二十四軒)

Simple, but definitely a solid selection of cooked / raw food. Whatever you see in the market next door that you don’t see here on the menu, just tell me what you want and the staff will get it and prepare it for you 🙂

Sea Urchin at at 海鲜食堂 at Nijuyonken Seafood Market (二十四軒)

Sea Urchin at at 海鲜食堂 at Nijuyonken Seafood Market (二十四軒)

Uni taken straight from the spiky black echinoderms creature … thingy. A little watery though, I actually prefer the dry ones you find at most sushi restaurants. This is as fresh as it usually gets. But I’ve seen videos where people just pluck these things out from the sea, cracks it open and drinks it. Dayum.

I ❤ Uni with a friggin’ passion, you slimy little thing …

Toro!

Toro!

This toro was fresh, but definitely not the best I’ve had. If you look closely at the toro, notice there’s a spot in the middle that’s a little gray? Yeh … I thought that was a little weird, but it didn’t taste like its gone bad or anything … very awkward. BUT … still good.

Conch and Abalone

Conch and Abalone

Both crunchy and sweet in the Chinese sense (爽甜) … I actually prefer the conch a little more.

The bill came out to be around ¥20,000 … so I guess this isn’t as cheap as we had imagine. Then again, we did have some pretty expensive seafood … perhaps, we should’ve just stuck with cooked / grilled food.

二十四軒 (Nijuyonken) 西 28 丁目
Sapporo, Hokkaido
Japan

Hokkaido Day 4: 二十四軒 Seafood Market (Part One)

Not exactly Nijo Fish Market, but pretty similar. Nijuyonken Seafood Market is situated about 10 minutes (by foot) east from the Nijuyonken Station.

Hokkaido King Crabs ... and Lots of Them

Hokkaido King Crabs ... and Lots of Them

¥4980 for a Box of Uni? What? That Seems a Little Expensive ...

¥4980 for a Box of Uni? What? That Seems a Little Expensive ...

Scallops, Clams and Conch ... YUMS

Scallops, Clams and Conch ... YUMS

More Crabs ... But a Different Type ...

More Crabs ... But a Different Type ...

And More Crabs Still ...

And More Crabs Still ...

4 Types of Roe to Choose From ...

4 Types of Roe to Choose From ...

... I'm Getting Quite Sick of Crabs ...

... I'm Getting Quite Sick of Crabs ...

Fish! Finally ...

Fish! Finally ...

Its definitely not SiuYeh-style if I had only taken photos without reporting to you what the food was like … and not-so-coincidentally, there was a restaurant (which is part of the same store anyway) that serves seafood … yes, the seafood taken from the market next door. It doesn’t get any better than that!

Stay tuned for more … 🙂

二十四軒 (Nijuyonken) 西 28 丁目
Sapporo, Hokkaido
Japan

Hokkaido Day 4: Crab Feast

We had just taken a 3-hour bus ride from Niseko to Sapporo. Fatigue and hunger struck us like crazy … so we just walked into anything decent that was within a 50 meter radius from our hotel. And what do you think caught our attention?

A really really big King Crab!

Crab Restaurant in Sapporo 北三西三 District

Crab Restaurant in Sapporo 北三西三 District

Deciding Which Crab Feast to Have ...

Deciding Which Crab Feast to Have ...

Some Sort of King Crab ...

Some Sort of King Crab ...

Fried Crab Cake ... in the Shell

Fried Crab Cake ... in the Shell

Some Other Crabs ... I really have no clue

Some Other Crabs ... I really have no clue

Crab Hotpot ...

Crab Hotpot ...

Where those Crabs Resides ...

Where those Crabs Resides ...

The End.

Haha … not really. Gosh, I really don’t know what to say … I’m not crazy about crabs. The entire building belongs to this one restaurant and we dined on the 7th floor. It has some really really old (read: 1980’s) decor to it and the place smells like old moist wood with toilet-grade fresheners.

I have to be fair though … the food wasn’t bad at all … and they were probably really delicately prepared. But it felt like one of those restaurants where if you had taken a tour, they’d take you there and the tour guide would get some rebates, etc. Yeh … one of those places. If you like what you see in the photos, then this is probably the place for you.

The only thing I really like is the fried crab cake. Otherwise, all the rest just tasted like very fresh crabs with some very nice dipping sauce.

This is probably my worst entry. I have a back-log of 1 month’s worth of stuff to write! This should be my full-time job!

Some crab restaurant in the 北三西三 area
Sapporo, Hokkaido
Japan

Hokkaido Day 3: Pirka Teppanyaki (Part Two)

Next in line …

More Goodies from the OTHER World

More Goodies from the OTHER World

Kobe Beef Sirloin at 100g (for each person) … possibly one of the finest piece of raw beef I’ve ever seen …

Freshly Harvest Salad

Freshly Harvest Salad

Before the chef goes on his mission to grill those sacred Kobes, we were served this freshly harvest salad with Japanese Garlic / Onion dressing (I don’t remember). It was really fresh … but the lettuce just tasted like really fresh lettuce. The tomato tasted like really fresh tomatoes … the carrot tasted like really fresh carrot, you get my point. Although I don’t remember whether that was pumpkin or sweet potato … anyway …

Seal Both Sides to Contain the Juice!

IMPORTANT: Seal Both Sides to Contain the Juice!

Just place the meet on the teppanyaki at high heat and let the marbling on the beef do its job. Here, the chef is sealing the juice from both sides of the beef to contain the juice within.

Meanwhile ... in an open space in front of us ...

Meanwhile ... in an open space in front of us ...

Meanwhile, we didn’t think we ordered enough food so we ordered some more sushi to fill us up 🙂

Our Steak Turned into Strips ... and then into Cubes

Our Steak Turned into Strips ... and then into Cubes

And the next thing we noticed, the chef’s already dicing the Kobe steak into cubes …

Kobe Beef Sirloin 100g

Kobe Beef Sirloin 100g

And here you have it: Kobe Beef Sirloin …

3 Different Types of Dipping Sauce for Your Kobes

3 Different Types of Dipping Sauce for Your Kobes

There were 3 types of dipping sauce for your steak. From left to right (if memory serves me correctly): Japanese gravy, spicy paste (but not that spicy), and sour vinegar / soy sauce?

3 Different Types of Salt for the Steak ...

3 Different Types of Salt for the Steak ...

And 3 More Different Salt Still ...

And 3 More Different Salt Still ...

Followed by 6 different kinds of salt to choose from. I don’t remember all the different kinds of salt but there was “normal” sea salt, sesame sea salt (the one in black), garlic sea salt (the one on the far left in the second photo) and then there’s a pepper sea salt (the one in the far right in the second photo) …

Its all About the Finishing!

Its all About the Finishing!

Here’s a little something about salt / sea salt in general and I was told this by an extremely talented, self-taught and soon-to-be-restaurant-owner chef, whom shall remain unnamed, until he opens his restaurant in late March.

He once told me that all salt taste the same if you dissolve them in water. So whether you use the cheapest salt that you find in a convenience store near you or use the most expensive of sea salt from the Mediterranean, if you put it in water, its all the same. The difference lies in the finishing.

And why does the difference lie in the finishing? Apparently, its how big the grain of salt is and how it interact (read: melts) in your mouth as you eat it. In other words, its the surface area that comes in different size and shape. That is what gives you a different texture and taste … of course, the sesame, pepper and garlic flavours help also … Anyway, you can probably see from the photo above, that the salt is actually small pieces of shaved salt from a bigger piece …

Ingredient for the Teppanyaki Fried Rice

Ingredient for the Teppanyaki Fried Rice

Final dish of the night …

Add Fried Egg, Diced Beef, Diced Mushrooms, Diced Onions and Mix with Rice

Add Fried Egg, Diced Beef, Diced Mushrooms, Diced Onions and Mix with Rice

Teppanyaki Fried Rice to fill us up even more!

Add Some Soy Sauce and Mix Some More ...

Add Some Soy Sauce and Mix Some More ...

Flatten?!

Flatten?!

We didn’t think there was anything special about the fried rice, except that the chef flattened it and make sure both sides are crunchy before serving, which I thought was a good touch … the result?

Teppanyaki Fried Rice

Teppanyaki Fried Rice

A really good bowl of teppanyaki fried rice! A little bit oily, but overall, incredibly satisfying!

Hilton Special Dessert

Hilton Special Dessert

Alas, we were too full to fully appreciate the dessert. In any other night, we would’ve found the dessert to be extremely well done … but tonight, the quality (and quantity) of what we had just 10 minutes prior was so satisfying, this was one of the rare nights where I didn’t have a second stomach for dessert.

This has got to be one of my most memorable teppanyaki experiences ever.

Siu Yeh Rating: A rare 10/10!

I’m tempted to give it a little lower given the price. At ¥75,000+, this was not cheap … this was even more expensive than Dakota Prime! But we were on travel … and it was well worth it.

Pirka at Japanese Dining REN
Hilton Niseko Village
Higashiyama-onsen, Niseko-cho, Abuta-gun
Hokkaido, 048-1592, Japan
Tel: +81 (0) 136 44 1111
Fax: +81 (0) 136 44 3224
Email: chefjapanese.niseko@hilton.com
Website: www dot hilton dot com/worldwideresorts

Hokkaido Day 3: Pirka Teppanyaki (Part One)

This was probably one of the most eagerly anticipated meal of the trip. The few days prior, we had been so busy skiing / snowboarding and exploring the area, we haven’t really sat down for a long, proper and relaxed meal. And having only had a few pieces of chocolate for lunch that day, we were starved.

As mentioned in my previous post, our reservation was for 5:30PM. We got there at 5:15PM (that’s how hungry we were!), but Japanese culture = timeliness, and we were refused entry! My goodness. You definitely can’t be late in Japan, but no, you can’t be early either. You have to be on time. Its a love / hate thing.

No problem … that wasn’t going to spoil my evening.

At 5:30PM sharp, we were shown our seats. The decor was impeccable and like most restaurants in the hotel, we sat facing a background with the famed Niseko powder, and floodlights delicately angled to give a dimmed glow on the trees outside (almost like an artificial backdrop).

We waited eagerly to be fed, and with extremely high expectations too. The stage was set.

View from Our Seats

View from Our Seats

The Arrangements

The Arrangements

The above is me trying to be all artsy-fartsy.

The Premium Malts

Suntory: The Premium Malts

I needed some alcohol in my system and so I went for the Premium Malts from Suntory. Apparently, this beer won Japan’s its first Grand Gold Medal in the Selection of Beers division at the 44th Monde Selection in Brussels, Belgium back in 2005. And according to its website, “it uses 20% more malt than ordinary beers and twice as many aroma hops (compared to other Suntory products)”. It was light-medium bodied, clear gold, lots of carbonation (it makes burping out my full Chinese name easier) and of course, very malty. According to Beeradvocate.com, you’re supposed to taste grape peel and apple, but I guess I’m not quite there yet.

Such a Good Design ...

Such a Good Design ...

Anyway, back to food. We got ourselves the Hana Course and here is what’s included:

Hana Course

Seasonal Sashimi
Sauteed Foie Gras with Truffle Sauce
Hokkaido EZO Abalone Steak, Shark’s Fin Sauce with Grilled Seasonal Vegetables
Freshly Harvested Salad
Kobe Beef: Sirloin 100g or Fillet 80g
Steamed Rice or Steamed Garlic Rice Ball with Wagyu Beef Soup, Miso Soup, and Japanese Pickles
Hilton Special Dessert
Petits Fours and Freshly Brewed Coffee and Tea

Complimentary Oyster Quiche

Complimentary Oyster Quiche

To begin with, we were served this complimentary Oyster Quiche. You would’ve thought a custard made from eggs and cream on a pastry crust would be quite heavy. Surprisingly, this quiche, which was served warm, turned out to be not too creamy and had a thin pastry crust that wasn’t oily at all. Most importantly, it was topped with just a thin layer of cheese, so that didn’t overwhelm the oyster taste inside.

Seasonal Sashimi Platter ... and Seasonal It Was ...

Seasonal Sashimi Platter ... and Seasonal It Was ...

A seasonal sashimi platter with 4 items. We ended up eating everything on the plate except for the paper (holding the raw clam on the far left) and the plate itself, because everything was just so fresh. In particular, I really like the raw squid rowed around seaweed … they were all really fresh and this was one of those rare dishes where I thought the presentation really give it bonus points; not that the sashimi needed any help.

Our Chef de Partie ... Mr. Ogawa-san

Our Chef de Partie ... Mr. Ogawa-san

Here’s our chef for the night … seen here preparing something else for folks sitting next to us. Ogawa-san is very well-mannered, and an extremely well-trained chef. I was kind of disappointed he didn’t do any stunts, but I suppose chefs at his level don’t need to resort to such performance. “The food will speak for itself …” I almost heard him say.

Cooking White Raddish

Cooking White Raddish

Here I thought he was boiling some scallops … but it turned out they were raddish! Why you ask? Please continue reading …

Carefully Handling the Foie Gras

Carefully Handling the Foie Gras

Ogawa-san, seen here, carefully cooking the foie gras until its golden on both sides (as well as to take out any excessive oil / grease coming from these livers … they’re so fat!)

Can't Wait To Eat ...

Can't Wait To Eat ...

Here we were wondering when he’s going to flip them.

Such a Simple (Seemingly) Pairing ... but So Powerful

Such a Simple (Seemingly) Pairing ... but So Powerful

Not before long, the foie gras was done and he had carefully cut in half, each of the radish and placed on the center of the plate. Followed with the foie gras on top of the radish.

Sauteed Foie Gras with Truffle Sauce

Sauteed Foie Gras with Truffle Sauce

Add a bit of spring onion and truffle sauce and there you have it: Sauteed Foie Gras with Truffle Sauce.

I was just amazed. I was amazed at how something seemingly so simple and obvious (i.e. pairing foie gras with raddish? that’s elementary!) can be so powerful. The foie gras itself was heavy and oily, but having it with boiled raddish, which itself is light and bland makes for a completely new experience. It was almost like eating raddish with foie gras flavour … okay, that didn’t come out right. Imagine eating foie gras with the texture of soft raddish … it was crunchy in the raddish sense (好爽?), and then the really powerful foie gras and truffle scent / juice / flavour just hits you in the head like you just got hit by an 18-wheeler (not that I’ve had that experience). And you know what they say about truffle? How it unlocks a hiddle taste bud? The feeling was something myterious like that. Man, I was left happily crippled and wanted more of where that just came from … Ogawa-san? What’s next?

Hokkaido Abalone, Fresh Potato and Portobello (?) Mushroom

Hokkaido Abalone, Fresh Potato and Portobello (?) Mushroom

“Hai, Abalone” he says.

Actually, there’s never been any interaction between him and us other than “Hello” … I was clearly hallucinating …

Teppanyaki's are so fun to watch ...

Teppanyaki's are so fun to watch ...

Mid-sections of both a potato and some kind of Portobello mushroom look-alike. What a waste … what happened to the other 2/3 of the potato and mushroom? Japanese is all about quality.

Ogawa-san Separated the Abalone from Shell like He's Breathing Air ...

Ogawa-san Separated the Abalone from Shell like He's Breathing Air ...

Meanwhile, we got a little impatient and wanted a raw abalone in our belly and got this to chew on while he did his thing.

Awabi (Abalone) Sashimi

Awabi (Abalone) Sashimi

Here (below), our chef is cooking the abalone shell to sterized it, for use as a food holder later.

Meanwhile, on the Teppanyaki ...

Meanwhile, on the Teppanyaki ...

Remember what I said about him not having to do any stunts to show his samurai-class? Well, he threw all 3 pieces of abalone in the air, diced up the abalone in less than 2 strokes (yes, in mid-air) and it landed like …

Ogawa-san Diced-up the All Abalones in 1 Stroke at the Speed of Light

Ogawa-san Diced-up the All Abalones in 1 Stroke at the Speed of Light

THIS! I was shell-shocked.

Ready to be Served ...

Ready to be Served ...

Clearly, he’s not human.

Hokkaido EZO Abalone Steak, Sharks Fin Sauce with Grilled Seasonal Vegetables

Hokkaido EZO Abalone Steak, Sharks Fin Sauce with Grilled Seasonal Vegetables

Pour “Shark’s Fin Sauce” on top of the abalone and there you have it … Hokkai … wait, did you say Shark’s Fin Sauce?! Yes. How bling is that and completely unnecessary. By the way, it was also my first time having shark’s fin in cream sauce. How awkward. But this was the best, most flavourful, most bling bling piece of rubber I’ve ever had. Don’t get me wrong … this dish was done amazingly well, and I’ve always appreciated abalone for what it is … but to me, abalone’s a little too chewy. To be fair though, the abalone was cooked maybe medium-well? So it was chewy enough that it took only a couple bites (less than 8 bites?) to swallow. The potato and the mushroom was out of this world. The chef pick it up from whereever he came from.

To Be Continued …

Pirka at Japanese Dining REN
Hilton Niseko Village
Higashiyama-onsen, Niseko-cho, Abuta-gun
Hokkaido, 048-1592, Japan
Tel: +81 (0) 136 44 1111
Fax: +81 (0) 136 44 3224
Email: chefjapanese.niseko@hilton.com
Website: www dot hilton dot com/worldwideresorts