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
The above is me trying to be all artsy-fartsy.
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 ...
Anyway, back to food. We got ourselves the Hana Course and here is what’s included:
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
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 ...
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
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
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
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 ...
Here we were wondering when he’s going to flip them.
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
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
“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 ...
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 ...
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
Here (below), our chef is cooking the abalone shell to sterized it, for use as a food holder later.
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
THIS! I was shell-shocked.
Ready to be Served ...
Clearly, he’s not human.
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
Website: www dot hilton dot com/worldwideresorts
Filed under: Asia, Japan | Tagged: Food, Freshly Harvested Salad, Gourmet, Hana Course, Hilton, Hilton Niseko Village, Hilton Special Dessert, Hirafu, Hokkaido, Hokkaido EZO Abalone Steak, Humour, Japan, Japanese Dining, Kobe Beef: Sirloin 100g or Fillet 80g, Miso Soup and Japanese Pickles, Petits Fours and Freshly Brewed Coffee or Tea, Pirka, Pirka Teppanyaki, REN, Restaurant, Restaurant Review, Review, Sauteed Foie Gras with Truffle Sauce, Seasonal Sashimi, Shark's Fin Sauce with Grilled Seasonal Vegetables, Ski Resort, Skiing, Snowboarding, Steamed Rice or Seared Garlic Rice Ball with Wagyu Beef Soup, Travel | 1 Comment »