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

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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

Hokkaido Day 3: Niseko Village People Cafe

We made it a point to dine at Ren’s Pirka for dinner, but due to the popularity of the restaurant (and a 10-seat limit at the teppanyaki table), we had to make a reservation for 5:30PM! And since we’re having an early dinner that night, my brother and I decided to stuff ourselves silly with chocolate at the Village People Cafe for lunch and squeeze in as many hours of skiing / snowboarding as possible, before dinner time.

The fact that Niseko Village People Cafe is “supported” by Royce made it all the more interesting! I’m not sure exactly what “supported” here means, but all the products sold here are Royce products. Remember how I said in my previous posts that Hokkaido prides itself in its dairy products? Well their chocolate, whether it is from Royce or Ishiya (makers of the famed 白い恋人 chocolate cookie sandwiches), is damn good.

Niseko Village People Cafe 1

Niseko Village People Cafe 1

Very simple (almost makeshift) design and decor at the cafe.

Niseko Village People Cafe 2

Niseko Village People Cafe 2

Here’s a collection of Royce goodies found at the Village People Cafe.  They have several other products which I haven’t seen in Hong Kong, but by far the best is still the Nama Chocolate 🙂 And I should be thankful that the Nama is available at CitySuper here in Hongkers.

Preparing My Royce Hot Chocolate

Preparing My Royce Hot Chocolate

Chocolate Menu at Village People Cafe

Chocolate Menu at Village People Cafe

A dream menu for chocolate lovers.

Royce Chocolate Bars

Royce Chocolate Bars

These chocolate bars comes in 4 flavours: White, Creamy Milk, Milk and Black. And you know what these remind me of ? … the makers of Royce chocolate should seriously consider placing 5 golden tickets in these chocolate bars … ship them around the world and invite the 5 rightful holders of the golden ticket to visit their chocolate factory. HA! That would be awesome. Hey, they didn’t have eBay in Charlie’s world.

Nama Chocolate at Village People Cafe in Niseko

Nama Chocolate at Village People Cafe in Niseko

Potechi Crunch Chocolate from Royce

Potechi Crunch Chocolate from Royce

The Potechi Crunch Chocolate had a bit of peanuty taste to it, and as the name suggests, it is quite crunchy. Unfortunately, the Nama Chocolate was just a little bit on the harder side – probably a result of it sitting in the fridge for longer than it should have). The best time to have it is when you take out the chocolate and let it rest for a bit at room temperature … when you put the Nama Chocolate in your mouth, it’ll just melt in your mouth. This together with the Nama chocolate was ¥400.

And finally, this is the reason we visited the cafe …

Hot Chocolate by Royce at Village People Cafe in Niseko

Hot Chocolate by Royce at Village People Cafe in Niseko

This almost tasted like melted chocolate bar. Yep, pretty potent stuff … it was probably a little watered down because otherwise it’d be too thick. Melted chocolate bars for hot chocolate … damn. That was what gave us enough energy to last until 5:30PM without having a proper lunch.

Village People Cafe
Next to Hilton Niseko Village
Foot of the Annipuri Hill

Hokkaido Day 2: Dinner at Abucha

Abucha Located at the Bottom of the Hirafu Hill in Niseko

Abucha Located at the Bottom of the Hirafu Hill in Niseko

Abucha was recommended to us by a friend (Thanks Nick!) who visited Niseko last year. It turns out the restaurant is quite a popular go-to place when you’re in Niseko / Hirafu at night. Abucha (the original restaurant) seats about 30 people with an adjacent bar that holds another 20-30 people max. All in all, its a small place but its definitely quite cozy, especially during the winter season.

The Young Team Working Around an Open Kitchen at Abucha

The Young Team Working Around an Open Kitchen at Abucha

The entire staff team is a young (early 20’s to early 30’s?), yippee,  snowboarding bunch (see Abucha’s website), bringing a very vibrant environment to the restaurant and bar. The food is also very impressive considering the team is so young … but if you’re looking for gourmet sushi and/or sashimi, then this is not the place for you. Here, you’ll find very good cooked [authentic] Japanese food such as sukiyaki, yakitoris, grilled fish, grilled chicken, fried chicken wings, cooked scallops, a mixture of sausages, clam cooked with white wine sake, among other dishes on its menu.

We started off with a Hokkaido Beer Pirkawakka first, just to see what its like:

Hokkaido Beer Pirkawakka

Hokkaido Beer Pirkawakka

This was either a Pale or a Pilsener – I’m no expert, but I’m leaning more towards a Pale. Its dry, refreshing, light, slightly bitter with a fluffy / dense head, which reminds me a little bit like that of Guinness and one that faded quickly into think white collar with every sip (See photo below).

The White Collars from Hokkaido Beer Pirkawakka

The White Collars from Hokkaido Beer Pirkawakka

Here’s a description from the beer’s poster (word for word):

)

Pirkawakka means Beautiful Waters 🙂

“‘Pirkawakka means ‘Beautiful Water’ in Ainu and this word has a beautiful sound that images of Lake Shikotsu’s underground water ‘Naibetsu River’ that was chosen by the Environmental Agency as being one of the top 100 rivers of Japan.”

And here’s what we had, which I’ve just listed out:

Raw Scallops Cooked in Broth and Butter at Abucha

Raw Scallops Cooked in Broth and Butter at Abucha

This was nothing special. It was sliced scallops cooked in broth with a dab of soy sauce and block of butter. The thing is, butter only works well with scallops if it was grilled (not with soup) on a teppanyaki grill … or other grill for that matter. Once the butter melted into the soup, I couldn’t taste it … it had no caramelized butter to it which is what makes a grill scallop so good 🙂 IMHO

Edamame (枝豆) at Abucha

Edamame (枝豆) at Abucha

Edamame at Abucha. Cooked just right … you know how sometimes you get edamame thats turned a little yellowy green? That’s cooked too long … and with the sea salt sprinkled on top of these beans, its one of my favorite simple foods.

Grilled Hokkaido Chicken with Salt at Abucha

Grilled Hokkaido Chicken with Salt at Abucha

Add “Hokkaido” in front of anything food, and you’ll get the best quality and freshest food. This Grilled Hokkaido Chicken was extremely 鲜甜 (fresh and “sweet” in the Chinese sense), the skin was crispy and when dabbed into a bit of salt, this was one of the best grilled chickens I’ve ever had.

Fried Chicken Wings with Dumplings Inside at Abucha

Fried Chicken Wings with Dumplings Inside at Abucha

Fried Chicken Wings with Dumplings Inside at Abucha (Picture 2)

Fried Chicken Wings with Dumplings Inside at Abucha (Picture 2)

Dumpling inside a chicken wing? This is the first for me 🙂

Sukiyaki at Abucha (Picture 1)

Sukiyaki at Abucha (Picture 1)

Sukiyaki at Abucha (Picture 2)

Sukiyaki at Abucha (Picture 2)

Fresh Eggs at Abucha for the Sukiyaki

Fresh Eggs at Abucha for the Sukiyaki

The Sukiyaki was very tasty and came with a generous amount of beef, tofu and cabbage. The soup base itself was also very flavourful, but as we found out that same night during our sleep, we were really thirsty and it might have something to do with the MSG in the soup base (I think).

Clam Cooked in Sake at Abucha

Clam Cooked in Sake at Abucha

You have a choice of having clams cooked in white wine or sake. Since we were in Japan, we went for the sake version of course … but I thought it tasted similar to the white wine version. As with all broth cooked with clam (fresh clams!), the soup was the best part!

Lightly Salted Grilled Mackerel

Lightly Salted Grilled Mackerel

This was only so-so … perhaps it was sitting a little too long on the grill, but the other side of this was a little too burnt for my liking …

Mixed Sausages at Abucha

Mixed Sausages at Abucha

The sausages came in different sizes and type. Some were chicken sausages and some were pork I believe, and came mixed with herbs, pepper, chili, etc. It reminded me of Taiwanese sausage actually … and I wouldn’t have it any other way. If you’re eating sausages on its own (i.e. not hotdogs), then German and Taiwanese franks are the best.

It wasn’t cheap though, at around ¥17,000, it was about HKD 500 per head. But if you’re in Niseko, I do believe its worth a visit, if not for the food, then the alcohol at the bar and the crowd definitely makes the experience that much better 🙂

Apparently, they also have Abucha 2 (across the street, or soon-to-be anyway) and an Abucha Bakery. If you’ve tried the latter or will try Abucha 2, I’d be interested to hear what its like!

Abucha
Izakaya & Bar A-Bu-Cha
190-13 Aza-Yamada
Kutchan-cho, Hokkaido 044-0081
Tel: 0136 (22) 5620 (18:00~2:00)
Fax: 0136 (23) 0245 (24hr)

Hokkaido Day 2: Breakfast at Yotei Restaurant

Luckily, breakfast was included in our hotel package at Hilton Niseko Village … otherwise, it’ll probably cost us an arm and leg if we had to pay separate. Everything in Japan is pretty expensive, and judging from the quality of the buffet breakfast at Yotei Restaurant, I wouldn’t be surprised if it was at least ¥2,000 (Around HKD 170) per head (the Yen exchange rate is ridiculous right now!)

Anyway, Yotei Restaurant located on the 3/F. of the hotel is very trendy in design. The architect of the hotel is designed in a oval shape and so most of the designs in the hotel follow a similar theme. And like most other restaurants in the hotel, it enjoys a spectacular view of the adjacent Mount Yōtei (羊蹄山) – hence the name of this particular restaurant (see photo below).

The View from Yotei Restaurant's Buffet Breakfast

The View from Yotei Restaurant's Buffet Breakfast

Buffet Breakfast at Yotei Restaurant

Buffet Breakfast at Yotei Restaurant

Hilton Breakfast

Hilton Breakfast

Omelette, Salmon, Hash Brown, Bacon and Grilled Tomato

Omelette, Salmon, Hash Brown, Bacon and Grilled Tomato

The buffet breakfast opens at 6:30AM – early enough so that visitors who want to get to the slopes early can pig out and get enough energy to tackle the powder at Hirafu and / or Annipuri.

There are just too much food to describe … I mean, it is a buffet breakfast, but I’ll say this: almost all the food found at Yotei aren’t too oily, even for the bacon and hash browns. The quality is top notch and that’s not a coincidence. Japanese people are extremely healthy in their diet and what’s served here at Yotei reflects that.

Here’s what they have: Fresh lettuce and roquette salad (with Italian, Japanese and Vinaigrette dressing), cherry tomatos, ham, smoked salmon (with lemon, diced onions, and capers), hash brown, sausages, bacon, scrambled eggs, fried eggs (sunny side up or any way you like it), omelettes, waffles, pancakes, French toast, Japanese congee and all accompanying condiments (i.e. radish, pickles, etc.), seasonal fruits (i.e. grapefruits, peaches, mandarin, apples, pineapples, etc.), croissants, pains au chocolat, toasts with all types of jams (including Hokkaido butter, Nutella, marmalade, Marmite, etc.), all types of cereal, HOKKAIDO MILK, grapefruit juice, lemonade, orange juice, pineapple juice, apple juice, et cetera, et cetera …

I probably missed out quite a few other items, but you get the point.

By the way, I’m part of the HATE club for Marmite 🙂

Yotei Restaurant
Hilton Niseko Village, 3/F.
Higashiyama Onsen 048-1592 Niseko N, Niseko-cho, Japan 048-1592
Tel: +81-136-441111
Fax: +81-136-443224

Hokkaido Day 1: Melt Bar and Grill at Hilton Niseko Village

So after another 2.5-hours bus ride from New Chitose Airport to Niseko Village, and another 30 minutes to check in, settle down and decide where to eat, we were already starving again. Afterall, what we had at the airport was only a snack. At the time, the sushi and teppanyaki restaurants at the Hilton were closed and we weren’t going to settle for pub food (not in Japan!) at Ezo. So we quickly made our way to Melt Bar & Grill on the second floor and managed to just squeeze in our orders before their kitchen closed.

Melt Bar and Grill at Hilton Niseko Village

Melt Bar and Grill at Hilton Niseko Village

The manager at Melt was a little reluctant to seat us, but after just a little pleading and patting shoulders … we sat down and asked for a risotto to share, a bouillabaisse and Hokkaido Sirloin for each of us.

Risotto at Melt Bar & Grill

Risotto at Melt Bar & Grill

Japanese chef can cook up some pretty decent Italian food and I’m not the first guy to say that 🙂 (Check out Iron Chef Italian: Masahiko Kobe) This risotto isn’t the best I’ve had, but the rice was chewy (not too soft, not too hard), which is great. The rice was creamy and not dry. The parma ham and the cheese was a little bit overpowering in this dish, but didn’t cancel each other out.

Bouillabaisse at Melt Bar & Grill

Bouillabaisse at Melt Bar & Grill

I was a little disappointed with the size of the soup. It was served with a spoonful of shredded crab meat in an empty bowl, then the server came with a teapot and poured the seafood soup in. Fancy presentation, but too little soup! One of my most memorable experience with bouillabaisse was at Le Marche (by Movenpick) in downtown Toronto, where they piled on the mussels, clams and scallops (and copious amount of white wine and broth!). You would be full just having a bowl of that … but having a friend who worked at the seafood counter at Marche helped too.

Anyway, despite the size (and at ¥1,500!), the soup itself was actually really solid. It was very flavourful in terms of both seafood and tomato base, without either overpowering the other – just the right balance. A hint of herb added to the soup helped too …

Hokkaido Sirloin at Melt Bar & Grill, Hilton Niseko Village

Hokkaido Sirloin at Melt Bar & Grill, Hilton Niseko Village

Then came the Hokkaido Sirloin. Actually, everything came relatively quickly … I guess the staff was hurry to leave work. Even though all of the dishes came within 10-15 minutes, it came in a relatively orderly fashion.

So we wondered what a Hokkaido steak would taste like. We weren’t expecting Kobe beef, but what we had turned out to be quite similar. The northern Japanese island prides itself in their diary products, so its no surprise they take their cows seriously.

The sirloin was thinly sliced, so unlike the thick cut you would expect from Dakota Prime, where a medium / medium-rare would mean redish-pink in the center of the steak, you won’t get that here. Rather, this sirloin is soft and like the name of the restaurant suggests, it literally melts in your mouth and that’s thanks to the fine marbling found on most top-tier Japanese beef, including this one.

Marbling on Grilled Hokkaido Sirloin

Marbling on Grilled Hokkaido Sirloin

There’s so much more marbling on Japanese steak, but that’s also what makes them so special, compared to American or Australian beef (unless you’re talking about Wagyu beef from those countries, but even that has less marbling).

By the way, Melt apparently also offers buffet dinners so I’m not sure how that is. But judging from the dishes we had, the standards should be pretty high.

Enjoy!

Siu Yeh Rating: 8.5/10

Melt Bar & Grill
Hilton Niseko Village, 2/F.
Higashiyama Onsen 048-1592 Niseko N, Niseko-cho, Japan 048-1592
Tel: +81-136-441111
Fax: +81-136-443224
Email: niseko@hilton.com