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

The Slopes at Hirafu

Not exactly a food post, but here’s a attempt at using a 3-burst frame from my D60 whilst I was on a ski lift. Luckily, I didn’t drop my camera!

Sceneries from Hirafu 1

Sceneries from Hirafu 1

Sceneries from Hirafu 2

Sceneries from Hirafu 2

Sceneries from Hirafu 3

Sceneries from Hirafu 3

I just thought the scenery (and shadow of the trees) looked pretty nice with the sun shining low on the other side.

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)