It’s actually pretty ridiculous how long it’s been since I took these photos. I went to Sapporo in May, over six months ago. Bad!
May in Sapporo is cold. Really cold. And though early May was rumoured to be when the cherry blossoms bloomed, this year’s frigid weather delayed the typical schedule by a week. Instead, it was rainy and gloomy and generally pretty miserable. Luckily, in Japan, the land of invention, there’s absolutely no need to ever stick your head out into non-temperature-controlled atmosphere. You can go from airport to Sapporo train station to subway stop Susukino without hitting fresh air — and that’s even if you choose to walk the two subway stops, thanks to underground tunnels that double as malls.
We stayed in Susukino, the “entertainment district” so to speak, and were generally pretty pleased with that decision. We ventured out into the cold mainly for meals, including this ramen place we stumbled upon that offered a pretty good pork-bone broth ramen.
As well as a smoky pan-fried gyoza, yum.
Hong Kong people love Japan, but it was actually considerably harder to get recommendations for places to eat in Sapporo, versus Tokyo or Kyoto or Niseko, where people seem to be more interested in. Sapporo is basically just an airport stop on the way to Niseko, and a place to stock up on uni to courier back home. The one place that definitely cropped up was Nijo Market, basically a seafood market where you can buy fresh specimens or dine in. We were specifically recommended a place near the further end called Nijyo Shokuhin, where we got uni and salmon rice…
…and steamy crab soup to keep warm!
Of course, we had to pick up a little snack for later…
Crabs are a big deal in Sapporo. Like, a big deal. You see 10-meter-tall crabs with motorized pincers decorating entire buildings that are crab restaurants. There’s ponds filled with crabs in the lobby, and crab-themed gifts in a gift shop run by the restaurant. And then of course, there’s the crab feasts — and feasts they are, 10-course extravaganzas featuring crabs cooked every which way (or not). King crab sashimi officially made it onto my list of top things to eat. But there was also salads, appetizers, steamed legs with vinegar dipping sauce, hot-pot versions, shu mais… I was dying of crab happiness. And also a little bit drunk, ergo the lack of photographic documentation. Sake is cheap. The restaurant we picked, by the way, was Kani-honke. Our hotel concierge had a coupon for it too, so we got a 10% discount, yay.
The other major discovery of the trip was soup curry. At first, we were like…. OK, it’s curry. But like soup. Big whoop. I can make that at home. And it is curry, that’s soup, but it’s also so much more. Like, as if, sometime while the curry was making love to the soup and impregnating it with a new generation of food item, it also infused it with all these great synergies. The flavours are somehow so concentrated and epic. And putting CHEESE in curry is officially the smarter thing anyone has ever done, ever.
How is it possible that Sapporo has so many unique food idiosyncracies that haven’t travelled to the rest of the world? Like Genghis Khan — aka lamb on the barbie. Strangely addictive, as is all grilled meat, I suppose. We initially wanted to go have all-you-can-eat Genghis Khan at the Sapporo Beer Garden, but ended up instead at another joint we found after extensive Googling: Daruma. It was supposed to be The Place To Go and always have a queue, but was completely empty when we hit it up. It’s numero trois on the Tripadvisor restaurant list, by the way.
Sapporo was actually a bit boring, since we didn’t want to be cultural and the only shopping we wanted to do was for uni and mythical Japanese drugstore beauty products. We had wanted to take a road trip somewhere and stay in a ryokan, but we were losers who left the booking to the last minute and almost ended up not even getting a hotel room. So instead we rented a car and took a day trip up to Otaru. The first stop was Naruto Fried Chicken, rumoured to be the best chicken in town — the best against lots of towns, in fact. The line was a little insane, but since we had a perfectly good perch — our car seats, shielded from the elements — we jumped the queue and ordered our chicken to go. OH MY GOD. I can’t say there was anything special about the flavouring, but by God this was one juicy chicken. We just kept ripping away until we hit bone, and then munched on the skin, which of course we saved for last. Yum, yum, yumsters. The website is in Japanese but there’s English info here.
So all along, it can be assumed that we were consuming soft-serve milk ice-creams. We had at least one every day, because we freaking love. Hokkaido. Milk. Ice-cream. And supposedly Misono Ice-cream restaurant had the best in Otaru, so naturally there were went. It was also rumoured that to attract a more diverse clientele, Misono had devised one more trick: a bad-ass Nabeyaki udon. I haven’t had a Nabeyaki Udon in YEARS, because everyone’s all about the ramen nowadays, but I’ve always had a soft spot for the doughier brother. And the ice-cream was nothing to write home about (a little too eggy for my taste, if you can believe it, and not quite smooth enough) but that udon was phenomenal.
Meandering the street we found a couple of dudes with a grill selling scallops on a stick. So fresh and freaking delicious.
I had read about this ice-cream with five colours and really really wanted it. But we’d been in Otaru for like, two hours, and had two meals plus a scallop skewer. I had to be reasonable. So I had the three-flavour special, with cherry blossom, lavender and melon. I was sooo excited, so, sooo excited. Obviously there was no way this could live up to the hype. It did not. Cherry blossom took forever to get through, and by the time I hit lavender (the best!) I was about suffering from frostbite. It was like 4 degrees celcius and it had started to rain. So… we ran back to the car.
I really wanted to get this. But no quota in my belly after all that ice-cream.
Of course eggs are a different matter. You know I wouldn’t leave Japan without one last egg-tastic meal. That was omurice from some random place inside Sapporo station, right before we boarded the train. Eggs in Japan, man. They’re a different beast.