Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Okonomiyaki Ju, Niseko


Tonight another inside tip has sent us off in search of our first okonomiyaki restaurant, one where okonomiyayi is the star of the restaurant, not just one item in in a list on many on a food court menu. We love a good yaki and many a time have whipped one up at home from my step mom Akiko's recipe, and we loved hearing about the restaurants in Japan that served this dish and nothing else with all sorts of great toppings. Okonomiyaki ju has the goods apparently, the owners are from Osaka, the spiritual home of the okonomiyaki, so it's a genuine piece that we're going to try tonight. Located at turn off to Hirafu from Niseko it's kinda all by it's lonesome out here, but this doesn't seem to have slowed business, there is only a few tables spare when we arrive. Leaving our shoes in the rack and having a good laugh at trying to fit into the inside slippers (you think there'd be one pair of size 12 slippers somewhere in Japan) we plonk down at a table. The table has a flat grill in the center to keep the goodies warm and set with essential okonomiyaki tools ....


There's an English version of the menu so no pantomime tonight, we are both immediately drawn to the beef tendon and kim chii combination so we know that's going to feature soon in our future... the other we go for is the thinly sliced pork belly, but now we're face with another choice the standard okinomiyaki base or a negiyaki, a thinner base topped with spring onion, lemon and tempura flakes or nariyaki, a thin base with garlic chive, lemon and tempura flakes. Decisions decisions... in the end we go for the beef tendon on the negiyaki and the pork belly on the okonomiyaki. The order travels not far, in fact only two meters away to three huge flat grills where the magic is performed..


Sitting on one corner slowly bubbling away all night is a pot of the beef tendon, mmm!


We watch as the okonomi is the first to go on the batter then the pork, along side the negi batter is poured topped with the tendon and kim chii then a mountain of spring onion, pickled ginger and the tempura flakes, these are then left to cook as we sit and squirm in hunger with the delicious wafting around and our food with in touching distance.


As soon as the okonomi and negi are half cooked, they're flipped onto their sides.... when they're just about done, an egg is cracked onto the grill, and the okonomi flipped over onto that.. as this is done our table grill is turned on to warm for the arrival of the treats. Another short squirm later and they are flipped. The okonomi is topped with Japanese Worcester sauce, aonori, kewpie and bonito shavings so fine the dance and wave in the heat given off from the okonomi with the still soft egg sitting below... negi is topped with a slice of lemon and then both are brought to the table and placed on the grill. I was concerned that they might over cook on the grill but after the first bite there was no concern that they would be around long enough for that to happen. The negi is the first tried, the tempura flakes have been cooked in to a crispy golden crust covering the negi, the tendons are melt in the mouth and the kim chii is not so strong that it overpowers but just lets you know it's there, good times!


The okonomi is a beast of a completely different kind, with its thick batter, Worcester and mayo, it's so rich and so savoury, filling your mouth umami.


We seem to enter a fugue state, all the conversation ends and only the need to consume another mouthful exists, all to quickly we finished, really we should have known we were full but there was the possibility we were still hungry so we opted to find out by ordering a mix okonomi, this comes with pork, prawn and squid. It's just as delicious as the first two, but it is only a few bites in when we realise in fact we are full....really full! Seems sad to leave something so delicious uneaten so we give it our best shot.


All done and ready to explode we leave already making plans for our next visit, what flavors and styles to try. You know it's good when your can't eat any more yet you're already planning to....


Okonomiyaki Ju
263 Soga, Niseko
Hokkaido, Japan
Tel: 0136-44-2336
Open 4:30pm - 10pm Weekdays
12noon - 10pm Weekends & Public Holidays
Closed Wednesday and every 3rd Tuesday

Akiko's Okonomiyaki Recipe

[[ Okonomiyaki ]] serves 4 - 5
1. standard flour 250g
2. water 500cc
3. 1 egg
4. salt & pepper
5. cabbage 300g or more ; shredded
6. 1 or 2 spring onion ; sliced
7. Japanese seasoning sauce (such as Bulldog Chuno, Otafuku)
8. Katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes)

mix 1 - 4 and add 5 & 6.
Those are the basic ingredients. Add some meat, sausages, ham, shrimps, surimi, squid, whatever you like for flavor 'cause "okonomi" means "as you like".

Heat a little oil in frying pan and pour all of the mixture in (my style) or serving size for one person (okonomiyaki shop style), and reduce heat. When the edge sets and the surface becomes slightly dry, turn. When cooked throughoutly, spread 7. and sprinkle 8.

# tips #
shop style - add Tenkasu (little lumps of batter floating in the oil after
you fry Tempura) in the mixture.
mix Beni-shoga (red pickled ginger)
sprinkle Ao-nori (green Nori flakes) on top with 8.

Japanese mayonnaise (such as QP) goes well with okonomiyaki, chili can be
The Watsons put the mixture of [tomato sauce + Japanese mayonnaise +
Worcester sauce] on top.
Lettuce is OK instead of cabbage, different texture.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Hirafu Fleur, Niseko Hirafu

I don't know what we were thinking deciding to walk up to the top of the hill road in Hirafu, maybe we just wanted to reconfirm exactly how unfit we are? But once we were there the view was pretty pretty. Not wanting to just waste a walk and feeling a little snacky we popped into Hirafu Fleur, located in the Popolo building near the Scott hotel. An Izakaya at night they run a small if not varied lunch menu, Ranging from some traditional sets through some pastas and a few pizzas.. well we're not in Japan for Italian so a set it is.

Kat has the Genghis Khan lamb set (not Japanese but we've seen it every where around here, whats the go with that??) I opt of the tempura prawn set, at the moment I can't get enough of super crispy tempura that's made in fresh clean oil, there must be some rule if that tempura is served outside of Japan in a cheap eats place it must be stodge. We get some edmame for the wait and sit back.

In two shakes of Genghis's lambs tail the food is here. The edamame are the first to arrive.. the fresh beans are chilled and taste like they've just been cooked in heavily salted water then refreshed, it's a nice change from the hot style we're used to and I think I prefer them this way.

Niseko Hirafu

The lamb in next to arrive sizzling in a ceramic hotpot accompanied by a miso soup, a daikon pickle, rice and a scrambled egg thingy with chives. Say what you will about his diplomatic style but Genghis's lamb is tender and delicious, covered in a sticky spicy sauce and surrounded with just wilting veg and topped with a sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds, I'd be proud to have this dish bear my name.

Niseko Hirafu

The tempura/udon set consists of a three enormous prawns just covered in the great crispy wispy batter afore mentioned, served on a separate tray is the udon chilled and topped with shredded nori it has a soy dipping sauce a small plate of fresh grated ginger and sliced shallots and a bowl to mix them in, a mix to your taste style dish... my taste mixes all of it. Yummy!

Niseko HirafuNiseko Hirafu

It's a great place to sit and take in the view and if your not up to leaving you can sit and enjoy the view further from the onsen in the Popolo, apparently it's better when your soaking in hot water.

Niseko Hirafu

Hirafu Fluer
Hotel Niseko Scot Popolo
Top of Hirafu-Zaka St
Open daily Lunch, 11am - 3pm Dinner, 5pm - Midnight

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

FujiSushi, Niseko Hirafu

Niseko Hirafu

This is our first shot at a sushi place in Japan we're both very excited.
Fujisushi is just across the road from work and always has a crowd.. out the front is a glass display case filled with models of the food you could be enjoying should you choose to partake in this establishment. I love that there's a whole industry dedicated to making life like food models, there's so much thought and attention put in to them.

Niseko Hirafu

Inside we sit an have a look at the menu. At a lot of Asian places some times the menu in English is minuscule compared to the one written in the native tongue, feels like your missing out on all the good stuff. The menu here is after a quick look the same size so you are free to enjoy the delights of a whole bowl of cod roe or raw squid noodles should you so feel like. Kat is a bit under the weather so she goes for a simple all in one bowl of pork katsu and egg on rice, it's simple but delicious and as well as the generous portion it is accompanied by miso soup, a pickle of diakon and cucumber and a small salad of unknown ingredients, all very good.

Niseko Hirafu

I opt for the tempura set, the tray comes out and it's huge, there's the tempura which includes two prawns and a great selection of veg, a fish soup, a chawanmushi with chicken and shitake, two types of pickle, a selection of sashimi, rice, an orange and oddly enough a small macaroni salad. The tempura is light and crunchy, the sashmi fresh and every thing is tasty even the macaroni, there's easily more than enough for one person, still rather that than not enough.

Niseko Hirafu

Funny, our first sushi restaurant in Japan and we had no sushi, still there's always next time and from the friendly service and tasty treats there definitely will be.

Opposite the Seicomart

Monday, October 13, 2008

Sen chou, Niseko Hirafu

Okay, so we've only been in Japan a week, and the thing is there's just not much concession made to non-Japanese speakers. Not that we're complaining, it's just that we have no idea what anything is .... In the convenience stores, the road signs, the menu's .... Thank goodness for pictures! Our new technique is if it smells good, we're going in. So far we haven't walked into any one's house ... although we have been tempted!
Sen chou has a big neon scrolling sign that leaves you with no doubt it is an eatery. But what sort? They have a few photo's on the board out the front, with a variety of sets, seafood, meat and smaller dishes on display. But what we've discovered after our first venture is that they're actually an izakaya, a Japanese version of a Tapas bar. The place is small with only a half a dozen tables and seats at the sushi bar and mostly full, seated and quickly supplied with essential beverages and snacks that go with said beverages, in this case the beer was accompanied with a small plate of crispy squid and kewpie, the greatest mayo in the world. We browsed the menu, well the pictures mostly.

Settling on a few things we sat back, unaware of how delicious the night was going to become.

The first to arrive were the chicken and pork yakitori, the chicken minced served with an aoli and raw egg yolk to mix in, it was delicious the meat moist and flavorful, the film of egg yolk and aoli making it wonderfully rich.
Niseko Hirafu
The pork was a skewer threaded with marinated sliced of pork belly grilled to a crisp crust on the outside that crunched open as you bit it to let to melted fat and juices run out, the first mouthful was rapturous, then the agonizing decision, to keep eating it or save it till last. yeah right, as if we had the will power to save it...... it was gone in a matter or seconds.

Niseko Hirafu

Next came an eggplant sliced and stuffed with chicken before being steamed in a dashi broth and topped with fresh grated diakon, needless to say, but will anyway, yum. The eggplant all silky smooth and the chicken just cooked all in drenched in the smokey dashi.

Niseko Hirafu

Then the tuna with fresh wasabi, oh the joy of fresh wasabi, once you've had it the green powdery junk that gets passed off in tubes as wasabi around the world will disgust you. The tuna was swimming fresh and just melted in our mouths.

Niseko Hirafu

Marinated mackerel with fresh ginger was next up and wow, I mean wow. It was nothing like any that had come before the texture transformed from the pickling, firm but not cooked. The flavour of the pickle not overpowering the fish but enhancing it. This was my favourite dish of the night.

Niseko Hirafu
Niseko Hirafu

And finally Hokkaido lamb with asparagus and roast potato's, coming out on a pottery hot plate still cooking the smell was captivating, upon lifting the lid to the cooker we found four fat slices of lamb, some asparagus and the famed Hokkaido potatoes all sizzling away. The lamb was already at a perfect medium rare so we dived straight in............mmmmmm so juicy and tender. the potatoes were out of this world soft and floury in side with the most terrific crunchy exterior.
We both agree that this was a fine end result for the smell and see technique.
All through the night the beer and then the sweet potato shochu had kept coming so we were well insulated against the cold for the walk home.

On the way we reasoned that would really need to return several times as we had only just touched on the menu and Sen chou really deserved a thorough reviewing. All in the name of science of course.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Airport Ramen, Sapporo

Welcome to Japan
First meal in Japan what's it to be .. ?? Mysterious and deadly fugu, ethereal sushi singing only of the sea?? Nope it's going to be airport ramen! our baggage was trapped in a damaged container so we were delayed in getting our bags.. The bonus being a very nice JAL attendant changed our ticket so we didn't have to make the 90 min Narida-Hanada slog and flew straight on immediately, hence we were one and a half hours early for our pick up. Twelve hours of flying hungry and with time to kill we headed into the the first food place we saw. As regulars in the Ichi-ban boshi queue we are well accustomed to the delights of ramen and so I'm slightly disappointed that my first mouthful of on the soil Japanese food isn't going to be as foreign as I'd wanted but a boys gotta eat. After a quick look at the 3d menu (love those plastic food models) we take a sit and order.

Airport Ramen

Kat has the Sapporo (when in Rome) ramen it comes a generous serve full with corn, leek, beansprout and the ramen with a ball of miso floating in the middle, once stirred the stock turns to a rich red broth, it's kinda the transformers of ramen, most satisfying.

Airport Ramen

I have the tried and tested butter corn ramen (Hokkaido butter don't cha know). It has three slices of roast pork, corn, wakame and leek, all the while your eating the butter melts to form a fat film of the best kind on the top of the soup so the things picked out get a quick and delicious glaze from bowl to mouth. Yum!

Airport Ramen

Maybe not so foreign, but far far better than many choices on offer at other airports around the globe (looking at you Miami).

Just out side the domestic arrivals gate
New Chitose Airport
Sapporo, Japan