So it was all due to raving reviews of this amazing boutique lodge called The Kimamaya which had us scraping together holiday money by eating bread for a month (or two) to make the trip.
Note: Being called ‘Aspen of the East’ means that Niseko is NOT cheap. What’s more, travelling with kids above eleven years of age in Japan means that they are charged as adults in many hotels. This translates to double what we used to pay when our critters could share bedding with us. Sighz ….
Okay, let’s get straight to the important stuff and to us, this means FOOD! So here’s a quick list of all the grub we ingested during our 5 nights there:-
The thing about Niseko restaurants is that from December to probably February, it is high season. This means, hordes of peeps from all over the world will descend upon its snowy grounds to partake of the powder. So, if you want to avoid having to eat cup noodles and fried conbini (convenience store) food in your rooms, you have to make reservations for dinner. The good folk at The Kimamaya provided most pointers for meals and were very kind in making reservations for our group. So on the first day we arrived, we managed to squeeze into the much lauded Abucha 2nd at 6pm (the only timing left).
All I can say is, when it is freezing, nabes (hotpots) are always welcomed. And nothing goes better with nabes than ice cold beer. So in arctic climates, go for nabes and beer. The tori karaage don (fried chicken rice bowl) sounds like a simple dish but the juicy chicken paired with melt-in-mouth Japanese rice made for a satisfying meal for the hungry critters. The atmosphere in Abucha 2nd was boisterous and friendly for high spirited skiers to chug beer and recount the day’s activities on the slopes. While the food was good, we felt that it was expensive for what we had. Then again, this is Niseko.
Soup curry is a Hokkaido thing. It is basically a spicy soup, with meat and vegetables or just vegetables and at Tsubara Tsubara, you can customise the levels of spiciness according to your ability. We had soup curry in Chitose airport and were hankering for more of it. So when Morino of Kimamaya heard about this, she immediately made a booking for us at Tsubara.
We were famished when we arrived so we were looking forward to steaming bowls of soup curry. We were not disappointed. With spice levels from 1 to 5, only 1 of us was brave enough to try level 4. Let’s just say that it left him sweating, even in the snow thereafter.
The sweetness of the root veggies complemented the spices in the curry soup beautifully. Fall-off-the-bone chicken and juicy meatballs made the whole dish a hearty affair, especially when spooned over rice. While this was not the usual thick, stew-like curry, being more a soup, it was nonetheless very addictive. So if you are in Niseko, go hunt this place down!
So the critters got tired of Japanese food after a while. This gave us an opportunity to head to the Niseko Adventure Centre building where Jo Jo’s is housed. Besides getting our burgers-and-pasta fix, we were also entertained (unintentionally) by climbers on its kicking rock-wall. While I am not a burger connoisseur in any way, the patty’s flame-grilled juiciness and beefy flavour were certainly very satisfying! Also commendable was the spaghetti bolognese that was loaded with meaty goodness and generous lumps of mozzarella thrown in. Ending the meal with a spicy chai latte had me all warmed up and ready for the trudge back to the hotel in the cold.
After a rafting trip down the Shiribetsu River one morning, we decided to drop by Milk Kobo near the Hilton Niseko Village area. The reason was that we were keen to try the ice-cream making activity for the critters and there was a lunch buffet in a restaurant there that seemed interesting. We ended up spending some 3 hours in the Milk Kobo Cafe ingesting all kinds of sweets and desserts as the buffet at Prativo was a vegetarian one. While the adults would have happily gone for it, the carnivorous critters made a beeline out the door when we found out about its vegetable delights.
We packed the critters off for their ice-cream making class conducted by the founder of the place, Mr Takahashi. We then hung out in the cafe and had the most amazing fresh baked cheese tarts, roll cakes, ice cream and coffees ever! I must say that sucking down these products was a much easier (and enjoyable) task than trying to make them. The critters complained of sore arms after having to vigorously hand-stir the cream for more than 45 minutes. They were rewarded with professionally made ice cream after the class so that resulted in happy campers again ;).
I left the best for last because our 5 nights in the Kimamaya was truly a wonderful experience. If you ask the critters which is their favourite accommodation to date, the unanimous reply would be The Kimamaya. Luxury with a thoughtfulness for everything their guests might need, Peter and Morino, who ran the place, were perfect hosts embodying the Japanese omotenashi spirit of hospitality.
This brings us to The Barn, which is the on-site restaurant where we had our breakfasts and our last dinner in Niseko. We were fortuitous to wake to 5 mornings of glorious blue skies and amazing sunrises over Mount Yotei. As if that wasn’t enough of a good start, stepping into the sun-drenched dining room and being greeted by a central wooden table laden with an amazing array of continental delights, was enough to cheer the hearts of any morning grouch. On top of this, we also had a menu of hot-cooked items to choose from, which included both western selections and a Japanese set. After ingesting all this early in the morning, we just wanted to crawl back into our comfy beds in The Kimamaya for more ZZZs instead of braving the slopes.
Affable and youthful waiters took our orders from a selection of hot, cooked breakfasts and served up much welcomed lattes. If we were not making for the slopes, it would have been easy to spend 2 to 3 hours over breakfast here. Inspired by the architecture of Hokkaido’s traditional farming barns, floor-to-ceiling windows and a convivial bistro atmosphere make The Barn the go-to dinner place for all-season French fare. As always during the ski season, remember to make reservations!
So we are very glad that we finally made it to Niseko. If you do visit, I am sure that you will bring back with you some lovely memories of awesome eats there too.