Sunday, 30 December 2012

Sapporo Cafes: DxM

DxM is one of a chain of quite ridiculously stylish coffee shops in Sapporo run by Morihiko Coffee. These include the beautiful cafe converted from an old wooden house in Maruyama (which I cannot recommend highly enough, even if it is so small it's hard to get a seat a lot of the time) and Atelier Morihiko on the street-car line in West Odori, where I once had an almost transcendentally delicious pear tart. Seriously, I had no idea anything made with pears could be that good.

DxM's concept is to pair the same amazing coffee that Morihiko serve everywhere with luxurious doughnuts by  David (which is, I think, a bakery rather than just some dude named David). The coffee is wonderful and the doughnuts are really fancy, expensive doughnuts. And of course the interior is just excessively stylish, a minimalist collision of industrial trappings and an old school house. That makes it sound a little messy, it's not. The place is a gorgeous combination of metal and wood, and it's not until you look at the chain-link fence and industrial lights, then notice the blackboards and school desks that you realise they've gone for some crazy factory/school approach. But not scary and fascistic like Pink Floyd's The Wall. Y'know, the cool industrial schoolhouse approach.

If you like super-stylish, somewhat expensive coffee places then you have to pay the place a visit. I don't really have a whole lot more to add, except to reiterate that the coffee is really good (they roast their own coffee, and note the hourglass they gave me showing how long to let it brew before pouring it) and that the doughnuts really are fancy.

To be completely honest I don't need my doughnuts this fancy, and just nice hearty Mister Donut doughnuts are fine by me, but it was certainly no hardship at all to eat these ones.

It's pretty close to Sapporo Factory shopping mall and I would guess that the closest subway station would be Bus Centre Mae on the Tozai line. Perhaps a fifteen minute walk from Sapporo Station? Let's say so. I'll put it on my map, so go and try the place for yourself!

Saturday, 29 December 2012

Welcome To Sapporo!

Welcome to Sapporo! Or appropriate sentiment if you already live here!

A while ago I decided to drop the personal side of my blog and just use it as a guide to things in Sapporo (mostly cafés and restaurants) for English speakers living or coming here. There are similar things out there, but every little helps when you're in a country whose language you're not all that comfortable in. Recently I've been far too busy to update regularly, or in fact check comments and messages, but I've heard from people who find this thing useful and I'm really glad I could be of some help to somebody. Getting comments and the like makes me want to pull my finger out of... wherever it was stuck and at least post a little more. So I will be trying to send out a few more dispatches in case anyone finds them of any use. Don't call it a New Year's Resolution! Ha ha, but seriously I wouldn't trust myself to keep it if it were.

If you're moving here or have just moved here I hope you can find some info here you can use too, and I'm always happy to answer questions and try and help out. But there are other places I'd recommend too.

For jobs, local information, sales of belongings and more you should really check out The Hokkaido Insider. There's a free mailing list to get local news and details of people with items for sale, and for a small charge you can sign up for an extremely useful mailing list with jobs available in the area.

After I finished working full time and was looking for work I went to the job centre Hello Work a few times. They weren't at all set up to help out foreigners though, and would generally recommend I check the big Japanese Jobs for foreigners site Gaijin Pot Jobs or The Hokkaido Insider. Since Gaijin Pot never seems to carry any jobs for Hokkaido (in my experience) The Hokkaido Insider is an invaluable resource for people looking for work up here.

Also worth checking out is Best of Sapporo Japan a great general site about Sapporo run by a friend of mine. Food, events, general living advice, he covers pretty much everything.

More links in the sidebar over there, so go click.

This year in Sapporo we're having a freezing December with a bumper load of snow. Earlier in the year the beloved local baseball team Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters won the Pacific League, but lost out in the Japan series to the cursed Yomiuri Giants, champions of the Central League. Nonetheless, there was a massive parade in the city centre and everything was covered in confetti for a while. My favourite Japanese album of the year was Stories by Zazen Boys, but take that with a pinch of salt because they've been my favourite Japanese band for years and I didn't find much new Japanese music I really liked this year.

So, are we all up to speed? Then let's continue into the new year! Boys Be! And so on.

Sapporo Food: Voyage Soup Curry

Ok! It's the holidays and I am finally on holiday. Therefore I should be able to find the time to post something, right? Well here is something, and this something is long overdue.

Soup curry, that glorious and uniquely Sapporo fusion of 'curry' and 'soup' is a great love of mine. That said I know a lot of really great soup curry places but I wouldn't go so far as to label any of them 'the best'. No one soup curry place is exactly like any other and subjectivity has a huge part to play, as you can see from some old comments I got saying they didn't like the place I liked, and recommending a couple of places that I really want to go to, but still haven't been able to since I neither live, nor work, anywhere near them.

The best soup curry I can remember having was at Lavi Lavi in Kita 24 Jo, but it was their monthly special and so it was gone almost as soon as I found it. After that I found Lavi Lavi to be a great place, but one day I went and it just wasn't as good for some reason, and it's never reached the heights it used to since. Oh, but the new branch in Sapporo Station's ESTA mall is a really convenient place to get a decent dish.

So soup curry shops vary wildly in quality, style and reliability, but the place that I would recommend to pretty much anybody is Voyage in Kita 24 Jo.

I'm sorry, soup calyi, my mistake.

Voyage is run by the same people that run Xysa nearby and Picante, which has a couple of locations now. All three are similar I think, but not exactly the same, and I like Voyage, possibly because I've been there much more often.

The food at voyage is great, and it seems to be consistently great. I've never had a lousy curry there, and I always leave glad that I made the trip. Their vegetables and meat are delicious and well cooked (something which seems a little hit and miss with some places) and they don't skimp on the veggies too, which is something I'm always happy to see. You can always choose a basic soup or a rich soup (the rich soup varies by day of the week too, just to keep things interesting) and both are delicious. It costs more to take your curry above spice level 2, but spice level 2 seems just perfect so I never bother. Add to this the tremendous toppings they do and while Voyage might not be the best I really find it hard to believe anyone would be disappointed to go there.

Oh look! Photos!

Crunchy herb chicken with  fried gyoza and potato dumpling with cheese toppings. That potato and cheese thing... oh my God.

Herb Lamb with... um, the same toppings.

Basic vegetable with just the gyoza topping. They also do a deluxe vegetable curry just crammed with stuff.

The menu at Voyage seems to change pretty regularly, but some things, like the crunchy herb chicken above are always there. Voyage soups are served in these unique bowls with this big raised section in the middle. You can't see them in those photos but imagine that the actual soup is in a donut shaped section, while the middle acts like a kind of table for you to cut things up on. It's interesting, and pretty useful when you get used to it. A cynical man might say it makes it look like you get more than you do, but I am not that man, and I always leave sated so I have no complaints.

I'll say it again, I'm not promising that Voyage will blow you away but in my experience it is always very, very good. I've been meaning to blog about it ever since I started this thing and it comes strongly recommended. It's a three or four minute walk from Kita 24 Jo station on the Namboku line of the subway, and I've marked it on my map.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Sapporo Food: Soup Curry Yellow

Yellow is a very cool, popular soup curry place in Odori that's been around for a long time. I wasn't all that impressed by the soup actually, but I really should go back and check it out again since there's a lot to like.

I say cool because the place has its own DJ booth and is decked out with record sleeves from Sapporo's kings of underground hip-hop Tha Blue Herb. They even have a curry named for them, which is pretty awesome. In fact, I don't really need to tell you because they have a kind of inside-the-store google view thing linked from their site! Check it out!

And they serve this local brew that I'd never heard of and that wasn't half bad.

I really want to give the place another chance because it's popular and it's been around for a while, but I didn't really dig either the soup or the vegetables that much. The giant slice of 'bacon' that I had in mine though - that was amazing.

I'm sure the place is worth checking out, but I wouldn't recommend it yet. I often say that opinions on soup curry are far more subjective than about many other foods. People often don't like places that I love and vice versa (I actually decided to write about Yellow rather than another place that a friend asked me to go to but that I thought basically sucked). If I go back and it's great then I'll update and let you all know for sure. If it's not... well I guess I'll do that too.

It's on my map! And you should probably check it out and make up your own mind since you can never have too much soup curry.

Friday, 21 September 2012

Sapporo Cafes: Musica Hall Cafe

Musica Hall Cafe is a very cool little place in Odori. They put on a lot of little indie acoustic nights there I think, and while I've never been to one of those it's a great place for coffee or lunch too.

It's on the third floor of this old building, but you should see the sign outside just fine. These snaps are from a while ago, but I've been there pretty regularly since and it never changes (except for the little art installations on the walls). They have a nice, pretty cheap daily lunch deal which can look something like this:

And they have a full menu too, which has things like this:

I like the place. The coffee's pretty good, it's not too expensive and fancy and it's nice and central. I'll put it on my map so do feel free to check it out.

Sapporo Cafes: To Ov

Ok then, let's get back into this. I warn you, I'm going to try and catch up on over a year of lethargy-induced slacking so things might get messy. Since last we spoke Sapporo remains wonderful, although this summer was pure and simple hell, dragging on and on and on... Signs are good that we might be free of it's mercilessly suffocating embrace! Merciless! Ah.

To Ov
To Ov cafe (pronounced To-On?) is a lovely little gallery/cafe near Nakajima Kouen Station on the Namboku line. There's a small gallery room in one half and a nice little cafe in the other half. Very good music while I was there, from a jazz selection to some mix that included The Beatles, Yann Tiersen and Sufjan Stevens. The place is full of art books and magazines too, which is always nice, and very stylishly decorated. And it has a bathroom almost too classy to use.

Oddly, because I was already thoroughly caffeinated, I didn't try the coffee there. But the lychee juice was great and the coconut curry I had for lunch was great.

Yuki liked her sandwich. Her opinion: too small for the price, but really delicious.

I liked the place and I'm going to try to go back sometime. It's on my map and well worth going if you're looking for a cafe in the area. I'm afraid I'm going to cut down on the addresses and contact details for now so I can post more. You can click on the link in the name above, no problem sir.

The Book of Mansion Names 9

Neu Jahr

Milky Way

Owlish M

Maison de Neige II

I'm Sapporo Station Site

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Sapporo Cafes and Shops: D&D Department Project and Pippin.

I've been meaning to write about this place for so long. D&D Department Project is a fancy design goods/home wares/furniture/cafe place near Nishi 18 Chome on the Tozai line. It's pretty near one of the places I work so I've been there for lunch a few times, and it's a very cool, minimal, stylish place. For lunch, I'd say it's very nice, but a little expensive. Then again places like this are always good to have around so go take a look if you're in the area!

They actually repainted the exterior since I took this photo if you can believe it. That's how bloody long I've been meaning to do this post. The ground floor is all stylish, functional, minimal (expensive, but of course) stationery and home wares. It looks a little something like this:

No, wait. It looks exactly like that. Upstairs they sell furniture and all sorts of stylish made-in-Hokkaido goods. The cafe part is actually called Pippin, and is off to the left of the ground floor snap I took. They do a few lunch sets, all running to around a thousand yen. I got this type of thing a few times:

That was back when I took the photo of the building last year. And more recently:

An open-face sandwich thing and soup. It was very good but... yeah, I didn't really feel like I got a thousand yen worth of lunch there. Better was when I got the more standard lunch set.

Much more satisfying and also delicious. They have curry lunches as well that (unusually for me, coz I love Japanese curry) I haven't tried.

In case you don't know there's a nice Wallpaper City Guide to Sapporo that features D&D Department Project pretty prominently, along with an interview with Shin Sasaki of 3KG the design firm that runs D&D. Well worth picking that up, because I don't think think it's all that expensive and it's a nice alternative to the usual kind of guide book. No good for touristy sight-seeing, but I never care about that stuff anyway. I'd always much rather just see the city itself wherever I go.

Oh, I'll put this place on my map of course.

D&D Department Project
Odori (as in, it's on the street called Odori, North-South 0 as it were, not in the Odori area) West 17.
Open 12pm to 9pm Tuesday to Friday, 12pm to 8pm on Sundays.
Closed on Mondays.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Sapporo Cafes: Cafe Rosso

I don't really review restaurants and cafes here, I just slap up places I like so that other people know about them. That means that I go to some places that I don't think are all that great and so I don't write about them, because - hey, if you've got nothing nice to say then... y'know. I guess a couple of times I've been tempted to write something telling people to steer clear of a place, but nowhere has ever maddened me enough to actually try and harm their business. Oh! Do you know what? Scratch that. In Tokyo recently I went to Pancake Days in Harajuku, and despite us being the fourth table or so to be seated when the place opened it took them a good 20 minutes to take our order, then over an hour TO MAKE US PANCAKES. The place was busy, sure but the staff were dopey and when the pancakes FINALLY came they really weren't that impressive at all. If you're a popular pancake place in the middle of Harajuku I would think at the very least you'd have your shit together. We only went there because just looking at the line for Eggs and Things crushed my soul, but Pancake Days wasn't much better. So fuck that place.


So anyway I was on the fence about writing about Cafe Rosso because I wasn't sure I liked the place. Cons: it's expensive (around 900yen a dish for food, drinks 500yen and only a 100yen off that with the drink set) and the guy who ran the place didn't seem all that happy to see us. Which is to say he was kind of rude. Rudeness in Japan can be measured on a totally different scale to rudeness in the UK of course, and to be honest we're pretty spoiled here. He wasn't rude as such, but he wasn't exactly welcoming.

(An aside: on the way to Rosso we went past another coffee shop whose name I've forgotten, but where our waitress was even ruder than this guy. Maybe it's something to do with being near Sapporo Factory Mall.)

Pros: it's in a great old looking building and it's a really stylish place with an odd mash-up of decor. Oh and, the biggest pro - the food was fantastic and the coffee was great. So yeah, I thought, I can recommend this place.

Rosso is just around the corner from the big Sapporo Factory shopping mall (not the museum site, which is next to the Ario shopping mall). The closest stop on the subway would be Bus Center Mae, but it's not a long walk from Sapporo Station either.

The decor mash-up I mentioned above is about forty percent fishing to forty percent tattoos to twenty percent general retro styling. The counter has a massive array of fishing reels while up on the wall are some leather jackets and tattoo flash. A sign on the counter warns that the place is protected by a 'tattooed bad ass' and the dude did have a lot of tattoos. Perhaps the coolness I felt was his general demeanour - I mean, the cafe was fare more manly than most coffee shops, and I would hardly expect the proprietor of a place like this to be all smiles.

A word on the counter as well: they have a gorgeous, gorgeous wooden counter. That is all. I could've run my hand up and down that thing all day.

I got the kakuni (slow-cooked pork) curry, and it was great.

Good meat, good vegetables, great Japanese-style curry. Yuki had a tomato and eggplant pasta that was also wonderful. The sesame bread you can see at the back there was exceptional.

The coffees after were really good too, so for sheer quality I really recommend the place. Also it's a fun place to sit and look around, and if you like Japanese fishing manga he has a lot of those up on his shelves.


Cafe Rosso
札幌市中央区北3条東3丁目1番地 福山石油ビル1階
Sapporo-shi, Chuo-ku, Kita 3 Jo, Higashi 3 Chome (North 3, East 3)
Open 11am til whenever and closed on Wednesdays!

And of course, onto the map it goes.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Sapporo Food: Hamburger RISA

Man, I was so glad to find out that this place had opened up again.

Hamburger RISA used to be out West on the Tozai line (and I wrote about it on this blog way back when), but it closed down a couple of years ago in order to relocate to these new premises. That sounded awesome to me, especially since the new place was near the Namboku line and therefore far more convenient (for me at least). But it took so long to reopen that I just figured something had gone awry and that it would never open its doors again. I even went down there last year to check it out only to find that it was still under construction.

But thankfully it did reopen last August. I only thought to check what was going on with the place recently though, so it came as a surprise to me that it'd been open again for a while, and I immediately wanted to check out the new place. The answer - it's bigger and nicer than the old place but with just as much character, and just as small a menu.

You can go back and read my old post from the link up there to find out a bit more about Hamburger RISA, but I suppose I should cover some key points here too. It's run by a jazz/blues guitarist who my girlfriend remembered as being somewhat grumpy, but who seemed very smiley and happy when we went the other day. The menu consists of one item - a hamburger for 700 yen; and the place is a tip. Actually the new place is nicer and less messy than the old one was, but there's still tons of random musical equipment lying around, and piles of weird looking transistors and tubes and stuff. It's great! In fact there's a full band set-up in the corner and it looks like for a while they were doing live music there every Saturday night.

This post is gonna be pretty light on photos, so to take a look go to the link at the top. That's because he actually has a sign on the wall asking people not to take photos, and I ain't gonna argue with him. I also remember talking to him at the old restaurant and him being pretty withering about students who always took pictures of their burgers before they ate them. Don't tell him I take pictures of food all the time, will you? Then again the sign on the wall, like the menus on the tables, is hand written in marker on a tatty, torn-off bit of a cardboard box. So really I could've feigned ignorance if I hadn't already known his feeling about taking snaps of your food.

If I remember correctly he lived in the States for a while and his burger is the kind of burger he couldn't find when he came back to Japan. It's a straight-up burger - 100% beef, lettuce, a big slice of tomato, onions, and home-made pickles. No cheese, but plenty of sauces to put on it if you want. I love it; it's not subtle and it's not perfect, but  it's satisfying and delicious. Plus it's the only thing on the menu.

As for drinks, I think he has an old juicer there that he uses to make delicious fresh orange juice, and the coffee is just coffee, but you can get free refills which is some kind of miracle for me.

Hamburger RISA is pretty easy to get to. It's at North 13, West 1, and the closest station would be Kita 12 Jo (EDIT! I just realised that the closest station is Kita 13 Higashi on the Toho line, but I never get the Toho line so the location of its stations is a mystery to me). It is hidden away a bit though, tucked away from the road behind another building. You should be able to see a sign, and a big rickety-looking metal arch from the road though. I'll stick it on my map of course. I really like the place, and if you like burgers or weird, eccentric looking places you should really take a look.

Hamburger RISA - North 13, West 1
Open: midday to 8pm.
Closed: Thursdays

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Sapporo Food: Soup Curry King

Soup Curry King is a popular place. It's not all that small a restaurant, but when I went in there for lunch I was lucky to get a seat, and people were arriving all the time and having to wait, or simply being turned away. And that was in the middle of a blizzard!

It looks like Soup Curry King hasn't been open all that long in the grander scheme of things (thinking geologically perhaps, it only opened in 2007) but a lot of people seem to like it. I've seen it mentioned in various places, and last year at Autumn Fest (the big foodie festival in Odori park) they had a special soup curry stand with a rotating line-up that featured King several times. That, and of course the swinging door this freezing lunchtime speaks for itself.

I got the lamb and vegetable curry, and I could taste straight away why the place is so popular.

It's a very light-looking soup, but the flavour was smooth and very satisfying. It's always tough to really nail down the differences between soup curry places in writing, but the soups really are so distinct once you've tried a few. King's soup was a little oily, but a really nice consistency - not too thick and not too thin. The spice levels are named, cutely, after a suit of cards (up through Jack, Queen, King to Joker) and I got a number 4, which the menu called your basic hot taste. 3 is recommended but I could have gone hotter than 4, and others will be able to take a lot more.

The vegetables were vegetables, nice but I've had sensational vegetables at other soup curry places so this wasn't the best. The lamb however, was sensational - so soft and juicy. You can't really see it in the picture there since it was buried under the veg, but there was plenty of it and it was great.

Soup Curry King is near Minami Hiragishi station on the Namboku line, and it's well worth a visit. It reminded me of Medicine Man, another really popular soup curry restaurant with the quality to support its reputation.

I'll mark it on my map, of course, and here's the address and opening times coz I'm nice like that:

Soup Curry King

Open for lunch 11.30am to 3pm.
Dinner is 5pm to 11pm (last order at 10.30pm).
Saturdays, Sundays and holidays it's open 11.30am to 10pm all day (last order at 9.30pm).
And it doesn't have any regular closed days.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Sapporo Food: Maruyama DRiLL

I guess I was thinking about burgers a lot recently or something because when I realised I had a couple of hours free to go somewhere interesting for lunch I remembered Maruyama DRiLL. I tried to go there a while back, but although  their schedule said they ought to have been open, they were closed. It's no big deal, that kind of thing tends to happen with small, independent places in Japan, but I never got around to going back. Today, I half expected it to be closed too, but while it was freezing bloody cold outside, it was toasty warm inside.

That's the freezing cold exterior. It was only walking up the stairs that I deciphered the logo, which I'd seen a bunch of times before: the circle = maru; the triangle is a mountain = yama; and the triangle with lines is a drill. Obviously! I didn't snap any photos of the actual cafe inside, but I really should have since it's a super-stylish place. If you head to the website, you can check out plenty of snaps, of both the bar and the lovely staff. Here instead, just imagine a stylish bar arranged around this gorgeous burger.

The menu here looks really good, and I really want to go back and try some different things. Their main things are burgers and curries, both of which look great. It also looks like they recently added pasta to the lunch menu as well. I'd like to say it was hard for me to choose, but really if a place says they do good burgers then 99% of the time that's what I'm going to get. I chose a cheeseburger, and the plate up there was 800yen (I got the orange juice lurking in the background for an extra 150yen). They've got a pretty big range of burgers, nothing too revolutionary, but they did have a ridiculous looking triple-decker for about 1800yen. Considering that this was a tall burger to start with I can't imagine how that stays upright but still. You can add extra patties as a topping too actually.

It was a good burger. The patty especially; I'm not sure if it was 100% beef but it was juicy and delicious. Again, not the best in Sapporo, but worth your time if you're a burger fan and of course a cut above your average fast-food joint. I'll definitely be going back there, and even though I'll try and be strong, try and break my mold... I'll probably just end up getting a burger again.

It's about two minutes from exit 1 of Maruyama Kouen station, and I'll mark it on my map.

maruyama DRiLL
北海道札幌市中央区北1条西27丁目1-7 2F
Lunch is from 11.30 to 4.00 (last order at 3pm)
Dinner is from 5.00 to midnight (last order at 11pm)
And now I notice that they don't have any fixed days off, hence I was disappointed the first time I went. Might be worth phoning ahead? Think on't.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Sapporo Cafes: Sarou Houmura

I half-expected Sarou Houmura, a wonderful cafe and gallery in North-East Sapporo, to be in some secluded little glade outside the city. In fact it's about ten minutes from Kanjodori Higashi subway station, in a perfectly normal suburban neighbourhood. The smart architecture of the place though is such that inside you completely forget about the mundane surroundings. Even walking up to the place from the direction of the station it looks just like a pair of anonymous warehouses, and you have to be right on top of the place before you realise what it is.

It's those windows that are the genius point. By setting them all around the cafe part of the building the designer has let plenty of natural light shine in so you don't feel completely cut off from the outside world. At the same time, all you can see is the garden immediately surrounding Houmura, not the more bland buildings of the neighbourhood. It creates the fascinating illusion that you are somewhere far more remote than, in reality, you are. The entrance adds to this feeling as well, that long, winding, high-walled ramp cuts you off from the outside world even before you enter the cafe.

And once you're inside, the cafe part of Sarou Houmura is just the kind of perfect, super-stylish cafe that you can absolutely lose yourself in.

I loved the tables here. I have an unhealthy love of broad, heavy wooden tables, and the ones in Houmura felt like solid, immovable slabs - there for the duration. The chairs too were, I'm pretty confident, the heaviest damn chairs I've ever dealt with in a cafe situation. Holy crap, thank God they were so comfy, because once you were ensconced in one, you couldn't really shuffle it to a more comfortable position. You can probably tell that the whole place was perfectly designed on every level. The toilet was one of those hybrid lavatory/zen retreat deals. Incredible.

All of which is down to the place being owned and run by an artist, Mrs. Houmura, who we recognised from photos as we were browsing around the place after we ate. Connected to the cafe is a gallery space which was showing a range of art by different artists from a local studio when we went. Art is clearly at the heart of Houmura, and there's another building - Shinajina Houmura - just around the corner. That place may be closed for now though, since it looked a little deserted when we walked past. It looks just as cool as the one we went to though, but in a completely different way (there are lots of great photos on the site I linked to, so check it out).

We got a lunch set, ginger pork and lots of great Japanese dishes for 1200 yen including coffee afterwards.

Everything was great, those pickled beansprouts at the top especially, and it was very, very healthy. They do just coffee and drinks too of course, and a 900yen cake set that we saw a bunch of people order, and which seemed to be served on a tile. Painfully cool, which is all the better since the place is run by a little old lady.

I'll mark the place on my map, of course. Like I said it's close to Kanjodori Higashi station on the Toho line, and there's a clear map on the website too.

It's open from 10am to 6pm and closed on Tuesdays.

If cool cafes are your thing it's definitely worth a trip, and it's always nice to find interesting things on the Toho line because, I'll be honest, I don't know many. Perhaps I should challenge myself to find some more.

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Sapporo Food: H's Cafe

Just starting to write about a restaurant in Sapporo that does burgers started me on an internet search for Kitchen Yonoji+Jr. which was one of my favourite places in Sapporo. What happened to that place? I think it just closed down, and I miss it, but I just found an address and I'm not sure if it's the original address or... maybe I'll check it out... Oh, it's the original address. Yup, looks like that place is gone.

Anyway, H's Cafe is a cafe/bar kinda place in Susukino that opened up in October last year, and I was pretty impressed when I went there.

On the boards outside they make their burgers sound like their big thing, and they were good, but they have a variety of other stuff on their menu too. Other stuff that I studiously ignored because when a place looks like it has good burgers, that's probably what I'm going to get.

Oh, we got onion rings too, and they were really good! And interestingly served!

It's for BANANAS!

Actually one of the great thing about H's Cafe is that everything is really very reasonable. The beer is cheap, and when I saw how cheap the burgers were on the menu (400 or 500yen) I thought that they'd be some kind of mini, bar-snack sized affair. Luckily, I was very wrong.

That's the ABC burger, (Avocado, Barbecue, Cheese) and the NBA burger (Native Big American I think it was...). The former was 400yen, the big double was 500yen. The fries came with. Man, I don't know about you, but for a decent burger at a bar in Japan that seems pretty great to me. That NBA burger is pretty damn big. Let's have a close-up of that bad boy shall we, since the patties are shrouded in shadow there...

I say thee yay! And they were good burgers! Not the best in Sapporo, but greasy and sloppy and satisfying and we left the place stuffed and a little drunk for really not much money. If you want burgers and beer in Susukino, or if you just have a hankering for 'American' decor and a giant Budweiser banner then you really ought to check it out. They have Mountain Dew, which - I've never really understood, but there you go.

H's Cafe is really near Susukino station, just over the road from the Susukino Mister Donut branch, and I have, of course, marked it on my map. Hey! Why don't I give you some address and opening times details too?

H's Cafe
〒064-0804 北海道札幌市中央区南4条西2 ホシビル1F
That's South 4, West 2, Hoshi Bld. 1F

And their opening hours are, quite awesomely:
Mon-Sat 6pm-6am
Sunday 6pm-Midnight.

Man, now I want to go eat burgers at four in the morning. Oh, who am I kidding, that'll probably happen.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Sapporo Food: Kanako no Soup Curry-ya san

Just a quick one I think. Yesterday a comment on this blog inspired me to go check out some new soup curry. I wanted to hit up one of the recommendations I've received, but ended up wandering around deserted streets looking for a shop that had closed down, and when I found it I realised that I'd tried to go there before and found it had closed down. Smart work, I'm sure you'll agree.

So in the end I went to Kanako's Soup Curry Shop, which I've walked past countless times (one of my favourite cafes is in the same building) but never eaten at.

Kanako's started here I think, and although this is their only store in Sapporo they also have a branch in Hakodate and two in Sendai. That kind of 'soup curry outreach' is highly commendable. The quicker soup curry spreads properly outside Hokkaido, the better chance I have of not having to go cold turkey when I travel. I kid. A little.

I just had their standard vegetable curry and it was nice. They use a spice-blend from Sri Lanka apparently, and the soup curry flavour was good, but I wouldn't rave about the place. The ingredients too (Hokkaido sourced) were good but not sensational. I think I probably need to try one of their recommended dishes to see the best of the place of course, but overall I'd say this place is worth going to if you want soup curry but you don't really mind not being blown away. Spice-wise they have a scale that goes to 100 and that gets spicy around 20 apparently. I had a 25 and for me that was a pretty mid-range spiciness.

Oh! Y'know what I've been meaning to start posting addresses and opening hours for these places, since that's the kind of thing might be seen to be somewhat useful right?

Kanako no Soup Curry-ya san (Kanako's Soup Curry Shop)
北海道札幌市中央区南1条西1丁目2-2  大沢ビル1F
Sapporo, Odori, South 1 West 1
Open Weekdays 11am-3pm and 5pm-9pm (9pm last order)
Open Weekends 11am-9pm (9pm last order)
...and it looks like they don't have a holiday!

It's nicely located really near the TV tower, and I've stuck it on the map. Hopefully soon I'll be able to check out one of the soup curry places that people love and that I haven't had a chance to get to!

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Sapporo Food: Yakumo Goma-soba

I try to avoid writing about chains of restaurants here. I figure that you hardly need me to tell you that there are a bunch of McDonald's or Starbucks or Tully's Coffees in Sapporo. But then I'm never sure whether or not to put up some stuff about the local Sapporo and Hokkaido chains like the yaki-tori chain Kushidori or (and this one I'll never bother with) the hamburg steak chain Bikkuri Donkey. If you live here then these places are so common that it'll seem pointless detailing them, but if you're only visiting then knowing about places you can eat pretty well for not much money could be really useful. AND SO - I decided to do a post about the soba restaurant chain Yakumo.

There are Yakumo's all over the place in Sapporo and they're all a little different but they all do very nice soba. Soba has always been one of my favourite Japanese foods - buckwheat noodles that can be served cold or hot and eaten in a few different ways. I'd guess the most common way that soba is eaten though, is cold. You get a tray of soba noodles, some soba sauce to dip the noodles in and often some tempura to go with them. It's great, and healthy and I love it.

I sometimes go to the Yakumo in the basement of 4chome Plaza next to Odori station, because it's conveniently on my way home sometimes, and I sometimes go to the one in the PASEO section of Sapporo station for the same reason, but mostly I go to the pretty fancy one on the top floor of the department store PARCO. So let's talk about that one, huh?

What sets Yakumo apart from other soba places is that they serve goma-soba, that is they use sesame in their noodles. What does this look like? Little black bits in the grey noodles. What does it mean for the taste? Ehhh, I'm not sure. It's subtle. They're a little harder? Anyway they're delicious. Every now and then they've told me that they're serving 'Shin-soba' that day, which means not goma-soba, but the noodles are still great. They're also a Hokkaido company which means lot's of Hokkaido sourced ingredients and Hokkaido big-upping in their menu.

Here's what my girlfriend got the day I took these snaps. I think it was torori soba? The bowl at the top right has a raw egg and a bowl of grated mountain potato - very sticky. That's not really standard, but the noodles here are presented in a really standard way. The bottle has the soba sauce and in this case she added that to the egg bowl, then added the spring onion and wasabi (to taste, as they say) and picked up the noodles and dipped them in the mixture. I think. Man, I don't want to sound patronizing about this, but God knows I've been a bit baffled by the bowls and bottles presented to me at soba restaurants.

And here's what I get most of the time when I go there: ebi oroshi soba. This particular Yakumo has a great evening meal deal where you can choose one of six main dishes to go with a few side dishes for 980yen, and you can add a beer for 380yen more.

So, let me explain what's going on here. The soup from the bottle in the middle goes into the bowl and you mix in as much wasabi and spring onion as you want. Then you add the various things on top of the soba and mix those in as well, and when you can see enough of the noodles to get at them, you dip them in the soup! The tempura shrimp there also get dipped in the soup - IF YOU WANT! And there at the back, the salad and the baked rice-ball are part of the meal set. The yaki-onigiri (rice-ball) has cheese inside and is awesome.

The beer, you drink.

Oh! And last but by no means least you'll always get a pot of soba-yuu at soba restaurants. That square red pot in shadow at the back is the soba-yuu - that's the water that they cooked the noodles in. At the end of the meal, when you've finished everything else, you'll probably still have some of the soba sauce left, so you pour some of the soba-yuu into the sauce bowl to make a soup you can drink.

Isn't soba wonderful? Shhh, no need to answer. I like Yakumo, so if you're in Sapporo looking to have some soba and you see one around, it's probably not going to be a bad meal. This PARCO branch I'd say is good, especially for that evening meal deal so I'll mark it on the map.