Friday, 7 January 2011

Sapporo Food: Daruma Jingisukan

I was um-ing and ah-ing for a while over the best way to write jingisukan in roma-ji, and I'm delighted that my straight phoneticization of it is the same way that wikipedia went. Since wikipedia is never wrong, I think I'm probably on safe ground.

So yes, I've probably mentioned it before: jingisukan is basically mutton barbecue (named after Genghis Khan, of course), cooked on a dome-shaped hotplate and accompanied with a special jingisukan sauce that's a little different everywhere. It's a local speciality in Hokkaido, and - as meat seared on hot metal is wont to be - it's generally delicious.

Daruma's jingisukan is especially delicious.

Daruma has three stores around Susukino and is, I think, one of the more famous jingisukan restaurants. The meat is good, the sauce is delicious and it's really worth going if you like meat and/or smoke.

Because the Daruma that I've been to twice (the one I'm going to mark on the map - not the original store but one nearby) is one smoky-ass place. There are so many burnt sheep particles floating around above your head as you eat that - under the same probability laws that say a million monkeys bashing away on typewriters will eventually write the complete works of Shakespeare - eventually the billions of sheep atoms in the air there will spontaneously align in such a way as to recreate a whole sheep. Seriously, if you're going then be ready to throw your clothes in the wash straight after. Or invest heavily in Febreze.

After we went there we ended up in some shops, then karaoke and all the while leaving this miasma of burnt sheep everywhere we went. It's a small store - just one bar, no tables - and it's been packed and full of people waiting to eat both times I've been. I think their extractor fans do their best but they just can't keep up.

Doesn't help that apparently lamb is a stinky, smoky meat to cook.

But all that's really by the by because it's a great place.

I always love places with menus that don't mess around (witness Hamburger Risa's entire menu: Hamburger) and this place has jingisukan... and then side dishes such as rice and kimchee. And that's it. Their kimchee was very good too, but not exactly the point. You can also get those great dai-jockey beers (as illustrated above) that are about the size of your head. In that photo everything looks pretty small, but it's really not, it's just that the beers are comically large.

It's famous for good reason, it's the best jingisukan I've had and I've stuck at least one of their stores on my map so off you go. Go stink of dead sheep like I did.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Sapporo Cafes: Cafe Morihiko & Wallpaper City Guide - Sapporo

Well, a very happy new year to all of you. I trust you have had a healthy and profitable holiday season? Everyone? Wonderful.

Cafe Morihiko is a wonderful looking place. A beautiful, old-fashioned house converted into a cosy, intimate coffee shop; I'd strongly recommend it to those who like to hunt down good coffee, or who like almost meditatively beautiful little cafes.

No photos of the inside I'm afraid - I just didn't think I could do it justice. It's so snug and enclosed and partitioned into little areas that it wouldn't look right in my amateur photos. It's really something though, and while the assorted fancy bric-a-brac might be a touch too much (a stack of old books and an antique sewing machine in the middle of our large table for example) it's nothing you can criticise considering how comfortable the place feels.

It was busy too, and we had no choice of where to sit when we arrived. Then again, it is a very small place and even though it's split over two floors I doubt they have many seats at all. We shared a large table with the aforementioned sewing machine and a guy who seemed to be working on some kind of complex diagrams, which should give you a clue about the kind of clientele the place attracts.

As you can probably guess if you check their website, they take coffee very seriously too. I had a good rich number which was really delicious. It should go without saying that it's an expensive place, but really it's about par for the course for this kind of place - 500yen and up for a cup of coffee. Their cake cabinet looked bloody delicious too, it's a shame I wasn't in the mood for any.

Morihiko might be a little off the beaten path for some since it's in Maruyama, but if you're around there or fancy the trip it's the kind of place that guidebooks might refer to as a 'gem'. Here it is on my map.

Speaking of guidebooks (oh, see what I did there? like a goddamn blogging ninja I am) the whole reason I found the place and went there on the way back from the shrine (this year's omikuji - kichi, a big step down from last years dai-kichi) was that I found it in this little Christmas present from my Dad:

That's the kind of guidebook that booksellers might refer to as a 'gem'. The Wallpaper City Guide for Sapporo was published very recently, and while it is far (far!) from an exhaustive guide to the city it's a great list of some of the lesser known, cooler areas and nicer shops.

I don't think the Wallpaper guides are aimed at the casual, budget traveller, you know? This book is full of high-end design shops, restaurants that only serve five customers a night and cafes that are also art galleries. However it is also full of the kind of cool, fun, friendly, awesome places that are never normally mentioned in guidebooks.

It certainly won't tell you everything you need to know about Sapporo, but it's a very classy little book, well written and very heavy on the super-stylish photos that make everywhere look awesome and like a place that you want to visit. Also, since it pretty much eschews most of the big places and the chains it's well worth picking up by people who live here. It made me a little smug to find that I know a bunch of the places in here (and that I'd blogged about a few too) but it's also giving me a lot of other great-looking places to check out in the future.

Most of which I will probably blog about in turn, which is how the world works. Don't worry! I'll give credit!