Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Sapporo Food: Hachikyou

Hokkaido! The vast Northern island of Japan where I live! And it's getting pretty bloody cold at the moment! Seriously, I was sorely unprepared for how chilly it was out there today.

Hokkaido is rightly famous for its food, both in terms of produce (a whole lot of Japan's homegrown produce comes from here) and in terms of the cuisine too. Every now and then someone comes to visit from elsewhere in Japan wanting to experience the Hokkaido food that they've heard so much about, and generally I can help them out. There's good sushi from Kushiro at Hanamaru in Sapporo Station, there's good Soup Curry everywhere, miso ramen all over the place, Jingisukan lamb barbecue (I like Daruma in Susukino)... there's a lot of stuff. But this time when some friends came we went to Hachikyou. Hachikyou is a famous Izakaya that serves the kind of Hokkaido dishes that you might not find at those more specialist restaurants I mentioned above. It's just North of Susukino Station and judging by the autographs they've got all over their walls it's pretty popular for visiting celebrities. And tourists, I should add.

Sorry for the shoddy photos this time out, it was an authentically dimly lit bar. My phone camera (such a pro-blogger, I know) had a hard time.

We tried a bunch of things, mostly with a Hokkaido bent, but I should probably cut to the chase and show you what Hachikyou is most famous for - the sukko-meshi.

That, my friends, is a whole heapin'-helpin' of salmon roe. Ikura (salmon roe) like a lot of seafood is really good and fresh in Hokkaido, and Hachikyou do this crazy Ikura-don (salmon rice-bowl) where they bring you the rice, then bring out a massive bowl of Ikura and all the staff start shouting along as one of the guys strikes and dramatic pose and starts ladling the fish eggs onto your rice until you say stop, or until it overflows. It's fun, and it was good Ikura man. OK, we split this four ways, but it might've been a bit much to get more than one.

The cool thing is that in the menu and in a speech before serving, the staff acknowledge that serving up such a crazy serving of a pretty expensive food is somewhat... gluttonous? Opulent? Anyway they tell you not to order it unless you're sure you can finish it, and also ask you to make extra donations to a charity box that goes towards protecting fish habitats (I think, I might be remembering that a little wrong).

Here's some of the other stuff we got too:

Salmon chanchan-yaki is a Hokkaido dish that's made by cooking salmon in a kind of miso dressing. This was delicious, and it's more of a home-cooked dish, so it was cool to find it at a restaurant.

These were... hoke croquets, I think? A kind of fish, again, more Hokkaido produce. They were great.

And this was crab (Hokkaido) and avocado salad. It was nice, but I think I was blown away by the other stuff more.

And sashimi too. Because, Hokkaido fish etc.

Hachikyou wasn't too expensive (even the sukko-meshi wasn't crazy, though it did cost a bit) but it was a little more than your bog-standard izakaya. To be honest, I'd say that while all of the food was very good, it wasn't astonishingly delicious, but then the place really is more about serving up great Hokkaido izakaya food than mind-blowing culinary excellence, so it does exactly what it sets out to do. It's well worth going to for anyone who's living here, or just visiting, for the sukko-meshi alone. Also, see if you can spot any famous people's autographs that you know! All Japanese of course, and I can never read kanji signatures, so I only spotted a few bands that I knew.

I have marked it upon my map, for your locating pleasure.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

This week in Japanese Pepsi flavours

Oh god.

Did you just throw up in your mouth? A little bit? Man, it should be pretty obvious by now but really all these flavours that Pepsi rolls out now and then actually have nothing to do with Pepsi-cola at all. They're like flavoured soda - just weird variations on carbonated drinks with the Pepsi brand name attached.

And I cannot resist them, even when the very colour of the drink makes me feel somewhat queasy. This one was actually ok, but incredibly sweet - a very boiled-candy kind of flavour. But boy, I can still feel it coating my teeth.

Recommended if you like those swirly 'strawberries and cream' boiled sweets they used to make, or if you're a spelunker into the cave of oddball limited-edition junk foods like me.