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.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Photos from Sapporo Snow Festival 2012

I'm interested to see how Google tying things together could make my life easier, so instead of rambling about another restaurant how about I try sharing some photos instead? I've put up an album of snaps of this year's snow festival on Google+ which I'm still kind of feeling out. STILL. I've been on there forever, or close to it.

So click on the following link and check it out. The album should be public and anyone should be able to see it, but I never take anything for granted.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Sapporo Cafes: YS↑O2

Just a quick post for this place. It's nothing astonishing or revolutionary, but it deserves a mention as a nice little cafe/restaurant in the centre of Sapporo. Probably the most interesting thing about it is that arrow in the middle of the name though. I was intrigued as to how that might be pronounced - I've seen a few places in Japan that mash up English and Japanese phonics so that what looks like a nonsense jumble becomes a readable word when it's  explained. But when I asked the lady, she looked at me kind of blankly and said "YSO2" so there you go. Not even an upwardly inclined raising of tone.

YS02 is in the basement of the Minami Ichi-jo K Building right in the middle of Odori. In fact it's right next to the soup curry shop Hiri Hiri that I posted about before. It's a simple, cleanly designed cafe that serves light lunches, simple meals and nice coffee and, not meaning to stereotype, but I would guess that it's popular with women who work in the city centre at lunch time. A bunch of people came and went while we were in there, but I was the only guy and the menu wasn't really offering the sort of hearty, manly fare that pulls in the XY crowd. For an example of the opposite please see the gyoza chain Miyoshino. The only time I've ever seen a woman in the city centre branches of Miyoshino is when my girlfriend was in there, and she spent the whole time talking about how it looked like only single men ate there. Young student-looking dudes kept walking in and ordering twenty gyoza with curry sauce and extra rice.

Anyway, I certainly don't need to be eating a whole flash-fried cow every day so I'm down with having healthier options. I went for taco rice (one of those dishes that Japanese people assume is foreign even though it doesn't exist outside Japan) and it was really nice. This was on the lunch set menu, but I think they have a lot more interesting looking dishes on the main menu.

The coffee was good too, which is important. It's good to know nice relaxing places to go for lunch downtown so consider this marked on the map (it is), and go take a look!

Monday, 5 March 2012

Sapporo Food: Donabe Hamburg Hokutosei

Donabe Hamburg Hokutosei (土鍋ハンバーグ 北斗星) has a couple of location in downtown Sapporo, and judging by how crowded it seems to get every night I'd say they're probably doing pretty well. They serve hamburg steak served in an earthenware pot (the 'Donabe' part of the name) in a rich soupy sauce and when I went a while back it was really very good.

I can't guarantee those dudes with the amazing hair will be their on your visit, but this branch is pretty near Club Counteraction so they might be!

The shop is pretty small with only counter seating, so it's fun to watch the whole cooking process including the massive gouts of flame they unleash while they're cooking the hamburg.

That's only one chef, but the mirror really helped to dispel any feelings of claustrophobia in there! I'd describe the cuisine at Hokutosei as rich. Very rich. I went with the stuff that was recommended on the wall, a tomato and cheese thing with extra bacon topping, and Yuki had something else. I forget what that was but... something to do with vegetables.

The sauce is thick, the hamburg steak is juicy and delicious and that crazy, crazy thick bacon (I do not think that would be classed as bacon in England, that's like a level up - gammon or something) was amazing. Allow me to talk a moment more about the bacon - it was so thick, and so salty - man, it was like ur-bacon or something. The archetype of bacon. And eating it was such a challenge that it came with a pair of scissors to cut it into edible chunks.

Look at how thick that is! I've had thinner pork chops! If you're into strong flavours and big, hearty, meaty dishes I'd recommend the place. I'll stick the one I went to on the map, but the other one is in Tanuki Koji, on the other side of eki-mae dori. It's easy enough to find and there's always the internet, which I'm assuming is how you found me.