Think Niseko, think snow. That’s what most people do. And rightly so, with metres of fresh, dry, fluffy powder falling each year, it’s a skier’s dream destination. But, it might come as a bit of a surprise to know that Niseko’s food scene is arguably just as impressive as its slopes.
Hokkaido’s pastures are among the richest in Japan, so Niseko’s chefs are spoilt when it comes to ingredients. And with a diverse range of guests who visit each year from not just all over Japan, but all over the world, the culinary scene has evolved, adapted and improved to a point that Niseko has become a mecca for foodies just as much as powder-hounds.
We reviewed a few of the local favourites both in and just outside the tourist hub of Hirafu.
For fine dining – Kitchen
Kamimura has been the famous name in Niseko’s fine dining scene since its establishment well over a decade ago. But it is its sister restaurant, Kitchen, which we recommend for those looking for something a little special. Set in the Shiki building in central Hirafu, Kitchen combines a stylish interior and slick customer service with a fantastic and ever-changing degustation-style tasting menu that keeps guests coming back for more.
Japanese-fusion is probably the best way to describe the cuisine at Kitchen with sushi, sashimi and wagyu likely on the menu, alongside a number of internationally inspired dishes artfully made using only the best local ingredients. Vegetarian and vegan options are also available.
For the best pizza – B.C.C White Rock
Where is the best pizza in town? Well, careful who you ask as this is perhaps one of the hottest debates to be had amongst Niseko locals! And in fairness, the standard is extremely high. Otto Uno, Niseko Pizza, Mandriano and Del Sol all feature strongly in discussions, but for us, it’s B.C.C White Rock.
Between Hirafu and Kutchan lies this pizza hot spot, operating for lunch only on select dates. Italian style, thin crust and wood-fired, B.C.C White Rock offer many tomato based and many cheese based options to choose from. The Diavola is a particular favourite and for those who like to spice it up a little more, their house-made chilli sauce is worth a little drizzle too!
For a caffeine hit – Sprout
In nearby Kutchan town, Sprout Coffee is an institution. Its owner, affectionately known as ‘Sprout Yoshi’, has built an eclectic, vibrant café space and a community of coffee lovers who come together before and after their adventures on the mountain. Himself an outdoors-man, Yoshi has adorned the walls of the café with books about summer and winter adventure in the mountains, as well as a range of local art pieces and collectables inspired by the outside world.
It goes without saying that the coffee here is exceptional, with the café regularly rotating different types of international beans served as an option alongside their mainstay ‘Niseko bu-rend-o’. That’s ‘blend’ for us gaijins!
For ramen – Daishin
For those who like to go where the locals go, Daishin is the leading ramen choice. On Route 5 in Kutchan, this unassuming ‘shack’ serves up a range of great ramen choices. Miso, shoyu, shio… whatever your choice, it’s catered for in this warm and inviting space with traditional sunken seating and regular tables both available.
Beyond just the ramen, there are many other delicious options on the Daishin menu including gyoza and their wildly popular ‘cheese tantan’ noodle dish which combines noodles and spicy minced meat with a healthy portion of cheese that melts in the bowl right there in front of you. Unbuckle your belt for this one!
For something quirky – The Cabin
Pies and gin. Not your standard Japanese fare, that’s for sure! But for something a little off-the-wall, a visit to The Cabin in lower Hirafu is hard to pass by. This Insta-worthy shipping container bar come restaurant serves up some of the best gin cocktails in town alongside a range of flaky gourmet pastry pies with ingredients such as wagyu beef and chicken tikka masala. The owner also sells
Niseko inspired screen-printed t-shirts. So grab a gin, then a pie, then another gin (or two), and finally a souvenir on your way out!
For lunch – Graubunden
Graubunden is a long-time lunch favourite in Niseko having been in operation for over 20 years. With a name and décor inspired by the Swiss Alps, Graubunden serves up alpine inspired sandwiches, coffee and cakes in Izumikyo (or East Hirafu). You can choose a sandwich from the menu or build-your-own on a bagel, baguette or regular sliced bread here, adding a side from their wide range of salads or soups. The coffee is great and they also offer a selection of freshly squeeze juices and smoothies for those looking for the healthy option!
Head to the websites of each of the aforementioned restaurants for opening days and hours. Many businesses in Niseko have downscaled operations due to COVID.