JETSETTER

First ‘Date Tips

Some tips for hungry travellers visiting Hakodate in Hokkaido for the first time

December 2018

Just like a rodent doesn’t know it’s entered a rat trap until it’s too late, most people only realise they’ve walked into a tourist trap when the bill arrives.

This is usually true of big cities as well as third world countries but virtually unheard of in Japan – unless you’re in a port city called Hakodate.

Some countries are proud of their laid-back lifestyle, others think their hawker culture is the best, but Japan has always been special for its people’s honesty and hospitality.

So it may come as a surprise that some Hakodate tradesmen didn’t get the memo about service quality and professionalism.

Hakodate lies at the southern tip of Hokkaido, which is one of Japan’s four main islands and its northernmost.

For Singaporeans, Hokkaido is better known for its two S’s – skiing and seafood.

Not everyone can ski but everybody eats, so Hokkaido’s sea urchin, king crab, scallop and fish are famous and they also chalk up more frequent flier miles than seafood from other places travelling to restaurants around the world.

Hokkaido is also a wonderland for sweet fruit and vegetables, like melon, corn and potatoes, as well as wholesome dairy products. Half of all milk in Japan comes from Hokkaido, and the island produces 90 per cent of the country’s cheese.

Hakodate seafood market
All that super fresh produce from land and sea means a visit to Hakodate should be a delightful experience for anyone who doesn’t like stale food, and it mostly is.

Just opposite the Hakodate train station are the well-known seafood markets in low buildings covering a few blocks.

Most are clean and neat and if you are approaching on foot, you will be greeted by the Donburi Yokocho Market with its small casual restaurants serving kaisendon or rice bowls covered with sashimi slices.

Connected to that at the back is the Ekini Market. This is an older section that looks like a “wet market’’, with stalls selling raw fish, dried seafood products as well as fruit and veg.

Smack in the middle of the space is what appears to be a big blue bathtub.

It’s actually a squid pond and for a fee, you can go squid fishing with a short rod. In other words, some harmless fun traumatising a slippery sotong before devouring it while unwittingly entertaining perfect strangers with your squealing and lack of hand-eye coordination.

Serious seafood
Beyond this, through a doorway, is the newer-looking Hakodate Morning Market area with a food court, an area where farmers sell their vegetables mainly to locals and domestic tourists, and a cleaner and brighter collection of stalls with everything from packaged seafood, fresh fruit, healthcare/personal grooming products and even trendy sneakers.

But if you exit the big doorway to the side street, there are more interesting seafood shops and restaurants. This is Nakadori Street and it’s messier here but livelier too.

If you can walk through the gauntlet of touts to the end,  you will arrive at a small building that is the tourist temple to sea urchin. This is the famous Uni Murakami restaurant with its uni rice bowls.

But don’t make the mistake of going to the tarpaulin-covered alley beside it where there is another restaurant with a huge display of salmon roe or ikura and other packaged seafood like dried squid outside. No matter how friendly and welcoming the young Taiwanese chap preparing the dried squid is, or how large the samples he offers you.

Because while he is genuinely nice, his employer is the inspiration for a Japanese version of Horrible Bosses. Why? Because there’s an incoming busload of tourists and he’d rather not waste time or table space on you.

Uni Murakami
Uni is just one of the toppings for the rice bowls here and it can be combined with ikura, salmon, prawn or crab.

There are other items too, like an interesting uni porridge, sashimi platters and various grilled fish.

But like its name says, uni is the main attraction here and the quality depends on your personal standards. If you’re not picky, it’s acceptable. If you avoid conveyor belt sushi like you avoid malaria and dysentery, then it’s a bit fishy.

Instead, try the seafood ramen in a grubby little shop on the main street where an elderly gentleman alone cooks and serves.

Melon heaven
Down south in the Tokyo and Osaka regions, the green-fleshed musk melon is king (is that why it’s called a Crown melon?).

But up north in Hokkaido, orange is the not so new alternative. The Raiden melon is not only sweet and juicy but said to relieve all problems from constipation to cancer.

If you don’t want to overdose on fructose, buy a slice for 300 yen (100 yen is about S$1.25). A whole fruit will go for 2,500-2,800 yen each.

If bigger is better for you, hunt down the 2.2 kg versions priced at 3,500 yen and carry a couple home.

Jiba Sumigoya 
Hakodate might be in the boondocks compared to a big city like Tokyo or Osaka but it does have Michelin-rated eateries.

One of them is an izakaya Japanese bar/pub called Jiba Sumigoya or literally, small local charcoal house.

A 10-minute bus ride from Hakodate station, it was recently awarded a Michelin symbol for “good cooking’’.

Why, we are not sure. Maybe it’s because it serves a mind-boggling range of yakitori, sashimi, oysters, grilled fish, tempura and a decent range of sake, including an aromatic but pricey Juyondai junmai daiginjo.

Or maybe, it’s because its food is a bit different – our order of vegetable tempura came with a rubber band tied around an asparagus spear. We’re not sure if it was the secret ingredient in the batter or customers there really like their food chewy.

Sushidokoro Kihara
This large opulent-looking sushi restaurant in an imposing house beside the river is awarded the Michelin Bib Gourmand for “good quality and good value cooking’’.

A 20-minute bus ride from Hakodate station, it is impressive by local standards, with a long L-shaped sushi counter and spacious private rooms.

Even more amazing is the pricing, at under 10,000 yen per person for a sushi set with a couple of starters, or less than half what you would pay in Ginza.

Then again, you also get less than half the taste.

But it’s not the young and enthusiastic chef’s fault; he’s probably working with whatever fish is left over after sending the best of the catch to Tokyo.

When it comes to eating out in Hakodate, it seems less “Cheap and good’’ and more “Cheap and good luck!”

MORE STORIES FROM NEW LUXURY

Michelin-starred Kimura’s special sushi

Michelin-starred Kimura’s special sushi

EPICURE Michelin-starred Kimura's special sushi  Sushi Kimura stands out in the Singapore high-end sushi scene for its one Michelin star and unique ingredients     One Michelin-starred Sushi Kimura at Palais Renaissance, SingaporeUnless you’re a recluse who...

This 3 is tops

This 3 is tops

EPICURE This 3 is tops The Tengumai Kokoshu Junmai Daiginjo is a rare sake that has been matured for three years   A rare sake: Kokoshu is best savoured in glassware specially designed by the brewery owner By now, sake lovers would know that this so-called rice...

Southern and sophisticated

Southern and sophisticated

EPICURE Southern and sophisticatedSouthern Thai food has been elevated to new and refined heights at two of Bangkok’s coolest restaurants   Southern comfort: Escape into the cool interior of Saawaan  The mere mention of Southern Thai food may cause some people’s...

Old is gold

Old is gold

EPICURE Old is gold Up to seven years of ageing has made the Tengumai Ginkouburi a rare and complex sake     Tengumai Ginkouburi sake: A 35% Junmai Daiginjo aged for between five and seven years Young and fresh may trump old and mellow, not only when it...

Wowed by wagyu

Wowed by wagyu

EPICURE Wowed by wagyu in Yonezawa Take it from Animal Farm – not all types of Japanese beef are equal     Yummy Yonezawa: Beef from this town in Yamagata is tender and more importantly, tasty     There is beef, and then there is wagyu, or literally...

Soju so good

Soju so good

EPICURE Soju that's so good Premium Korean soju, not the cheap stuff, is perfect with barbecued or spicy food     The Hwayo range of soju There is a breathtaking Korean TV series called Bad Guys: Vile City, where the subtitle hints at some violently...

High steaks in Korea

High steaks in Korea

EPICURE High steaks in Korea Savour one of the best meat meals in Seoul on one of the four floors of the upmarket Born & Bred     Taste some of the best beef in Seoul at Born & Bred Tender, refined, juicy and oh so flavourful beef. Could we be...

Shichiken: The sparkling choice

Shichiken: The sparkling choice

EPICURE The sparkling choice Shichiken Mori no kanade is a sparkling sake aged in whisky barrels         Shichiken Mori no kanade Sometimes, you just can’t decide what you would like to drink at dinner. Wine or whisky? Sparkling or sake? At times like these,...

67 Pall Mall to open atop Shaw Centre

67 Pall Mall to open atop Shaw Centre

EPICURE 67 Pall Mall to open atop Shaw Centre Singapore will be the London private wine club’s first overseas location   Good food, great wine: The inviting interior of London’s 67 Pall Mall  Raise your glass to 67 Pall Mall.   The private wine club concept by...

Get fresh with Kokuryu Hiirazu

Get fresh with Kokuryu Hiirazu

EPICURE Get fresh with Kokuryu HiirazuThe unpasteurised Kokuryu Hiirazu: Any fresher and you’ll have to brew this namazake yourself  Kokuryu Hiirazu There’s nothing better than the freshness of a namazake to excite a jaded palate. Except when that nama is a...

Wine on the Wild Side

Wine on the Wild Side

EPICURE Wine on the wild side Enjoy the perfect combo of wildlife and fine wine at the Singita Lebombo Lodge in Kruger National Park    Singita Lebombo sommelier James Burnham-King Go camping and you won’t be surprised to find canned food and dry rations on the...

Top 3 modern Korean restaurants

Top 3 modern Korean restaurants

EPICURE Top 3 modern Korean restaurants Re-interpreted with style and stars, this is the best Seoul food of the fine-dining variety    Three Michelin-starred La Yeon's Mixed Rice with Vegetables and Abalone Feel like an avant garde version of bibimbap over that...

Secret delights of Nanpeidai

Secret delights of Nanpeidai

EPICURE The secret delights of Nanpeidai It may not be easy to find Restaurant Nanpeidai but it will be well worth your while    East meets west, Japanese-style, at Restaurant Nanpeidai Shibuya. This shopping and entertainment district in Tokyo has many...

45 Is The New 39… & 50

45 Is The New 39… & 50

EPICURE 45 Is The New 39… & 50 The new Dassai Sparkling 45 is the bubbly union of two sparkling sakes If at first you thought someone was playing an April Fool’s joke on you by messing about with the colours of your favourite sparkling sake from Dassai, you've...

Restaurant Zén

Restaurant Zén

EPICURE Restaurant Zén The Swede sensation called Frantzén comes to Singapore At: 41 Bukit Pasoh Road Street, tel 9236-6368 Open: Tuesday-Saturday, 7pm-10.30pm F&B: There is only one word to describe Restaurant Zén and it is sensational. Not only because it is the...

Heston Blumenthal joins F1 Paddock Club

Heston Blumenthal joins F1 Paddock Club

EPICURE Heston Blumenthal Joins F1 Paddock Club Fat Duck chef to be part of race promoter S’pore GP’s culinary act First, there was Jean-Georges. Then came Nobu. Now, it’s going to be Heston.   This year’s celebrity chef at the Formula One Paddock Club is going to be...

Bak kwa Bounty

Bak kwa Bounty

EPICURE Bak Kwa Bounty When only Empire ultra-premium bak kwa is good enough for CNY So you’ve snagged that kilo of Lim Chee Guan for Chinese New Year and you’re mighty pleased with your prize.  After all, you’ll be serving your guests what is considered Singapore’s...

15 Stamford By Alvin Leung

15 Stamford By Alvin Leung

EPICURE 15 Stamford by Alvin Leung Flamboyant HK chef’s restaurant at Capitol Kempinski At: 48 The Capitol Kempinski Hotel, 15 Stamford Road, tel 6715-6871 Open: Daily, 12-3pm, 6-10.30pm F&B: Gimmicky, loquacious, blue hair.  It’s not difficult to say which is...

Teppan Kappou Kenji

Teppan Kappou Kenji

EPICURE Teppan Kappou Kenji Surprisingly satisfying Japanese restaurant in Tanjong Pagar At: 99 Tanjong Pagar Road, #01-01, tel 9152-3118 Open: Daily, 11.30am-2pm, 6pm-10.30pm F&B: There are two interesting things to note about Teppan Kappou Kenji. The first is...

The Wine & Gourmet Friends

The Wine & Gourmet Friends

EPICURE The Wine & Gourmet Friends Beverage-focused casual eatery with affordable wines At: 48 Bukit Pasoh Road, tel 6224-1982 Open: Daily, 12pm-11pm F&B: If you are the sort who is less about “food and wine’’ and more into “wine and food’’, then The Wine &...

Preludio

Preludio

EPICURE Preludio European restaurant’s black & white theme is a grey area At: #03-01/02 Frasers Tower, tel 6904-5686 Open: Monday-Saturday, 11.30am-2.30pm, 6pm-10.30pm F&B: Just as the dictum “Location, location, location’’ applies to property, “Shophouse good,...

Bacchanalia

Bacchanalia

EPICURE Bacchanalia French restaurant in a shophouse near Chinatown At: 39 Hongkong Street, tel 6909-6360 Open: Tuesday-Saturday, 12pm-2.30pm, 6.30pm-10pm F&B: When it comes to a restaurant located in a traditional shophouse, there’s so much to appreciate than...

Restaurant Zén

Restaurant Zén

EPICURE Restaurant Zén The stylish Swedish restaurant adds a charming conservatory At: 41 Bukit Pasoh Road, tel 9236-6368 Open: Tuesday-Saturday, 7-10.30pm F&B: That sensational new restaurant on Bukit Pasoh has a stylish new feature - a charming conservatory. ...

Gake

Gake

EPICURE Gake Japanese-inspired cuisine by a Singaporean chef At: 36 Carpenter Street, #01-01, tel 6781-3603 Open: Monday-Saturday, 5pm-12am F&B: Gake is the latest Japanese-themed restaurant at this end of South Bridge Road, where a few local chefs have found a...

Restaurant Ibid

Restaurant Ibid

EPICURE Restaurant Ibid MasterChef Asia winner fuses East and West What: Nanyang-style cuisine At: 18 North Canal Road, tel 9151-8698 Open: Monday-Saturday, 6.30-10pm F&B: Woo Wai Leong is the winner of MasterChef Asia 2015 and his new restaurant certainly lives...

Magic Square

Magic Square

EPICURE Magic Square Portsdown pop-up with 3 young chefs What: Communal dining by Naked Finn owner At: 5B Portsdown Road, tel 8181-0102 Open: Tuesday-Saturday, 6-8pm and 8.15-10.15pm F&B: Naked Finn owner Tan Ken Loon has created a year-long platform to support...

Ganglamedo

Ganglamedo

EPICURE Chengdu Spicy satisfaction What: Mid-range Sichuan restaurant  At: 74 Amoy Street, tel 6221-9928 Open: Monday-Saturday, 11.30am-2.30pm, 5.30-10pm  F&B: Don’t mind new tastes and sensations or a bit of a culture shock when dining out? Then Chengdu should be...

Chengdu

Chengdu

EPICURE Chengdu Spicy satisfaction What: Mid-range Sichuan restaurant  At: 74 Amoy Street, tel 6221-9928 Open: Monday-Saturday, 11.30am-2.30pm, 5.30-10pm  F&B: Don’t mind new tastes and sensations or a bit of a culture shock when dining out? Then Chengdu should be...

Madame Fan

Madame Fan

EPICURE Madame Fan Luxe dining at the NCO Club What: High-end Chinese restaurant  At: 32 Beach Road, tel 6818-1921 Open: Tuesday-Sunday, 12-3pm, 6-11pm  F&B: There’s good news and there’s bad news at this revitalised end of Beach Road.  The good news is that after...

Famous Treasure

Famous Treasure

EPICURE Famous Treasure Zhi char restaurant goes upmarket What: Local favourites at Capitol Piazza At: 13 Stamford Road, #02-28, tel 6881-6668 Open: Daily, 11.30-2.30pm, 6-10.30pm  F&B: With a name like Famous Treasure, you can be forgiven for wondering if it...

House of Mu

House of Mu

EPICURE House Of Mu Simple but satisfying What: Affordable Western fare with comprehensive bar At: 11 Mohamed Sultan Road, tel 6732-1011 Open: Tuesday-Thurs & Sunday, 12-10.30pm; Fri & Sat 12pm-2am  F&B: Mu may be the 12th letter of the Greek alphabet but...

IL DEN

IL DEN

EPICURE IL DEN Hole-in-the-wall with whole food What: One-man show starring Japanese-inspired Italian fare  At: #04-21 Orchard Plaza, 150 Orchard Road, tel 9117-1791 Open: Tuesday-Saturday, 6-11pm F&B: Young people have lots of energy to do lots of stuff that OGs...

Atout

Atout

EPICURE Atout Classic French fare with delicious charcuterie What: French bistro At: 40C Harding Road, tel 6679-1800 Open: Monday-Saturday, 11.30am-10pm F&B: “Atout’’ is French for “trump card’’ and this restaurant amid the lush greenery and tranquil surroundings...

Takayama

Takayama

EPICURE Takayama Japanese food with some “entertainment” What: High-End Kappo At: Downtown Gallery #01-09/10, 6A Shenton Way, tel 6224-0864 Open: Monday-Friday, 12-2.30pm, 6.30-10pm; Saturday, 6.30-10pm; Closed Sunday & public holidays F&B: Takayama is an...

Gyu Bar

Gyu Bar

EPICURE Gyu Bar Grill your own Japanese beef What: Yakiniku and bibimbap restaurant At: 30 Stevens Road, #01-08, tel 6732-0702 Open: Tuesday-Sunday, 12-3pm, 6-10pm F&B: The stylishly appointed Gyu Bar beside the Novotel and Mercure hotels On Stevens is the latest...

Salted Plum

Salted Plum

EPICURE Salted Plum Night market nibbles What: Taiwanese street food reinterpreted At: 10 Circular Road, tel 6260-0155 Open: Monday-Saturday, 12-3pm, 6-10pm F&B: No, Salted Plum is not a snack shop selling sng boey but rather a casual restaurant featuring...

Tablescape

Tablescape

EPICURE Tablescape “Grand” and good value What: Hotel restaurant and bar At: Grand Park City Hall, 10 Coleman Street, Level 3, tel 6432-5618 Open: Daily, 12-2.30pm, 6-10.30pm F&B: This hotel at the corner of Hill and Coleman streets seems to get overlooked but now...

Majestic

Majestic

EPICURE Majestic Chinese chic What: Stylish Chinese restaurant At: Marina One, 5 Straits View, #04-01 (East Tower), tel 6250-1988 Open: Daily, 11.30am-3pm, 5.45-10pm F&B: Throw out any old ideas you had of the “Majestic’’ name and embrace its chic new look at the...

Kimme

Kimme

EPICURE Kimme Trendy K-food What: Modern Asian restaurant At: 47 Amoy Street, tel 6514-1588 Open: Monday-Saturday, 12-2.30pm, 5.30-11pm F&B: It may be a fine-dining modern Asian restaurant but the communal table in front of the kitchen might make you think twice,...

665° F

665° F

EPICURE 665° F High steaks What: Steakhouse with a view At: Level 38, Andaz Hotel, 5 Fraser Street, tel 6408-1255 Open: Tuesday-Saturday, 6-10pm F&B: Two things should strike you when you sit at your table in the dim but stylish room designed like a gentlemen’s...

Hua Ting

Hua Ting

EPICURE Hua Ting Classy Chinese What: Refined Chinese restaurant At: Orchard Hotel, tel 6739-6666 Open: Daily, 11.30am-2.30pm, 6-10.30pm F&B: This stylish Chinese restaurant at the Orchard Hotel has re-opened after extensive renovations lasting three-and-a-half months...

Kyuu

Kyuu

EPICURE Kyuu For your sake What: Japanese restaurant specialising in robatayaki At: 29 Keong Saik Rd, tel 6221-7098 Open: Tuesday-Sunday, 6pm-midnight; Monday closed F&B: The 10-course omakase menu for S$129 is fairly reasonably priced, with some nice seafood...

Wakanui

Wakanui

EPICURE Wakanui The beefy difference What: Steakhouse with NZ and Japanese meat At: Marina One, 5 Straits View, #04-02, tel 6384-2665 Open: Monday-Friday, 11.30am-3pm and 5.30-11pm; Saturday, 11.30am-3pm; Sunday closed F&B: The menu offers a Japanese appetiser,...

Quick Links
Follow Us

                

Copyright ©2019 NEW LUXURY. All Rights Reserved.