Restaurant recommendations in Niseko Hirafu?

I'm often asked by guests which restaurants I recommend in Niseko. A lot of people want to know 'where the locals eat' which is a tricky question because Niseko Hirafu is basically a tourist town. Even so, there are several places that have been popular for many seasons with Niseko regulars: BANG BANG, ABUCHA, KAMIMURA, RIN, THE BARN and NISEKO PIZZA. All of these restaurants have thrived because they are good. Many regulars focus on getting bookings in these restaurants only, more or less. (Fine dining spots AN DINING and ASPERGES are relatively new but also building a following.)

People involved in Niseko such as holiday companies rave about a world class dining scene here, but I wouldn't go so far. Its a tourist oriented dining scene that is helped by an abundance of good quality produce, especially dairy and seafood. Recently 'hotpots' have come to dominate the menus in the new eating spots around the village. Seafood is everywhere which is natural because Hokkaido is now an international brand name.

Getting in to the popular restaurants is difficult in peak season if you leave it to the last minute, so I recommend concierge bookings, but if you can't, don't stress -- there is a good range of cheap and cheerful eateries in Niseko Hirafu such as EBISUTEI, MINA MINA, KOGETSU, YAMABITO, and WILD BILL'S. If you can't get into one you should be able to get in to one of the others. And half the fun is discovering a cosy restaurant with sake and beer and hot Japanese food.

There is also a collection of street food vans on 343 which is a hodgepodge of Indian, pizza, fish and chips, kebabs and more. I can't recommend any personally except the Pizza van, which served up pretty fine pizzas.

Anyway here are my NISEKO HIRAFU dining recommendations. Not necessarily the best, just places I personally like and have visited recently.

1. YOSAKU - Tasty Yakitori (grilled chicken skewers) on 343 at the top of Momiji St. It has been around for a few years now and the food is good - the smokey grilled yakitori is as good as anywhere in Niseko. Tramp in in your snow gear, all good. Open till midnight, it's got a ramshackle feel. Easy enough to get a reservation, but walk in also a good bet. Bargain on ¥4000 per person with drinks.

2. BOMBAY SIZZLERS - Don't be put off by the name. If you like Indian food, you won't be disappointed. Also on Momiji St., the food and service of this place took everyone off guard in the first season. Run by restaurant man Jimmy Khemlani, the service is impeccable. The crunchy vegetable samosa served up first with a tomato and basil sauce combination is my favorite dish in the village.

3. ABUCHA - ever popular Izakaya on main street, Hirafu zaka. Its a high turnover place, hosting hundreds of guests every night. Family friendly. Expect a bit of everything Japanese - sashimi, crab, yakitori, hotpots, grilled Japanese red meat, etc. Emphasis on fried food. Good selection of beers and sake. Excellent service and great ambiance. Book way in advance or try a walkin - line up before 6 for best chance. Its the best Izakaya in Niseko.

4. ASPERGES - fine dining option at the base of Hanazono. Michelin credentialed, head over for lunch or dinner. Upon arrival get ready for the first temptation, a champagne cart full of chilled Billecart ready to go. No prices displayed or discussed so be prepared to go with the flow. The lunch course is about 5 rounds of basic but immaculately prepared and tasting French style cooking. The smokey pine aroma Rusutsu pork was my favorite.

For hanging out, as opposed to dining, MUSU at the striking ODIN PLACE is a great upmarket chill spot open all day.

They are my personal favourites. I can't claim to have eaten at all of the restaurants in Niseko - I wish I could but I'm always fully engaged running our place - EZO SEAFOODS OYSTER BAR. But there you go.

Finally, I recommend TRIP ADVISOR as a good place to research your culinary programme. All of the top ten restaurants in the "Kutchan" section are there on the back of genuine reviews.

If you have any feedback or your own recommendations don't hesitate to let me know.

James Gallagher,

Ezo Seafoods Oyster Bar

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