This post is for people like yourself who research the local food scene before they travel so they don't miss out on the best dining experiences when they are on holiday. I have updated the post from 2017 to incorporate a couple of new trends, a couple of picks outside of the Hirafu area and a broomsweep of restaurants that no longer exist (RIP Yosaku).
I'm often asked by guests which restaurants I recommend in Niseko. There are several places that have been popular for many seasons with Niseko regulars: BANG BANG, ABUCHA, KAMIMURA, RIN, THE BARN and NISEKO PIZZA. Many regulars to Niseko focus on getting bookings in these restaurants only. Fine dining spots AN DINING and ASPERGES are also building a following.
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 Japanese eateries in Niseko Hirafu such as EBISUTEI, MINA MINA, KOGETSU, YAMABITO, and WILD BILL'S. FUJIZUSHI on the corner another good bet. 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.
For those who aren't organized enough to make bookings on their holidays and brave it, head to MOMIJI ZAKA Street -- the closest thing there is to an EAT STREET in the village, a concentration of around a dozen eateries in a 200m stretch. And there is also a collection of STREET FOOD vans on 343 serving up Indian, pizza, fish and chips, kebabs and lots more.
TREND (1) Sophisticated dining
Trendy molecular ACORN, created an immediate splash when it opened last season. El Bulli credentialed, the passion of the creators seems indisputable. Suitable for wine and molecular 'gastronomy' aficionados.
ICHISEKO opened last season in the new Annupuri Gardens complex and is aiming high with a menu that incorporates spicy Sichuan Chinese and Japanese flavoured dishes. Go baby go.
TATSUMI, located in the Panorama Niseko complex on the way into Niseko on 343 is a good option to escape the din of busy Hirafu. Its a quiet oasis of good service, food and ambience.
KOBETEI - finally a premium beef restaurant in Niseko Hirafu. Located on the corner of 343 and Momiji St. Information thin, so I can't recommend, but worth further investigation.
POWDER ROOM - Upscale hostess and chill lounge. Where Flume parties when in town. High end seafood platters and other edibles available. Anyone for champagne?
TREND (2) -- the casual Hotel Izakaya
GINGER on the ground level of upscale Hotel AYA is an all-day Izakaya that is heading into its 3rd season. The fresh snapper I tried there was the most delicious fish I have tasted in a local restaurant.
KUMO - located in super dooper SKYE HOTEL in upper Hirafu is a spacious modern restaurant with a menu that includes lots of Hokkaido produce and Japanese dishes. Its open for lunch and dinner. The produce is first class. Its a great choice for bigger groups, e.g. 20- 40 guests.
TEMPORADA - Modern tapas on the ground floor of SHIKI PARK HYATT. Expect attention to quality Hokkaido produce, stylish presentation and good music.
Anyway here are some places that I have tried recently and can recommend.
1. SOMOZA ($$) - Enter a unique world that has no reference to the Niseko scene. Somewhat remote, in the hills above Hanazono, Shouya Grigg and his team have created a sublime modern Japanese dining experience in a reimagined MINKA complex that is simply delightful. Go for lunch, go for dinner. Just go.
2. ASPERGES ($$$) - fine dining option at the base of Hanazono. Michelin credentialed Japanese chef, doing amazing things in Hokkaido for years. Upon arrival get ready for the champagne cart full of chilled Billecart. 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.
3. NISEKO PIZZA ($$) - NP is an institution in Niseko. Owner Caesar is never too far away to ensure things are going smoothly. Several things I like are: 1) extensive menu, something for everyone and nothing ever runs out; 2) You can always get in, no matter how busy it seems. Most importantly, the pizza is excellent!
4. MICKS WINE BAR + TOSHIRO'S BAR - both institutions in Niseko where you can mingle with the locals and enjoy hospitality of the owners. The Hokkaido cheese plate at Mick's is top class. After Mick's head upstairs to TOSHIRO'S BAR - the place for whisky connoisseur's. Enjoy the Japanese hospitality of husband and wife team Toshiro and Yoko and their collection of over one hundred whiskies.
5. THE BARN ($$)- Under new management, the Barn is reestablishing itself as a high end but casual wining and dining spot. Located on MOMIJI ZAKA St, there's always a buzz to the place. Mouthwatering food highlights include Akkeshi oysters, Atlantic salmon, roast lamb and cheese cake to finish off.
6. KAMIMURA ($$$) - I haven't been for several years but there is nothing to suggest that this Japanese run Michelin-starred Niseko favourite is doing anything but going up and up. It is generally regarded as THE BEST RESTAURANT IN NISEKO. Kamimura's new offshoot KITCHEN, located behind KAMIMURA, is a more casual dining experience. Information still thin, but foodies will be on to this one very quickly.
7. BOMBAY SIZZLERS ($) - Don't be put off by the name. Quickly assumed a loyal following upon opening 4 years ago. The fried somosa dumplings with basil and tomato sauces is one of my favourite dishes in the village. Restaurant man Jimmy Khemlani and his team work harder and care more about your dining experience than anyone in Niseko (which is why the OWN Trip Advisor these days).
For hanging out, as opposed to dining, MUSU at the striking ODIN PLACE is a great upmarket chill spot open all day.
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.
Ezo Seafoods Oyster Bar