Referred to by locals as the “Kingdom of Food”, the northern island of Hokkaido boasts some of Japan‘s finest cuisine. The region is famous for its fresh seafood, dairy farms, and agricultural produce, all of which are used in a variety of local delicacies. Travelers with their sights set on Hokkaido should make a point of trying some of these restaurants serving classic dishes.
One of the most popular staples of Hokkaido, Jingisukan (Ghengis Kahn) is a hearty serving of lamb and vegetables grilled over a dome shaped iron skillet. The shape of the skillet is said to represent the helmets Mongolian soldiers wore in battle. Patrons are advised to show up a bit early as there is almost always a long line to get into Daruma.
Located in the heart of downtown Sapporo, this small venue lets diners customize their soup curry by choosing the spice level (from 1 to 40), broth flavor, and toppings. There are also vegetarian friendly options for those who don’t eat meat or fish. Garaku is hugely famous in the area and almost always has a long line, so it might be best to show up just before the shop opens.
Another popular spot for soup curry, Medicine Man offers a simple yet hearty bowl of meat and vegetable curry. While there aren’t as many customization options or toppings as Garaku, the portions are generous and the chef certainly does not skimp on meat. You will not leave this place hungry.
Every region of Japan has its own unique style of ramen, but Hokkaido ramen is internationally recognized as one of the best. The pork broth cooks for four days before it can be served, producing a thick, salty soup that will cure just about any hunger, hangover, or bad mood.
Another ramen shop located in the heart of Sapporo’s nightlife district, Keyaki offers some of the city’s finest miso ramen with several soup options: regular miso, corn butter miso (a Hokkaido staple), spicy miso, onion miso, garlic miso, and chashu (marinated pork belly) miso. As always, there will likely be a wait unless you show up right when the doors open.
Located on the first floor of the Kirin Beer Garden building, Kaisen Donya’s brightly colored dishes combine several of Hokkaido’s best seafood options in one delicious bowl. The more elaborate bowls cost around $30, which is not bad considering it is some of the freshest seafood in the world.
While uni (sea urchin) might be an acquired taste for overseas travelers and tourists, it is one of the most popular foods among Hokkaido locals. In Japan, Hokkaido is the undisputed champion when it comes to fresh uni, and Murakami serves it up in a number of uniquely delicious ways.
With a seasonal menu offering the freshest local catch in Hokkaido, Hyosetsu no Mon is a crab lover’s dream. The crab course meals serve Hokkaido crabs prepared in various cooked and raw forms: grilled, fried, shabu-shabu, or sashimi. Dinner includes sides of fresh vegetables, noodles, rice, tempura, and dessert. Bring a hefty appetite to this one.
Of course, no trip to Hokkaido would be complete without an authentic sushi dinner. While not cheap, Sushizen is the quintessential Japanese sushi experience; the chefs are highly trained, the fish freshly caught, and the atmosphere is peaceful and ambient.
This izakaya (Japanese gastropub) offers a wide selection of local Hokkaido dishes and drinks without doing too much damage to your wallet. Sushi, sashimi, crab, fried fish and vegetables, yakitori, and several other Hokkaido staples make this a must-try. As with all izakaya, there is plenty of beer and sake to go with dinner.
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