★ Kamimura Restaurant レストラン, Niseko

Kamimura Restaurant in Niseko was the first fine-dining restaurant for this trip. This restaurant has been on my radar since my previous visit to Niseko but unfortunately we were too late to get a reservation back then. I guess a lot has got to do with them being listed as 1-Michelin star when the 2012 Hokkaido guide was published.

As the saying goes “Success is the result of hard work“, but experience tells me some people needs to work harder than others. In my case, it takes more than 1 chance to succeed… You would soon find out, there are several key highlights of this entire Japan trip whereby I deliberately plan to re-visit places where I had failed to accomplish my goals in 2013. Visiting Kamimura was one of them, seeing Mount Fuji was another, eating at Sushi Dai was the third.  

In addition I also added more days of stay at each of the destinations as a safety buffer to increase the chances of me achieving what I set out to see/do. The first buffer came in handy when we planned to stay 3 nights in Hakodate – in fact there wasn’t that many sightseeing to do there…However as it happened, the ropeway was closed for the first 2 nights due to poor weather and we got to see the fantastic views on our final night in town. 

With this 2nd visit to Niseko, I made the booking at Kamimura once my target dining date was opened for reservation i.e 90 days in advance. Arriving 5 minutes earlier than our booking time, we were one of the first to enter the dining hall at 6pm. While passing through the walkway I immediately saw Chef Yuichi standing by the kitchen entrance as guests were shown to their seats.

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The main dining hall has a full length glass facade facing the main street. Being seated at the tables by the facade, we could see the light snow falling down plus the pedestrians and car traffic passing by. On the flipside, restaurant glass has a “fish tank” effect as we had also been observing diners when we walked passed the restaurant several times during our stay in Hirafu.

Started our Early Bird Dinner Menu with a light and refreshing starter of Zuwai Crab and Cucumber basil, tomato and celery leaves paired with a 2015 Pinot Grigio from Southern Italy. Zuwai means twig and snow crabs are known as zuwai-gani due to their twig-like legs. Winter is also the best season to enjoy snow crab’s sweet and delicate meat.

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The second dish was Roasted Takikawa duck leek and mandarin salad. The tender and succulent duck meat was covered with a layer feathery olive powder that resembles the soft snow in Niseko. Underneath the duck meat was a bed of leeks, accompanied with brussel sprouts and mandarin. The tangy fruit helped to balance out the richness of the duck meat.

Before having the next course, we were served Potato bread. This seems to be a prelude to our next dish of Niseko Danshaku Potato black truffle soup. Danshaku potato is actually the Irish Cobbler variety, it’s named Danshaku which means baron as it was first introduced to Hokkaido from Great Britain by Baron Kawata. The smooth and creamy soup taste was accentuated with addition of a little black truffle.

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Our first main course was Seared Rainbow Trout ikura, hazel nut, anchovy and brown rice risotto paired with a 2014 Chardonnay from Nagano, Japan. I loved how chef added flavours and textures to the dish with the composition of popping ikura, crunchy nuts and crispy anchovy.

The second main course was Roasted Lamb root vegetable, lamb jus paired with Kir-Yanni Ramnista from Greece. Upholding the classic presentation of roasted lamb, the lamb was perfectly frenched for an elegant look. The aroma of roasted lamb wafts towards me once the dish was placed. A well-executed classic dish which was flawless, from the tender meat to the caramelised onion and the flavourful jus.

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As one diner does not take lamb, it was replaced with Braised Wagyu danshaku potato puree, wild mushroom sauce. Although the potato puree was velvety and creamy, the braised beef was a tad too rich for my liking. After tasting the fabulous roasted lamb, I must say I wouldn’t trade that for this beef.

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Lastly we ended our meal with Chocolate Terrine banana and maple ice cream paired with a dessert wine and Petit four of lemon tea madeleines and balsamic macaroons.

Although Chef Yuichi had made his round to greet guests mid-way through our meal, he took time again to send us off when we were leaving with his warm and friendly smile.

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