Where to eat.
Sapporo is very famous among the Japanese for its culinary tradition of serving bigger portions compared to any other area of Japan, as well as for its traditional dishes and flavors. In Sapporo, you can find many types of food to satisfy your taste buds. If you are a fan of sushi, for example, eating at any kaiten sushi place (sushi served on a conveyor belt) in Hokkaido is an experience not to be missed, and you’ll immediately notice the difference in the size of the portions. Sapporo also offers a wide variety of cuisines from all over the world, from Chinese to Mexican, you’ll be able to satisfy any special craving you have during your trip. In this article, we would like to tell you about the best places to eat in the town, some of them might not be very well known by tourists, but the locals recognize their quality and great service.
Sapporo Ramen Yokocho
Sapporo’s ramen is very famous all over Japan and it’s known as one of the best in the country, due to the world wide famous Ramen Alley, aka, Ramen Yokocho. This place achieved national fame for being the birthplace of the “Miso Ramen,” which is a flavor of ramen unique to Sapporo and is one of the most delicious in Japan. Once you try miso ramen from Sapporo, no other Japanese ramen will compare! Ramen Yokocho is without a doubt the best place in Japan to experience ramen for the first time.
The Ramen Alley or Yokocho has a long history that dates back to 1951, when 8 restaurants opened the Koraku Ramen Meitengai, or the Ramen Street. Nowadays, after many years, it has expanded to 17 restaurants and even has a second alley (however, we strongly recommend going to the original alley, better known as Ganso Sapporo Ramen Yokocho). Known for its flavor, quality and good service, the Ramen Alley of Sapporo has achieved international fame, especially the restaurant Aji no Karyu, in which Anthony Bourdain, host of the TV show “No Reservations” dined, or the restaurant Higuma, which is so popular that it often has a long line of patient customers waiting to eat.
However, our recommendation is to not only go to these restaurants, but also to try out this lesser known place called Kiryu, which is located at the exit or entrance of the alley, depending on which side you enter. Kiryu is a family run restaurant, run by Mamm and Papa (Mama to Papa), and doesn’t just offer great tasting ramen, but provides excellent service and a warm atmosphere. Mama and Papa’s charm and happiness allows customers to feel welcome, as they are always willing to go that extra mile for the customer and to recommend sights to see around town. That’s why we strongly recommend you visit Kiryu, a place where you’re made to feel at home.
The house specialty is of course, Miso Ramen, however, other customers also advised us to try the Tamanegi Ramen (which is a bit spicy and prepared with green onions), as well as the Corn Butter Ramen. Each one of them is delicious cooked in the traditional way according to Mama and Papa’s very own recipe. Kiryu is also very well known for its gyoza, of which they have two kinds: green and white. Both of them very tasty and, honestly, the best we have ever had during our time in Japan, especially the green one.
You’ll easily find Sapporo’s Ramen Yokocho as it is just one block away from Susukino station on the Namboku Line of the city’s subway. This is a place you must visit. It’s the perfect way to begin or round off a fun night around town.
Curry and Café Sama
Soup Curry is another very famous traditional dish from Hokkaido. The influence of Indian culture is evident in Japanese cuisine through the traditional curry stew, normally served with a side of white rice. However, in the northern island of Japan, this dish has a very delicious variation, specially designed to warm you up in the cold weather: Soup Curry.
The Soup Curry combines soup of different bases (such as coconut or tomato) with vegetables, like corn, pumpkin, eggplant and carrot, among others, as well as the meat of your choice (chicken, beef or pork). This is an excellent alternative to the traditional Japanese dishes and something well worth trying during your visit to Sapporo.
To order your Soup Curry you just have to follow these easy steps:
- Chose your soup: tomato, coconut, assari (a Japanese style soup); shrimp or creamy shrimp. Our personal favorite is the coconut, although all of them are delicious.
- Chose your dish or contents: which can go from only veggies to the classical chicken, beef or pork or even kiima natto (fermented soy beans). You can choose the traditional dish or pay another 200 Yen for extra vegetables.
- Chose your spice level: that can go from 0 up to 30. Be very careful in case you are not used to spicy food, because this can change a pleasant experience in to a culinary nightmare. If you cannot stand spicy food, we recommend you to stick to the lowest levels and not to pass over the 10th level.
Each plate of soup comes with a side dish of white rice, so that you can mix it in to the soup. The price can vary from around 900 Yen to 1,000 or 1,200 Yen. This might seem a little expensive, but remember that in Sapporo, the portions are bigger than in the rest of Japan, so you’ll almost certainly be satisfied and besides, the quality and the flavor are really worth the price.
There are many franchises of Soup Curry restaurants in Hokkaido, so it won’t be hard for you to find a place that serves it. However, we strongly recommend you to go to the Curry and Café Sama. As the favourite café of the students of Hokkaido University, Sama does not only offers great quality and a variety of dishes, but also a very a friendly environment. As soon as you enter Sama, you´ll see a wall full of autographs and pictures of the celebrities that have dined there, which shows just how popular this venue is. To get to the Hokkaido University branch, you just have to take the Namboku Line of the subway system of Sapporo and get off at Kit-Juhachi-Jo station. You’ll find Sama two blocks away from exit 1.
For a better reference, the address is Sapporoshikitaku kita 16-3-21 1F. If you don’t have time to go all the way to the University, there are at least another 4 branches distributed all around Sapporo, so you’ll find one very close to you. For more information, check their website http://www.hb-sama.com/ (Japanese only).