Sharing culture. To me a good apres-ski always involves good people, good food, and good firewater. The Japanese sure know how to do this well with such a strong Izakaya game that is such a big part of day to day life. Small tasty dishes compliment big pitchers of nama beeru (fresh beer / tap beer) or local sake, and are passed around in-between the brief pauses in conversation. Japanese food has always been good here in the Niseko-Kutchan area of Northern Japan, but I am super impressed by the standard of newer modern Japanese (which has become very european in form) joints. Food is simple, hearty, not too fancy, and always showcases the amazing produce of the area. In the food game, these are the essential parts that make for a triumphant win.
At Labradora in Kutchan, the super tight kitchen sends out super moorish food, dish after dish. There wasn’t an item on the menu that I didn’t want to try, nor were there any dishes that didn’t please my tastebuds. The Spanish tapas-style food featured the area’s great produce like super creamy potatoes, sweet winter leeks, crunchy parsnips & cabbage, cheese from that rightfully famous Hokkaido milk, and wonderfully rich local beef. Highlight dishes for me were a slow cooked tripe in tomato sauce; a panfried cabbage with fresh leek and anchovy that shared the same flavour profile as it’s Asian cousin (that is wok fried with fish sauce); and the creamiest, most flavoursome pureed potatoes that were finished under the grill with some local gruyere for a bit of crispy-burny action. All of these dishes were delicious in their simplicity, and cooked with that world-renowned Japanese precision. Not being a big drinker, my wine glass filled with local Cassis nectar blended in amongst the many other glasses of curated reds that littered the table. The juice had a tartness that was refreshing and cut the richness of the wintery dishes, whilst not being overpoweringly sweet. Desserts held up their end of the bargain too, with a satisfyingly dark chocolate terrine and a classic apple crumble that were both served with a generous dollop of local cream. So much delicious.