Love is a 50cm long chocolate eclair.
At least that is what my eyes tell my stomach when we spy this beauty at the Daimaru department store food hall in Sapporo. At 1785 yen, or AU$22.30 (Feb 2010), it's presumably one to share, and beause I know you're wondering, alas no, I didn't indulge.
But I digress. In the previous Japan post, I'd left you at the Sapporo Beer Museum. We'd continued next door to the behemoth Ario Sapporo shopping mall, built on the former Sapporo Breweries site.
Character carts for kids
The shopping mall is a temperature-controlled and carpetted temple of muzak. We pass young mothers who could pass themselves off as svelte sisters to their designer-clothed kin. The character carts, usually locked together and obtainable only by deposit in Australia, are available freely and unguarded throughout the centre - another example of the rarity of vandalism and stealing in Japan.
School uniforms in Japan, as I understand, tend to be the same everywhere. Designed to be conservative, I can't help feeling these look rather saucy!
Trust me, I'm Dr Hattori
We spot endorsements by Dr Yukio Hattori from Iron Chef as well as desserts by Hiroyuki Sakai in the supermarket.
Rare cheese tart 108yen
by Hiroyuki Sakai, La Rochelle
We're keen to try out the sashimi and sushi on offer in the supermarket and cheekily eat them in the food court next door.
Sashimi 780yen (about AU$9.75 in Feb10)
Crab chirashi sushi and nigiri sushi 480yen (about $AU6.00 in Feb10)
The sashimi is fresh and firm, with the scallops and ebi prawn particularly sweet. Unfortunately the crab is disappointingly bland.
Rare cheese tart by Hiroyuki Sakai
Dessert is a share of the rare cheese tart by Hiroyuki Sakai, the base crisp and buttery with a tangy cheese filling, and a bonanza of deliciousness from Mister Donut.
Donuts from Mister Donut
Communal cleaning cloths in the food court
We're impressed, too, by the dispensation of cleaning cloths on every table in the food court, used by everyone to wipe down after they've finished, and replenished by cleaners as soon as customers depart.
Instead of getting the bus back to JR train station, we decide to take the local train, a scenic route which takes us longer than we realise (recommendation: just take the bus), but it does provide a greater appreciation of the rate and level of snowfall.
Bike buried by snow
Snow-covered train tracks
Back in downtown Sapporo we hit the 100 yen shop which is our guilty pleasure of bargain kitchenware and every gadget and knick-knack you never realised you needed.
The 100 yen shop above Sapporo Daimaru
Crockery, all 100yen
Elmo and Hello Kitty confectionary
We also spend a good time loitering the food halls of Daimaru...
Did someone have a craving for onigiri?
Watching the pastry chefs at work
Is it possible to talk about Japan without mentioning their toilets? There are few words to describe the joy of a warm toilet when it's -4C outside. Our hotel room (Chisun Hotel) boasted a particularly impressive version which not only included a bidet and shower function, but spray strength as well. Only the Japanese could make going to the bathroom so much fun!
Boiled king crab 7,350yen (about AU$92 in Feb10)
For dinner we head to Kanihonke to treat ourselves to the must-eat of Hokkaido - king crab.
We can tell Kanihonke is serious about its crab, from the giant crab above the entrance to the crab pond just inside the entrance. Inside, the restaurant has an intimidating hush especially when we realise the ground floor is merely the reception area, and shuffling staff in kimonos immediately enquire whether we have a reservation.
The wait isn't long and we're ushered toward the lift area where we swap our shoes for slippers before ascending to the fifth floor. Upstairs, we find bubbling fountains, stone walkways, deorative shoji screens and private rooms lined with tatami mats.
Crab meat gratin bowl
There's a crab theme to all our crockery, from our individual patterned plates to our chopstick rests.
Crab meat gratin 840yen
Crab meat gratin arrives hidden beneath a crab cover but is disappointingly more generous with runny white sauce than crab. We're also non-plussed by the king crab, which, whilst impressive in size, is a little watery and bland in flavour, tasting as though it has been pre-cooked rather than to-order.
Boiled hairy crab 8,880yen (about AU$110 in Feb10)
We do, however, find redemption in the boiled hairy crab, named for its clearly visible bristles that are actually quite soft to the touch.
The highlight of the hairy crab, our host tell us, is its generous portion of crab organs, the mustard innards often referred to as crab brains but more accurately an all-encompassing collection of liver, pancras, intestines and brain. Buttery, sweet, briney and musty, this is a delicacy worth savouring slowly.
Hairy crab flesh
Each crab leg has been thoughtfully snipped open on one side so all we have to do is use our chopsticks to gently tease out the flesh. The crab is just cooked, with a shimmering pearl-like quality. The flesh is super sweet and almost melts in the mouth.
Tonight's dessert party? An orgy of treats. We have mochi filled with lemon paste, a cream-filled crepe, strawberry and vanilla baumkuchen (a German multi-layered sponge known as the King of Cakes) and two types of creme caramel. There's a melon bun - named not because melon is an ingredient but because the cross-hatch of sugary cookie dough on top resembles a rockmelon, mochi-wrapped ice cream, ice cream in wafers that look a block of white chocolate, and a tub of Royce vanilla ice cream speckled with chunks of milk chocolate.
The highlight amidst all the sugar overload is the tray of strawberries, plump and unbelievably sweet - not a trace of tartness about them. We've also developed an obsession with Hokkaido milk, which has a supreme creaminess that almost coats the tongue. Milk and strawberries never tasted so good.
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1-18 2-Chome Kitasanjyo-Nishi
Chuouku Sapporo Hokkaido
Tel: +81 (011) 222 0018
5min walk from the south exit of JR Sapporo station
Open 7 days 11.30am - 10pm
> Read the next Japan post (Nijo Fish Market)
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3/29/2010 01:58:00 am