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Monday, March 29, 2010

King crab, Hokkaido milk and strawberries

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

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

Japanese toilet

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.

Crab organs

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.

Kanihonke Restaurant

Dessert party

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.

View Larger Map

Kanihonke Sapporo
1-18 2-Chome Kitasanjyo-Nishi
Chuouku Sapporo Hokkaido
060-0002 Japan
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)
< Go back to the first Japan 2010 post

Related Grab Your Fork posts:

Read about my trip to Japan in 2007Read about my trip to Japan in 2004

29 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 3/29/2010 01:58:00 am


  • At 3/29/2010 3:15 am, Anonymous billy@atablefortwo said…

    the crab meat gratin bowl is so cute! Love it. I think i used to stay in Chisun Hotel too, but not in Sapporo though and I think you need to teach me how to shop in 100 yen shop, cuz i can never find anything that i'd like to buy there.

  • At 3/29/2010 5:44 am, Anonymous Hannah said…

    First: YAY!!!! I was so hoping there'd be more Japan, but didn't want to ask in case it started to look like I don't enjoy your Aus-based posts... which I tremendously do!

    Second: That tart looks so much better than your common-garden-variety-cheese-tart. And I just love, every time, how your dessert parties mirror every single night in my hostel room. But I have European pastries. Do you like the melon bread? I was really disappointed, but I think that's because I was expecting melon, not something that tasted croissant-y...

  • At 3/29/2010 8:55 am, Blogger Stephcookie said…

    Omg the piggy plates! I want the piggy plates! I love eating the crab organs, and that hairy crab looks delicious. I am definitely stealing your dessert party idea whenever I go there :)

  • At 3/29/2010 9:29 am, Blogger foodwink said…

    That picture of hairy crab organs is the ultimate food porn! Will make a mental note to try them when I visit Japan again :)

    And talking about 100 yen shop, your post reminds me that I still haven't used the bento rice mould I bought over a year ago.

  • At 3/29/2010 9:45 am, Blogger JT @ areyouhungary said…

    I love the 100 yen stores, except I usually end up spending way too much money in them! Oh for unlimited baggage allowances on flights home from Japan....

  • At 3/29/2010 9:46 am, Blogger Phuoc'n Delicious said…

    The bowl for the crab meat is so cute! I hope to be able to go to Japan one day.. It would be very gastronomical.. :) And... OMG! Look at all those desserts!

  • At 3/29/2010 10:37 am, Blogger Y said…

    Gorgeous gorgeous pictures! But no eclair? Sadness...

  • At 3/29/2010 1:12 pm, Anonymous YW said…

    I think I would be standing in front of the onigiri for a while if I see 1 of them.. so many flavours to choose from!! Did u try any of them?

  • At 3/29/2010 1:45 pm, Blogger Karen | Citrus and Candy said…

    Aaargh, Thomas the Tank Engine shopping carts, 100 Yen shop, onigiri, super long eclairs? I <3 Japan!!

    So have to go soon. Everybody has been except for me :(

  • At 3/29/2010 2:26 pm, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    the sadness at you not obtaining 50cm eclair! would have bought it for research purposes hehe

  • At 3/29/2010 3:15 pm, Blogger OohLookBel said…

    Sweet strawberries and creamy milk - why can't we get them here?
    That's it - I'm going to win the lottery and move to Japan!

  • At 3/29/2010 4:12 pm, Anonymous lindsey clare said…

    how cute are those 100yen bowls?? i tell you what, i have been so tempted to book flights to Japan with a certain airline having sales lately. and Sapporo is where i'd want to go!

  • At 3/29/2010 5:50 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hahha booo sif not cannonball the 50cm eclair :P hee hee and that crab bowl is soo cuuutttee!

    and Yaayyy snoooww soo purrdyy!

  • At 3/29/2010 7:01 pm, Blogger Cherry said…

    Love the pics from Japan!!

  • At 3/29/2010 8:30 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    That crab looks amazing - the weird thing about uniforms in Japan is that even university students wear them - so I guess they have to be able to individualise them a bit, or even make them look sexy.

  • At 3/29/2010 8:33 pm, Anonymous Veruca Salt said…

    The strawberries were so yummy in Sapporo. I think it was the best we had in Japan.

  • At 3/29/2010 9:11 pm, Anonymous Fiona said…

    Something about the uniforms, hey?

  • At 3/29/2010 9:51 pm, Blogger A cupcake or two said…

    Oh how I love Japan more than words. My parents are leaving tomorrow and I am so darn jealous. That eclair looks delicious. I spent heaps of time at 100 yen shops. Theres so many things to buy. Cheap cheap eheheh

  • At 3/29/2010 10:16 pm, Blogger Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said…

    Hokkaido eggs and Hokkaido milk apparently both taste superior to that produced in other areas...wonder what the secret is?

  • At 3/29/2010 11:04 pm, Anonymous penny aka jeroxie said…

    We are planning a trip to Japan... now I can't wait till next year. everything is too cute!

  • At 3/30/2010 12:56 pm, Blogger yygall said…

    Japanese strawberries really are unparalleled. I still remember my first taste of them in Sapporo almost 7 years ago: it was as though I had never tasted a true strawberry until that moment.
    Hokkaido milk is equally awesome. I have found a close substitute in Australia. The Organic Valley's Organic Dairy Milk comes close in taste and texture. My friends from Hokkaido calls it their little taste of home.

    Having read your post, though, I'm tempted to visit Hokkaido again.

  • At 3/31/2010 12:04 pm, Blogger That's Ron said…

    mmmm.. harry crabs!

  • At 4/01/2010 1:17 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Billy - The gratin bowl was very cute indeed, and I can't believe you don't love 100 yen shops. So many good things!

    Hi Hannah - lol. I have sooo many Japan posts to get through - just a matter of trying to find the time to edit the photos!

    Dessert parties are great aren't they? I'm very envious of your European pastries. Melon bread is ok - I like the crust on top the best :)

    Hi Stephcookie - The piggy plates were very cute and hurrah for crab organs. So much tasty goodness. Actually I think dessert parties should be mandatory in any country. Or even at home in Sydney. lol

    Hi foodwink - I'm very guilty of 100yen spending sprees. Lots of stuff sitting in the cupboard but you know it's there if you ever need it, right? :)

    And I strongly recommend you trying the hairy crab on your next trip!

    Hi JT - Oh me too. It's so tempting to throw everything in, but when you get to the register you just realise you've spent $50. Crazy. We really struggled with luggage allowance too - I think we were all right on the maximum :)

    Hi Phuoc'n Delicious - Japan is a magical wonderful place. Save those pennies and I hope you get there soon!

    Hi Y - Alas I had a bridesmaid dress I had to fit into when I got back. lol. Sadness indeed!

    Hi YW - We ate lots of nigiri on the shinkansen as snacks when we were travelling, so no onigiri from the dept store but lots from the train stations!

    Hi Karen - Japan is awesome and yes, you must go go go! I don't think you're the last one yet :)

    Hi chocolatesuze - I bet you would have bought the eclair but then I bet you would've been full after two mouthfuls. lol.

    Hi Belle - Hokkaido milk reminded me of the jersey cow A2 milk, but hey no need to win the lottery, just a holiday every now and then :)

    Hi Lindsey Clare - Our last two trips to Japan were on cheap air tickets so yes, we always cave in to temptation. It was our first time to Sapporo and whilst it's a bit of a trek, it's well worth it!

    Hi FFichiban - I think someone got into the eclair and is showing signs of sugar overload! lol. Unfortunately I don't have Suze's metabolism. lol.

    Hi Cherry - Glad you're enjoying them :) Plenty more to come!

    Hi Gourmet Chick - I didn't realise that uni students wore uniforms too but I think it was the mannequins too, and their poses. lol

    Hi Veruca Salt - Agreed. We definitely should've bought and eaten more Sapporo strawbs!

    Hi Fiona - lol. I've yet to see anything similar in Australia with school uniforms on mannequins :)

    Hi A Cupcake or Two - Oh hopefully you're score some good souvenirs from Japan :) And y100 yen shops are so much fun but oh so dangerous!

    Hi mademoiselle delicieuse - Oh I didn't realise the Hokkaido eggs were meant to be superior too. Must be all that fresh mountain air :)

    Hi Penny aka Jeroxie - Lucky you. Am sure you will have a ball in Japan - make sure you prime your stomachs!

    Hi Ida - I think strawberries in Australia are sad imitations of their true glory. I understand that icy conditions are best, and that strawberries in Norway are incredible too.

    Thanks for the tip on the milk. I agree, I thought that the Over The Moon jersey milk tasted similar to Hokkaido milk too.

    Hi That's Ron - Mmm indeed. They were so tasty!

  • At 4/04/2010 11:57 am, Anonymous Simon @ the heart of food said…

    So much classic Japanese goodness in this post!

    Love the 100 yen stores. So much more value and variety than our equivalent $1 stores.

    Pity about the king crab but glad to hear the hairy one made up for me :)

  • At 4/04/2010 2:07 pm, Blogger Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook)! said…

    Those school uniforms... are actually quite gorgeous! =D

  • At 4/05/2010 2:47 am, Anonymous Hannah said…

    Double hurrah for more Japan! And just as well I have more European pastries to talk about too :)

  • At 4/06/2010 12:58 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Simon - 100 yen stores are my weakness! lol. The king crab was disappointing but as you say, the hairy crab more than made up for it!

    Hi Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook)! - They are rather cute but they certainly don't look anything like the ones we had to wear at school!

    Hi Hannah - lol. I suspect the grass is always greener, and European pastries - I think they're always more buttery and delicious too!

  • At 4/12/2010 4:31 pm, Blogger Dorothea said…

    Hi Augustus, Wish I had known about Veruca's song, she could have serenaded us at the Mad Hatters Tea Party. Pocohontas didn't mention the chocolate coated crisps. I need them to satisfy both my sweet and salty cravings all at once. I have leftover strawberries in my fridge after a Pocohontas cooking spree in my kitchen on the weekend, pity they won't live up to Sapporo ones! Dorothea.

  • At 4/14/2010 1:54 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Dorothea - Ahh yes, Veruca Salt has many hidden talents! I've seen chocolate-coated potato chips occasionally at Aldi but otherwise a little home-experimenting might be just what the craving doctor ordered?

    A glut of strawberries is always good. I like to sweeten mine with balsamic and a good sprinkle of sugar - so good!


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