Japan 2020 – Niseko Food-Otaku: Kamimura

Now that we’ve had a short break from our vacationing posts, I think now is a good time to head back into Hokkaido once again. Niseko to be precise. For what is pretty much the first of our holiday’s trifecta of restaurant experiences. Ladies and Gents, welcome to Kamimura. Helmed by Head Chef Yuichi Kamimura and his wife Ms Miyuki Kamimura. The cuisine at this Michelin starred restaurant is unmistakably French, but with ingredients sourced from different parts of Hokkaido.

Unlike some high-end restaurants in Japan, making a reservation at Kamimura is a relatively painless experience with just a few clicks online to secure a table. Although, one might be wise to do so early as reservation slots do get taken up rather quickly! With about a month’s notice, we only managed to get an 830pm seating on just one night during the duration of our stay in Niseko. For those interested, Kamimura serves up two different courses for dinner each night, the full Chef’s Degustation menu and the early bird menu. While the early bird menu might seem rather interesting being much lower in price, online reviews point out that it also offers pretty much only just a taste of what Kamimura has in store. So having travelled all the way here, I guess I’d recommend going all the way.

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Located in the beautiful Hyatt House hotel right in the middle of town, getting to Kamimura was easy with our Hirafu shuttle pretty much making a stop right at their doorstep. But with an entire day’s worth of skiing under our belts, having skipped lunch and our reservation being slightly later. We eventually succumbed to the allure and temptations of the Ippudo Ramen truck directly opposite. We, of course, shared a single bowl to not ruin our dinner.

While I might have written a few short stories on food for my previous visits to Japan, I think it’s not exactly fair to judge an establishment like this based on food alone, even more so because when taken to the extreme, taste eventually becomes too subjective for one to accurately represent in words. And thus, I shall refrain from critiquing the food and will allow you to make the judgement call yourself one day when you drop by and meet Mr Kamimura in person as we did. Guess who’s the jovial fellow upfront at the reception taking our coats?

In the end, when one considers the amount of money spent on such a meal, it does boil down to savouring not just how things taste but to enjoy the night as an overall life experience. And I think that when taken as such, the memories created become much more meaningful.

So, with that in mind. Let’s begin our Chef’s Degustation Winter Course.

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Beginning with this, a refreshing Strawberry and black pepper tart.

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Followed by a Notsuke Scallop Sashimi topped with chrysanthemum leaves and white olive snow. Along with cucumber, nori seaweed and a Japanese herb salad. Beautiful

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Served with a beautiful shell spoon too!

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Marinated King Prawn from the Haboro region of Hokkaido, with uni, caviar and cauliflower.

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Up next was probably my favourite dish of the night. The Hokkaido Venison Tartar served with beetroot, walnut and topped off with a Hokkaido white birch water tuile on top of a little quail egg.

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As tasty as it looks. Perhaps, even more so.

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If you were wondering how did I manage to remember all the dishes, here’s a hint. Right next to a Pumpkin Ravioli in a duck and veal consommé.

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After the Ravioli, was a Steamed Menuke fish served with eggplant, caper, olive and sesame. Another lovely dish but my heart was still with the veal.

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In terms of novelty and intrigue though, the Kutchan Matured Potato dish stands out. While one might imagine the raclette cheese, caramelised onion, anchovy and hazelnuts to overpower what is simply a bit of mash. The Kutchan potato (itself a local delicacy) used here was specially selected and aged over a period 540 days to create a rather intense flavour. In a nutshell, imagine the flavours of a normal potato and turn that up to 11. That’s kind of how it tastes. Quite special this was.

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After our really old potato, we were headed towards the tail end of our degustation journey with a Hokkaido Mushroom Ragout with Hokkaido brown rice risotto.

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Finally rounding off our meal before dessert, Hokkaido Wagyu. I would have preferred slightly more red but it was still good. It was around this time when Mr Kamimura also started making the rounds and greeting everyone in the restaurant.

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And of course dessert, with some Hokkaido happy cows ice cream. With our last Hirafu shuttle bus about to arrive soon, we, unfortunately, had to make an early exit from Kamimura with one last dish yet to arrive, a set of chocolates which the staff lovingly packed for us to bring back to our room. While that alone might seem a kind gesture, it was the overall experience earlier with not just the Head Chef, but all his knowledgable servers and kind yet witty restaurant staff that elevated our dinner.

So, a big thanks to the staff at Kamimura for your wonderful hospitality. Perhaps one day, we will meet again.

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