They say one of the best ways to explore Japan is through its colorful cuisine, and for me, Sapporo is one of the best places to do so. Although the food scene in Japan is rich everywhere you go, I feel that this statement is particularly true when applied to Hokkaido. Thanks to its geographical location, Hokkaido has an abundance of amazing seafood, produce, and dairy products. Oh, and ramen as well!
The reason I am singling out Sapporo specifically is because as the capital of Hokkaido, it stands as the most convenient introduction to Hokkaido’s specialties. If you’ll remember, last time I made a list of food to try in Sapporo on your first visit. While that list remains relevant, I am happy to add more recommended dishes and restaurants here. There are 7 locations in this post, and I will rate each of them out of 5 based on my overall experience, just to give you a pretty good idea which places I recommend the most.
The prices I stated in this article are what we paid at the time I came here, but with the recent consumption tax increase in Japan, the prices are probably different now. Let’s get to it, shall we?
1. Ramen Toguchi Susukino らー麺とぐち すすきの本店
I must admit, the trip to this restaurant was completely unplanned. After the earthquake, it was one of the very few establishments that reopened in Susukino on the very first night electricity was restored to the city. My cousins and I lined up alongside other tourists and locals, but it didn’t take that long for us to get seated. Inside is a charmingly dated little ramen place with posters featuring ads for Sapporo Beer. As with most restaurants in Japan, the place is compact but makes very good use of space.
The first thing that made an impression on me was certainly the staff. They were friendly and very very game for pictures. They were totally adorable!
Looking at the menu, it’s easy to see there are a number of choices here at Ramen Toguchi. Interestingly enough, their specialty is the tonkotsu ramen base rather than the usual miso ramen that is the pride of Sapporo. They do still have quite a lot of miso-based ramen though. The price of their ramen is average when compared to other ramen restaurants, but at this point I wasn’t sure yet if the toppings will be the same quality as the others I’ve tried before at the same price.
We ended up ordering their Red Miso, which is one of their bestsellers, along with their Shrimp Miso, and the Sapporo special White Miso Buttered Corn Ramen. Of course, our dumpling-loving group had to have some gyoza as well. (It’s good juicy gyoza, but not the best I’ve ever eaten.) In hindsight, maybe we should’ve tried a tonkotsu based ramen for the heck of it.
All of the ramen dishes we ordered were very rich, to the point that some began to feel extremely salty the more we ate. The Shrimp Miso in particular had a very strong flavor, while the White Miso Buttered Corn Ramen was the most balanced of all. It must’ve been the butter and the corn that helped tone things down somewhat.
I prefer noodles with a hard bite, and these were perfect in that regard. The broth clung very well to each strand, which meant slurping was an absolute pleasure. As for the toppings, there are some other restaurants that are more generous with the number of chashu, but the quality here is not bad.
I can’t say my fond memories of this place is not attached to it being the first place we managed to have a nice warm meal after experiencing a major earthquake, but overall, I enjoyed eating here. It has a nice ambiance, friendly staff, and a pretty solid menu, although the ramen are a bit too rich and too salty for me.
My rating: 3 out of 5
Address: 4 Chome-14-2 Minami 4 Jonishi, Chuo Ward, Sapporo, Hokkaido 064-0804, Japan (See on map)
2. Baikouken at the Sapporo Ramen Kyowakoku
Okay. I admit right off the bat that I’m going to be biased when it comes to any other ramen restaurant located in the Ramen Kyowakoku (Ramen Republic) on the 13th floor of Sapporo’s ESTA Mall. My favorite ramen, possibly of all the ramen I’ve eaten in Japan so far, is located here. As such, all other ramen will be compared to Shirakaba Sansou‘s fabulous miso ramen.
Then again, I was also prepared to gain a new favorite. I wouldn’t have minded if Baikouken managed to measure up! Putting up the words “MICHELIN” in front of your restaurant means you are no joke, even if you weren’t exactly starred. To be included in the guide is a big deal in itself. To be honest, that Michelin label was why we ultimately ended up here in Asahikawa-based Baikouken.
Baikouken‘s interior is similar to Shirakaba Sansou‘s old-Japan style, but I have to say, this place is a lot nicer. It also feels a little newer. I just love that U-shaped counter in the center. On the walls are enlarged photographs of what I assume is a little retelling of their history. On another side of the wall are whiteboards with autographs of celebrities who have dined here.
I am actually sad that we only managed to squeeze in two ramen meals during our entire stay here, but Baikouken was a good pick. The quality and flavor of the ramen here is better than the one from Ramen Toguchi. The broth here is less salty without being any less rich, helping me to appreciate the undertones more. We ordered three dishes plus their cheese gyoza, and the servings were enough to divide among five relatively hungry people.
The Cheese Gyoza had an interesting concept. Basically, there’s cheese inside that gives the gyoza a stringy bite. For me though, the skin was quite dry and the filling was just okay. Even with the cheese, it didn’t wow me. I think I liked Ramen Toguchi‘s gyoza a little better.
For the ramen, we once again ordered some Butter & Corn Ramen, their Charsiew Ramen, and their Flame-Grilled Rib Charsiew Ramen. That last one seems to be the specialty of the house. Across the board, I would have to say the ramen is pretty solid. Great noodles, rich and umami-filled broth, plus the toppings are exactly as stated. Their flame-grilled chashu has a more smoky taste than their normal chashu, but both are delicious, albeit very “normal” chashu. I’ve had other more melt-in-the-mouth ones, to be frank.
Although Baikouken did not by any means surpass my favorite ramen place, I was still very satisfied with the quality and the flavor of the ramen dishes we ordered. The noodles were also pretty good, and that was already half the battle! Go ahead and skip the gyoza though.
I have made it my mission to try out all 8 of the ramen restaurants here in the Ramen Kyowakoku, so I hope I can write a more extensive article solely about this place soon.
My rating: 3.75 out of 5
Address: ESTA Mall, 13F Sapporo Ramen Republic〒060-0005 Hokkaido, Sapporo, Chuo Ward, Kita 5 Jōnishi, 2-chōme, 北５条西２丁目 エスタ 10階 (See on map)
3. Soup curry from Soup Curry King
SOUP CURRY! This was one thing I did not get to try on my first trip to Sapporo, so I was pretty adamant about doing so this time. I had several places marked on my Google Maps, but they were all closed due to the earthquake. We walked from place to place only to meet with closed doors! Finally, as we were feeling dejected, we came across this lighted sign.
And oh my goodness, how cute is this place?!
Soup Curry is exactly that: soup that is curry flavored. If you like curry, I see no reason why you wouldn’t like this dish. All the other ingredients are usually flash-fried before the soup is poured over. The soup is basically a thinned out version of that flavorful Japanese curry, and it’s still best paired with rice. And like all curry dishes, it’s also best paired with lassi to cut through all the heat and the spices.
When you order your Soup Curry dish, you get to pick your level of spiciness on a scale of 0 to 10. (I’m guessing it’s the same for all the other Soup Curry restaurants.) Soup Curry King also has these special extra spicy levels called Jack, Queen, King, and the Joker, which features something called “Death Sauce”. Yikes! (Also, you have to pay extra for extra suffering lol.)
They generally recommend Level 2 for a bit of kick, but I personally find Level 6 to still be quite enjoyable. Haven’t tried anything above that though. Just note that I actually like spicy food so I’m willing to go further up the scale, but none of that “Death Sauce” business. Oh, and I haven’t mentioned the best part yet: THE SOUP CURRY IS AMAZING. The broth really stimulates the appetite, and the toppings are quite generous. Having a Soup Curry meal is truly satisfying for the soul. This is the only thing I keep craving back here at home!
Despite my complete enjoyment, the only reason why I didn’t give this place a perfect score is because I’m convinced there is an even better Soup Curry restaurant out there. I need a bit of room to go gaga over those lol. That said, I’m still really glad that my first ever experience eating Soup Curry is here at Soup Curry King. They do some REALLY GREAT Soup Curry!
My rating: 4.25 out of 5
Address: Japan, 〒060-0062 Hokkaido, Sapporo, Chuo Ward, Minami 2 Jonishi, 3 Chome−13-4 カタオカビルB1 (See on map)
4. Kinotoya BAKE Cheese Tarts
Despite trying out several cheese tart brands over the years, nothing has beaten BAKE Cheese Tarts in my book. It used to be so hard for me to get my hands on this stuff, since the nearest BAKE store was in Hong Kong! Now that we have it here in Manila, at basically the same price as in Japan, I’ve been extremely happy! You’d think that the cheese tarts here would be different from the original, but there are very minor differences. Still, there’s nothing like grabbing a box from the OG place.
Very rarely would you see this branch in the Sapporo Station so bereft of people. Normally, there’s a line. Not that I’m complaining! We managed to buy a box in record time lol.
If you’ve been to Sapporo but have never tried a BAKE Cheese Tart, WHAT THE HECK HAVE YOU BEEN DOING? It’s totally worth the price. You’ll recognize the high quality of the cheese they use for these little tarts the moment you bite into one! The smooth, creamy, savory, tangy, and lightly sweet cheese body explodes in your mouth. It blends so well with the buttery, barely sweetened crust. Heaven in a tart!
My rating: 6 out of 5!
Address: JR Sapporo Station〒060-0806 Hokkaido, Sapporo, Kita Ward, Kita 6 Jonishi, 3 Chome, ＪＲ札幌駅サツエキイースト (See on map)
5. Kaisen Shokudo Kitano Gurume 海鮮食堂 北のグルメ亭
One of the requirements any time you visit a Japanese city is to eat at the city’s wet market at least once. This is especially true if you like fresh seafood. Places like the Kitano Gurume, located right inside the Jyogai Ichiba in Sapporo, allows people to pick their live seafood and have them cooked whatever way they please. (Though it helps if you have basic Japanese language skills lol.)
Kitano Gurume is a large market where you can buy fresh ingredients and food souvenirs. I’m not just talking about fresh seafood; they also have Hokkaido dairy products like butter and cheese. The great part about markets like these is they often have free sample stations, and here in Kitano Gurume they usually let you sample their variety of ikura. These shiny giant fish eggs are like popping bubbles of umami.
Samples aside, we came here for some kaisendon and giant crabs. When I say giant crabs, I mean crabs as big as an adult human’s face! There are typically four varieties sold here. Whichever one you pick will probably be delicious since they are fresh. There’s really no need to go for the premium crabs, especially because the prices for the spiky Red King Crabs can be quite intimidating. We opted for some affordably-priced hairy Horsehair Crab instead, and were pretty happy with what we got. As a workaround, we decided we would order a donburi with different crab meats instead. Just to taste the difference, right?
The other crabs available are the Snow Crab with its long and skinny legs, as well as the Hanasaki Crab/Queen Crab. Like the King Crab, the Queen Crab also has spikes all over its body, except they are sharper and larger. Don’t mess with the queen, ya’ll.
At the second level of the building is a nice dining space. To be able to come up here, you don’t need to order seafood from the market downstairs. You can simply opt for a bowl of kaisendon off their menu.
If you’re a sashimi lover like me, this menu probably has you drooling already. I can vouch for the freshness and quality of the kaisendon here. We actually ordered the biggest bowl to share and were very happy with the variety of the fresh seafood. SO WORTH IT! Frankly, because I like sashimi more than I like crabs, I’d come back here for the kaisendon.
Though there are many seafood restaurants in the area of the Sapporo Wholesale Market and Jyogai Ichiba, I am a fan of Kitano Gurume. Because it is a marketplace in itself, it’s a great way to see the kind of fresh seafood they use for their own dishes. I can feel reassured that I am eating only the freshest sashimi and crabs, because I see with my eyes where they come from. Although most Japanese sashimi places offer very fresh seafood anyway, this is a whole other level methinks.
My rating: 4.5 out of 5
Address:〒060-0011 Hokkaido, Sapporo, Chuo Ward, Kita 11 Jonishi, 22 Chome−４−1 (See on map)
6. Sapporo Beer Garden
Some people call this place a “tourist trap”, but after eating at a real jingisukan tourist trap in the city, I am now more than willing to place my bets on the Sapporo Beer Garden. Sure it’s got a bit of novelty going for it, but frankly, I feel like I got more value for my money eating here than at that other highly-rated jingisukan place.
This place gets real busy real quick, so they have a meal ticket system which assigns you a time when you can enter the restaurant to eat. It’s sort of like a meal reservation ticket, and you cannot enter the dining hall before the hour stated on it. In the meantime, you can look through the Sapporo Beer Museum just for fun. Their displays are pretty colorful, and I especially enjoyed seeing the evolution of Sapporo Beer’s print ads over the years.
The Sapporo Beer Garden sits inside a tall, red-bricked building that used to be a sugar factory. It was converted into a malting plant many years later, and you can still see signs of that part of its history as you glimpse this giant beer brewing cauldron called the kessel. The main dining hall of the Sapporo Beer Garden is actually named Kessel Hall after this centerpiece.
The restaurant is exactly as I remember it from two years ago. The sound of sizzling meat was the main symphony, backdropped by the endless chatter of customers. I’ve never seen the Sapporo Beer Garden with so many empty seats, although later in the night more people came out to enjoy some sizzling grilled mutton.
uch like all places that offer unli food sets, if you want to sit together you must all order the same thing. One person cannot order a solo meal set while his or her companions order all-you-can-eat sets if they belong to the same table. Eating here isn’t exactly cheap, so you may want to consider this one of your “splurge meals”. I believe you always need to have one or two in every trip!
Most of us went for the all-you-can-eat jingisukan for 3,132 yen per person. One of my cousins went for the option with unlimited drink at 4,212 yen. You can actually order a beer by the mug if you aren’t a big drinker. Apart from this basic bbq set, you can go for the more premium 5,680 yen set that includes king crab, snow crab, and sushi alongside the jingisukan. This set goes for 6,980 yen if with unlimited drinks.
If you’re not a big eater, you can go for the single orders of jingisukan. The all-meat set costs 1,512 yen, while meat with vegetables goes for 1,922 yen per person. If you find the all-you-can-eat options a bit too expensive and you don’t think you can eat that much anyway, these single serving prices are actually not bad!
Though the grilled lamb was superb, I have to declare my love for the sweet and perfect Hokkaido pumpkin. I could not get enough of it!
If you’re planning to splurge on a jingisukan bbq party while in Sapporo, I think you’ll find the Sapporo Beer Garden a great option to do just that. The ambiance and the service are equally good, and you will walk out feeling extra satisfied and smelling of grilled meat. These I can assure you.
My rating: 4.25 out of 5
Address: 9 Chome-2-10 Kita 7 Johigashi, Higashi Ward, Sapporo, Hokkaido 065-0007, Japan (See on map)
7. BONUS: Hokkaido corn & Yubari Melon at the Sapporo Central Wholesale Market
One of my main goals for this Sapporo trip was to try out fresh uncooked Hokkaido corn. I love corn though I could never imagine eating it uncooked, but apparently you can do it with Hokkaido corn. Unfortunately I had just eaten a meal at Kitano Gurume when we decided to walk around the Jyogai Ichiba, so I only had enough room for that tiny slice they were giving away for free.
Hokkaido corn is unlike any I’ve ever eaten; crisp and fresh, with sweet juices jumping out of the kernels. Next time I’m going to compare the cooked and uncooked versions. (This makes me sound like such a corn nerd, but I take my love for corn pretty seriously lol.)
This grilled version we tried was a different kind of corn than the fresh one I sampled. There is a mind-blowing variety here in Hokkaido. It’s never simply yellow corn or white corn. There is even purple corn or a mixed purple and white corn. Anyway, if you love corn as much as I do, this is the place to geek out over them! Prices vary depending on the “breed” of corn you buy.
And because Japan is the land of premium fruits, you can’t leave Hokkaido without sampling Yubari melon. Yes it may well be the most expensive melon in the world, but it’s also the sweetest, most tender, and juiciest melon I’ve ever eaten. I’d happily buy a few slices for personal enjoyment, but I’m not crazy (or rich) enough to shell out 3,000 yen for a whole melon. If you want to though, I ain’t stopping you!
If you’re raring to try out the famous fruits and veggies of Hokkaido but don’t really want to commit to buying them in bulk, I highly recommend coming to the Jyogai Ichiba. Compared to supermarkets, there are stores here that sell and cook single servings for you. You can choose for yourself the stall you feel sells the freshest and best quality products. I actually prefer to come here compared to the Nijo Market.
Address: 21 Chome-2-3 Kita 11 Jonishi, Chuo Ward, Sapporo, Hokkaido 060-0011, Japan (See on map)
Well, this is it for today! I hope you found this post about food to try in Sapporo helpful. I have another post about foods to try in Sapporo over here that features a different set of eats and eateries. I hope you guys have a delicious adventure in Sapporo or in Hokkaido, and let me know if you try any of the places I mentioned in my posts! 🙂
Other posts from my Summer in Sapporo 2018 Series:
- Sapporo 2018 Earthquake Diary
- Finding zen at the Hokkaido Shrine
- Sumio Goto Museum, Blue Pond, & Shikisai No Oka Tour with Chuo Bus
- 10 Fun Things To Do on a Day Trip to Otaru
- Sapporo Summer 2018 Snack Haul