Restaurant Recs: Tokyo, Sapporo & Hakodate
Hello Japan Chowhounds! My husband and I are San Francisco Chowhounds and we will be in Tokyo 3-6/Feb, Sapporo 7-8/Feb for the Snow Festival, then Hakodate on 9/Feb before heading to Tsukuba for a technical conference, followed by The Police concert in Tokyo, then two nights at a Kyoto ryokan. Would greatly appreciate recommendations for the following:
1) Tokyo Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner
--I'm happy with sushi for B/L/D and between-meal snacks, but tall husband requires substantial low-carb breakfast and coffee ;) ... and yes, we will be going to Tsukiji. Staying at Tokyo Park Hotel.
2) Sapporo Lunch & Dinner
--Can't wait for crab, scallops and other fabulous local fare. No Mongolian BBQ or beer hall places, unless it is more high-end.
3) Hakodate Lunch & Dinner
--Staying at harbor hotel and going to morning market for ultra-fresh seafood breakfast!
Izakayas, low-key, great food at cheap to medium-high prices, and non-smoking a plus. No food restrictions but husband can't do lots of starches due to blood sugar issues. Love bento.com (hi robb!) and have guide books but overwhelmed. Help us eat our way through Japan! Thanks!
The "asa ichi" (morning market) in Hakodate is less an operating seafood market and more a collection of fresh/frozen seafood gift stalls. If you know someone in Japan you'd like to send a gift to, this is the place to select and order a seafood set which can be delivered in two days. I ordered a "sake oyako" set for relatives in Tokyo- filets of salmon and a package of marinated roe. It's nothing like Tsukiji, which is the world's largest OPERATING seafood market. Nevertheless, it's a place to check out.
On the north side of the market, facing Hakodate train station, is a small indoor strip mall of mostly "donburi-ya" which serve "kaisen donburi". I describe it and other Hakodate information here - http://www.chowhound.com/topics/459314 . You basically choose the seafood toppings you want and the top it on rice. The most popular toppings are uni and ikura, with kani and hotate also being popular. I ate at several of these in the mall and outside the market in the side streets. Quality and price varied. The best one seemed to be Akebono Shokudo (http://akebono-syokudou.com/index.htm). One donburi will set you back 2500 YEN or more depending on what you order.
There are a few good noshing opportunities. On the top of my list are the steamed crab buns called "kani man", which are referenced in the above link. You can find these in stalls not inside the market, but along the side of the market. Look for glass steam cases and a little crab logo. They are excellent. You can also glean samples of grilled or raw crab from the vendors on the streets west of the market (they are trying to entice you to order gift sets of crab legs) or try a couple of the makeshift raw bars that are set up with mediocre quality uni.
Inside the market, a popular attraction is a small pool that you can fish squid out of and then have them slice it up for you right there for sashimi. And there's an old lady right next to that who sells nice big cups of draft beer. Something not to be missed is the "ika meshi" vendor called "Teirai Shouten". They have a rather ambitious website with videos here- http://www.asaichiterai.com/p/ikamesh... . A place called "Kaneni" also has good ika meshi.
The market is open until 2pm in the winter. There's no particular reason to go very early, but it opens up at 6 am.
For seafood izakaya recommendations, you can ask the hotel concierge. If you or someone in your party can speak and read Japanese, you can PM me for some particular recs, including sushi. You can also PM me for general Hakodate travel recs as well. I looked at staying at the Harborview Hotel (it's right next to the market) but opted for the Route Inn directly across the bus plaza. It's cheaper and the top floor has a natural hot spring that overlooks the city.
Thanks Silverjay! I'll check out the links right now. Unfortunately, we don't speak/read Japanese so we are gathering as much info as possible in advance. We'll visit the asa ichi & food stalls on Sunday morning then hop the train to Tsukuba. (Still trying to figure out if we can eat/picnic on the trains.) The Route Inn was an option, and loved the onsen, but not into twin beds ;) ---Thanks again!
The city commuter trains and subways with long benches that face each other aren't places to picnic. But long distance trains, with booth style seating or airplane style are classic "picnic" opportunities. It's not unusual to see long distance trains with rows of beers cans in the windows. The asa ichi, shops in your hotel, and Hakodate Station have plenty of places to stock up on provisions. You can no doubt have a long, tasty trip from Hokkaido to Tsukuba. May even make a few new friends as well.
The hotel that is across the walkway from the Park hotel has a very nice brunch- mostly western with Japanese options. Fairly priced. Not sure if they do it weekdays or just on the weekends. They also have a self serve coffee machine where you can make a cappucino or other coffees.