This is a guest post by Sean Mulcahy
So, it’s decided then. You’re going on a family holiday to the powder capital of the world. Or maybe a lad’s trip to let off some steam from what we call ‘real-life’. Or you’re going the whole hog and you’re going to stay for the season… Even better!
There is one thing that all the above scenarios have in common – you’ll need to know all the best locations to find great food, cocktails and, most importantly, coffee.
Your time in such a magical place as Niseko is precious. So don’t waste it trying to decide where to dine when you could be getting the most out of that lift pass. That’s what this guide is for, a series of recommendations from locals who have lived and breathed what we all secretly want – ‘the ski bum life’.
Musu (pronounced mu-zoo) is a table service cafe in the main hub of Hirafu with a great breakfast menu. You’ll be greeted by friendly staff, with panoramic views of Zaka Street (the main road that leads to Grand Hirafu base). Start the morning observing eye-grabbing mania of Niseko town life while enjoying an “eggs benny” with smoked salmon, or the locals’ breakfast choice – the “pocketrocket”. This modern vibe cafe also accepts credit cards, so no stressing if you need to split bills.
While there are many food choices on the mountain, sometimes you may want to eat something a little less expensive, particularly on rest days. If you’re looking for lunchtime ramen, Bar Moon is up there with our all-time favourites. An authentic Japanese style bar, you can find tables to your left on entry for express service for those on a tight time schedule.
They have several selections of ramen bowls, with “Devil’s Ramen” being their iconic dish. Be warned, to get your photo up on the wall you must complete this dish in a time frame of 20 minutes. And trust us, they do time you.
However, if eating on the mountain, Bo-yo-so has the largest menu selection for unbeatable prices.
If you’re staying in Upper Hirafu (mountainside of Hirafu 343) you cannot miss Jam Bar. A short walk from Wild Bills, Jam Bar is a table service Japanese restaurant that has a function room upstairs for those with big groups.
This funky little restaurant offers some of the best Hokkaido seafood, and for those feeling a little homesick, they also do pizzas.
Saving the best till last, Ren is a little hidden gem you will find just outside the chaos of Hirafus’ main hub. A 5-minute walk from the places mentioned above, Ren serves THE best Hokkaido chicken in Hirafu. Like Jam Bar, Ren offers shared plate dining as is common in an Izakaya (Japanese bar/restaurant). Ren also has a function room for special occasions with varying set menus. From their rice bowls to dumplings, you cannot go wrong with Ren.
Okay so your dinner is out of the way, and you want to unwind and talk about all the hilarious moments spent on the slope. You could simply drink at the previously mentioned food spots and have an amazing night but what type of guide would this be if we stopped there?
Coming back into popularity with new renovations, Tamashii is a one-stop bar where you’re destined to have a great time. Whether you’re with the fam or friends, the live DJ has something for everyone. Found directly across from the local grocer (Seicomart), this bar is a good place to start or end.
And if you’re the type that eats after a big night out, Seicomart’s ‘popcorn chicken’ is only a leap away.
You drunk the bar dry at Tamashii and now you want a different vibe. Edge Bar is an underground sports bar located just opposite Bar Moon. Upon entry, you could mistake it for an underground club. You’ll find sofas, a pool table, two dart boards and super friendly bartenders.
This little dungeon is the perfect social environment – not too loud, not too cramped.
Half Note Bar and Café
This is a smaller bar with plenty of tables and high chairs. If lucky, you can catch some real talent on the open mic nights, while enjoying a Sapporo Classic – 500 yen a pop. This is the perfect place for a quiet laugh with friends.
Coffee, Coffee, Coffee
Now we may not be your typical coffee connoisseurs, but MTN Kiosk’s ‘Dirty Chai Latte’ is hands down the best coffee this journalist has ever had. You will find this cozy coffee cabin directly next to the welcome centre (where most guests arrive). Inside you’ll be greeted by lovely Japanese baristas so be sure to say, “Arigato goziamasu” after you order.
Known for its authenticity, MTN Kiosk holds one of only nine barista machines used in the barista world championships in Columbia.
But if coffee on the run hasn’t got its place in your agenda, there are two places to go.
Found just around the corner from Ren, JoJo’s cafe is on the second level of NAC adventures. From meals to hot chocolates, this cafe is perfect for a quiet cuppa with some friends. Exceptional views of MT Yotei on one side and rock wall climbers on the other, you may find yourself drinking more coffee than you originally planned.
A little bit of a hike just outside of the main hub, Gentemstick is a well put together showroom of snow and surfboards. The coffee is found upstairs, however, you will need to remove your ski boots before heading up (snowboard boots are okay). From books to boards, there is plenty of visual content to keep you amazed while you enjoy a hot cup.
They also rent out demo boards, so if the powder is deep and you’re at Gentemstick, make sure you rent a board.
With all that being said, this is just a selection of the many places to go during your stay in Niseko. If you ever come stuck, the locals are always happy to recommend.