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<Trip to Sapporo> Good Food from Northern City: KEYAKI & OHISO

SAPPORO, the capital of Hokkaido, is located north of Honshu, Japan's main island. This is a popular tourist destination, especially among youngsters visiting in groups, not only for sightseeing but for food tourism.

Departing from Tokyo at noon, it takes less than three hours to get to Sapporo, including connecting time between both city centres and airports. In the afternoon, you have enough time to visit popular spots such as the Clock Tower.

In Sapporo, night falls half an hour earlier than Tokyo, when the air gets chillier and the billboard lights in the Susukino area get brighter. Hundreds of bars and izakayas start to open now. Among them are dozens of ramen shops. Miso ramen represents this northern city as the best dish for warming you up during the long winter season.

Take a tram ride to Susukino, you can find a long queue at a corner of two narrow streets that barely moves. It leads to the small door of a ten-seater counter-only KEYAKI Ramen Shop.

Once you peek into the shop, you'll find out why it takes such a long time to get in. The head chef is concentrating on stir-frying and boiling shredded cabbage and green onions. He then fills a bowl with miso soup and add boiled noodles at exactly the right time, with loads of vegetables on top. The same routine is perfectly completed for each bowl, one by one, hence the long wait.

Although night in Sapporo chills you to the bones, it's still worth waiting. Your precious experience starts when you're called into a small steamy hall to sit at a counter. You can see your bowl about to be delivered from the kitchen, which is very hot, and you can't wait to tackle it. A sip of miso soup, rich and spicy, gives you a great punch of flavour, then umami flavour gently floods your tongue while you slurp with noodles. And how tasty those vegetables are! It doesn't get any better than this perfect combination in a bowl.

After a wonderful evening of ramen, have an early night so that you can enjoy another unforgettable experience the next morning.

At Nijo Fish Market in the centre of Sapporo, a dozen seafood restaurants open early in the morning. Tourists are queuing in front of them all, but which one should you choose to spend your one and only Sapporo morning in?

OHISO restaurant has one of the longest queues in front. They issue number cards to the guests waiting outside. It may take an hour before your number is called in, which means you have plenty of time to browse other shops and get SAKETOBA dried salmon or KANIMISO crab meat to bring home.

This restaurant has a wide range of seafood bowls. Read the menu thoroughly and decide which one to order. When you are in the mood to try a wide range of fish sashimi, order this shop's signature 'Ohiso don' that covers most of the popular fish variety. Or if you want to focus on high value uni (sea urchin) and ikura (salmon roe), go for 'Nishoku don', meaning 'yellow & red' two coloured bowl. Don't worry if you've over-indulged last night. Despite the fancy decoration of the bowl, the rice portion size is small enough to enjoy for your breakfast.

I'm sorry to tell you that Sapporo has too much good food to eat in two days. The best advice I can give you is to come back and continue the food experience, ideally in Spring when fresh crabs and asparagus are in the market.

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