Although the idea of enjoying exquisitely fresh seafood in the midst of a winter wonderland might seem strange, the team from Ezo Seafoods make this dream a reality on a daily basis.
Owner/ operators James and Keiko abandoned a life of city living in order to enjoy the natural beauty of Niseko, and lucky for us that they did! James and Keiko noticed that Niseko suffered from an absence of the famous Hokkaido seafood that was available in abundance only a few hours away. Thus was Ezo Seafoods born, and Hirafu visitors can now indulge in ocean’s freshest bounty after a long day of swimming in the Niseko powder.
James makes the 5-hour round trip to the Sapporo Wholesale Markets almost every day throughout even the depths of winter.
“There was one day last season when a blizzard forced me to turn back twice,” admits James, “but I tried and got through the third time!”
The result of James and Keiko’s dedication is a truly sublime dining experience, which includes elements to delight all five senses.
Your sense of smell is likely to be engaged as soon as you walk in the door. In fact the aroma of crisp-fried rockfish with Thai-style chilli sauce may waft down the winter street to greet you as you are making your way to the restaurant.
The next thing that you will notice upon entering is the gorgeous display of fresh seafood that has been laid out market-style for your selection.
“For the first couple of years we used a conventional menu with a specials board,” explains James, “but I was going to the markets every day and sourcing different types of fish, and the menu needed to be changed almost daily. So we took a leap and shifted to the ‘display style’ menu.”
Don’t be surprised if you arrive at dinner craving King Red crab, but find yourself seduced by the sight of the huge scallops from Notsuke Peninsula, or tempted by the thought of those luscious-looking Hokkaido oysters in tempura batter!
Sound comes in to it once you have chosen from this mouth-watering array and start wondering in what form it is going to appear on your plate.
James is on hand to provide an overwhelming amount of knowledge about his handpicked produce, and is ready for a discussion on how best to have Head Chef Keiko prepare it.
James comments, “Of course we recommend how we do it best, but if the customer has a special preference we do our best to accommodate them. Often the selection is just too overwhelming and they ask us for omakase or – ‘we’ll leave it to you’.”
Texture is very important in a menu dominated by seafood, and Ezo are experts on making sure your dinner has the right measures of texture and flavour.
“No matter how much you like raw seafood, you will tire of it quickly if that is all you eat during the course of a meal. Finding the right combination of textures, flavours, and side dishes is crucial,” says James. “We aim to balance the softness or oiliness of sashimi with something crispy like fried wakasagi (whitebait) or ginger garlic prawns.”
All these elements culminate to give the guest a delectable dining experience, as testified by glowing reviews on Trip Advisor. The Ezo team are constantly striving to bring us new and exciting flavours, such as samagere, a crispy grilled sole fish with a juicy, toothsome flesh, a new addition last season that proved wildly popular. Don’t let the unusual appearance of the black squid-ink paella deter you; this flavoursome combination is genuinely divine and not commonly found in Japan.
Ezo Seafoods is fully licensed, and offers a quality range of wine, spirits, and sake to help complement your meal. Sake lovers will be pleased to hear that a sake tasting selection will be offered this year, with the aim to educate novices and delight aficionados.
Understandably, reservations at Ezo Seafoods are in huge demand throughout peak season, and can book out weeks in advance. Be sure to book early so you don’t miss out on Hirafu’s most gratifying seafood experience!
For reservations, please book directly through the online reservation site: https://www.seatme.com/ezo-seafoods/
Be aware that cancellations without sufficient notice may incur a fee, as per local custom