Wednesday, November 25, 2015

24 Hours in Sapporo, Japan 10/24-25/2015

It's taking me forever to write this trip report. Part of it's that I broke my laptop while in Japan (dropped it), and I've been spending a lot of time trying to get a new one I'm happy with. I have bad luck with laptops.

Anyway, our ride on the Cassiopeia terminated in Sapporo. My first time in the north of Japan. It's cold! Tokyo in October is like New York in August, but Sapporo in October is more like New York in December. It was a shock to the system. It even snowed the first snow of the year.

This was one of the few breaks in the weather.

The view from our hotel. Sapporo is surrounded by mountains (similar to Kyoto) but it's not a very picturesque city on its own. No postcard shots.

The reason for coming was actually the overnight train ride, but there were a few things we wanted to do here.

1: Ramen

Every region in Japan is known for its own style of ramen, and Sapporo has a "ramen alley" where about 20 different shops occupy about a half a block worth of space, each with their own take on Hokkaido ramen.

It was hard to pick one, but we eventually just went into the most crowded place, which happened to be the place Anthony Bourdain visited for one of his shows:

Yep, Anthony Bourdain came to the here. 

 When in Sapporo...

The ramen itself. Hokkaido ramen is made with miso and corn, which are specialties of the area themselves. (One of my favorite ramen restaurants in NYC, Misoya, makes this style of ramen.)

It was, as expected, really good, but I think it takes a lot to really impress me with ramen these days. I've eaten at a large enough number of ramen shops now, both inside and outside Japan, that I think I've developed my own specific tastes. I've also just gotten to be a better judge of what's good and what isn't. This was good, but not "wow, I have to come back to Sapporo just to go to this restaurant again" good. I'd certainly be up for trying somewhere else next time.

This is the place, if you're interested.

2. Sapporo Beer Museum

Sapporo's original brewery was, obviously, in Sapporo. I'm not sure if this was really the first one but it is one of them, and it's now a museum. I previously wrote about the Yebisu Beer museum, which is also owned by Sapporo, so this is actually my second Japanese beer museum tour. (Of course, the real attraction is the cheap beer hall at the end.)

The beer hall's nicer than the one at the Yebisu museum, although I think it was slightly more expensive (I seem to remember you could get four beers for 800 yen at the Yebisu museum). The whole building's been pretty lovingly restored, and updated for marketing purposes where appropriate. Those Sapporo star logos are everywhere.

The beer on the right up there - Kaitakushi - is supposed to be the original Sapporo recipe, which you can't get anywhere else anymore. It's been updated over the years for more modern tastes. It definitely tasted less filtered - "dirtier" - than modern Sapporo, but it had more flavor and personality. A little fruity, and a little hoppier. It tasted like a microbrew. I liked it a lot.

3. Soup Curry

Soup curry is not traditional - my wife says it basically didn't exist even when she last lived in the country 15 years ago - but it's become trendy, and Sapporo's known for it.

What is it? It's basically just a much thinner than normal curry served in a bowl like soup.

The place we went is called Suage+, and it had the best reviews of any of the soup curry places we found on TripAdvisor.

I thought it was pretty tasty, but it just reminded me a lot of Thai curry. Japanese curry is normally thick enough to eat with a fork (if you want to), but Thai curry is thin like this and often comes in a soup bowl. The flavor was a little different - smokier, maybe "porkier", whereas Thai curries usually taste like either peppers (red) or lemongrass (green).

That concludes our day in Sapporo! We also did some shopping, but that's not really a blog post. But if it seems like this isn't enough to fill up 24 hours, well, we did do other, more boring things.

Bonus! Hokkaido corn

One thing we really wanted to try was Hokkaido corn - you can apparently buy it grilled on the street in a lot of places in Sapporo. It's really big and sweet. I guess because of the inclement weather, we literally could not find it anywhere. We finally found a few ears pre-packaged like this at the airport, and I bought one. I kept it until we got back to New York - funnily enough, it caused me to get stopped at US Customs!

I didn't grill it (I should have) - I just boiled it. It was definitely sweeter than most corn I've had, but I'm sure this was not the best Hokkaido corn you can get. It definitely felt a little "old" in my mouth, even though the expiration date was still a few weeks away.

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About This Blog

This is increasingly not a blog about Alphabet City, New York. I used to live in the East Village and work on Avenue B, but I no longer do. Why don't I change the name if I'm writing about Japan and video games and guitars? Because New Yorkers are well-rounded people with varied interests, and mine have gone increasingly off the rails over the years. And I don't feel like changing the name. I do still write about New York City sometimes.


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