We found this restaurant in a Michelin-styled Japanese food guide for restaurants in Hokkaido. Hanamarutei was accorded 2 stars (max being 3 and less than 10 restaurants have been awarded 3 stars in whole of Hokkaido.) and we decided to give it a try.
Typical understated exterior and entrance. One would be surprised what awaits!
We were escorted to a private dining room on the 2/F.
The lady boss herself took our order and she spoke limited English. Since the main menu was in Japanese, we relied on the English "menu" which was really a 2 page simple listing of selected dishes from the main menu. There were set menu that is priced from JPY 3,500-JPY15,000 ++ per pax. We decided to do a la carte and ordered a range of local dishes.
We had a full boiled hairy crab (JPY 6,000++) served cold with a diluted sour plum dipping sauce as appetizer. Extremely fresh, we could taste the ocean in our mouth! This was followed by grilled ezo black abalone and super tender grilled deer meat, both very well done. I like the unique peppercorn in the sauce. Added a little kick but overwhelming.
After a long wait, it was followed by the signature ezo soup and steamed white rice. The soup was light but flavorful. We could taste that it was very well "brewed". The most amazing was the steamed organic rice. A very basic dish but it was done to absolute perfection. It was steamed to order and it was amazingly fragrant when we opened the rice bowl lid. The rice grains were steamed to the right degree of chewiness and we could taste a mild sweetness.
After that came the deep fried chicken. Made with chicken thigh meat, it was very tender. The tempura that followed really excelled. The batter was so paper crisp, it broke when we tried to pick it up with chopsticks! The best tempura I had in my life!
Note that most a la carte dishes were really single person portion. Kinda small so may need to double up.
Hanamarutei was certainly not a cheap dining option. Our bill came to almost USD 190 (for 4 adults). Given that each dish was made with freshest seasonal ingredients and executed with great care, it was a haute Japanese experience that was very well worth it.
On check out, we saw photos of Japanese royalty taken with the proprietor, the lady boss and the famed chef proudly displayed behind the counter. The chef gave us all a deep bow on our way out.
It was a truly memorable dining experience. Make sure to visit it when you are in Asahikawa.
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