This article originally appeared on Wanderluxe by The Luxe Nomad.
Once the secret powder escape of Asia, Niseko is now the annual must-visit, Japanese mountain town. But hey, it’s for good reason – for some, the amazing snow and ski is the pull, but for many others, the food is the main draw.
And what do you get when you have cold weather, cosy fireplaces, stellar Hokkaido produce and Japanese whiskies? The perfect recipe for date night, we say.
Whether you are looking for special-occasion establishments with Michelin nods or down-home izakayas, here are our top bar/resto pairings for a date night in Niseko.
1. Bar Gyu + & Ezo Seafoods (Hirafu)
#JAPAN.. If you know Niseko, you’ll know @bar_gyu aka The Fridge! If you’re lucky enough to be where it’s waist deep go and say hello to Ioanna and Hisashi who’ve been turning out Carmelina this winter with the aptly named Yuki Daruma (snowman) saké. . Endless arigatos from NZ guys more than a little envious! . #drinkswithoutborders #niseko #thefridge #cocktails #sake #winterwonderland #snowdrift #powder #apresski #bacardilegacy
A post shared by Ollie Mason (@carmelinacocktail) on Feb 14, 2018 at 11:55pm PST
Drink: Head to Bar Gyu+ as early as 5pm when it’s open. Take your Instagram shots with the famous fridge door as a backdrop, then go in for a whisky or two before making your way back up to the main Hirafu intersection.
A post shared by Varatt Vichit-Vadakan (@varatt_roastbkk) on Mar 1, 2017 at 5:41am PST
Eat: Ezo Seafoods is down the parallel street on the right, and there Aussie owner James focuses on the best Hokkaido seafood, simply grilled, steamed or raw, allowing it to shine. Ezo is normally booked out 3 months in advance in the winter months, but they have two tables available for walk-ins from 5pm.
2. Sekka-Lab & Sakebar Sasa (Kutchan town)
Great meal @sekkalab. They just opened last season in #Kutchan and the food was . Service was exemplary and so accommodating towards #babyadchua. And this antipasti board? Don’t let me start! #tlwkniseko #niseko #nisekofood #nisekoeats #hokkaido #italianfood
A post shared by Aja Ng (@aja_ng) on Feb 7, 2018 at 6:14am PST
Eat: The lesser known Kutchan town is great, no crowds and half the price of Hirafu haunts. Newcomer Sekka-Lab serves delectable Italian cuisine, elevated with Hokkaido produce and is set to be on the must-eat list in the coming seasons. We fell in love with the charcuterie board, and we reckon you may just fall in love over it.
Drink: Walk off your meal one street over to Sakebar Sasa. It is all things Japanese – small and quaint with a largely-Japanese menu. More than 30 sakes and iced lollies are on offer, and we recommend you share a bottle as you decode the various Japanese customs which you may come across.
3. Niseko Brewing & Sushi Hanayoshi (Niseko Town)
A post shared by Niseko Beer (@nisekobeer) on May 25, 2017 at 3:14am PDT
Drink: It’s not all whisky and sake in Japan, there’s craft beer too, and at Niseko Brewing there are five on offer, and some 20 local beers on tap. Once you’ve sampled your fill, make your way 300m down the road to Sushi Hanayoshi.
A post shared by Aja Ng (@aja_ng) on Feb 2, 2018 at 6:13pm PST
Eat: Featured in Le Guide Michelin, this small Japanese restaurant offers omakase at 10,000 yen (HK$740) (think seasonal sashimi, uni, snow crab) accompanied by an enviable wine list and pedigreed local sakes. You’ll be rolling out of there, so make sure you have a hard day on the slopes first.
4. Karabina & Rakuichi (Annupuri)
A post shared by BYR.かまっち☺︎ (@kamatti) on Feb 19, 2018 at 3:00am PST
Drink: A small, elevated wooden hut over the snow, the intimate Karabina is an izakaya (aka Japanese tapas bar) in its own right, serving yakitori and other bites – but since you have Rakuichi on the cards, we recommend you climb up, and cosy up next to the wood-burning stove with a few rounds of Shochu.ū
ร้านโซบะในตำนาน เชฟจะเสริฟแค่มื้อละ 20 เซ็ท ต่อคิวชั่วโมวกว่า มีแค่ 12 ที่นั่ง มาไม่ทันก็รอไป เชฟมีคนเดียว เปิดร้านเป็นบ้านไม้ซ่อนตัวอยู่ มีภรรยาเป็คนเสริฟ น่ารักมากๆ เชฟจะค่อยๆนวดแป้งทำทีละรอบ จะกินถึงจะนวดแป้งให้ side dish ก็เลือกเป็น tempura ทอดหอมกรอบกำลังดี คือดีมาก คุ้มแก่การรอ #theponyhungry
A post shared by Sherrie J. (@biscuitpony) on Feb 5, 2018 at 11:28pm PST
Eat: A brisk 200m walk to Rakuichi after will reawaken your senses, and within, the couple who run this Le Guide Michelin recognised sobadokoro will enthral you with their seamless dance. They cook and serve in a graceful and hushed manner, with the owner’s tasteful collection of jazz making a pleasant soundtrack to the experience.
5. Kamimura & Toshiro’s Bar (Hirafu)
新年明けましておめでとうございます TOSHIRO'S BARも無事に4度目の年越しを迎えました。 年越しの瞬間は安定のカクテル作りまくってて気づいた時には新年でした(=ﾟωﾟ) また本日から一杯入魂でカクテルメイクして行きたいと思います【としろぅ】 明けましておめでとうございます 昨年も世界各国の方々と、たくさん出会うことができた年でした。今年もどんな方にお会いできるのか楽しみです。 本年も何卒よろしくお願い致します。【女将】
A post shared by TOSHIRO'S BAR (@toshiroakinori) on Dec 31, 2017 at 11:13pm PST
Drink: Anniversary, birthday or milestone in Niseko? Then this is the pair to do. Begin at the bar or by the fireplace at Toshiro’s, where the selection of spirits and cocktails will wow you (and your date). Once you’re suitably toasty (or toasted), make your way to Kamimura.
A post shared by Viraen Vaswani (@viraen) on Jul 23, 2017 at 2:59am PDT
Eat: Snuggle close as you stroll in the cold down the street to Shiki Niseko, where Michelin-starred chef Yuichi Kamimura creates French-Japanese culinary alchemy. This restaurant is consistently one of Niseko’s best tables, for good reason.
6. Somoza & The Barn (Hanazono & Hirafu)
Winter harvest tasting menu Somoza 2018. More on this experience coming soon. #Hokkaido #chefstable #delicious #SOMOZA #japanesecuisine #instafoodies #foodies #foodie #happynewyear #amazingfood #hautecuisine #niseko #japanesechef #foodiegram #foodisart #tastingmenu #travelblogger #travelgram #travel #foodiereview
A post shared by Carol (@toulouse_and_carol) on Jan 2, 2018 at 2:46am PST
Eat: This is the only pairing here where you won’t be able to walk to the next destination (because bars in Hanazono are few and far between). We recommend the by-appointment-only dinner at newcomer Somoza, set in a 150-year old Japanese kominka relocated from the Tochigi prefecture. A degustation dinner of seasonal Hokkaido produce cooked with an Italian slant is served in this serene setting, among the pristine pine and maple forest – definitely helping bring on the Zen.
. THE BARN by odin Grab our cocktails! Late happy hour 10pm - 12am . . . . #thebarn #Hokkaido #restaurant #bar #niseko#hirafu#dinner#restaurant#steak#thebarnbyodin#japow#hokkaido#snowboading#ski#bar#bistro#wine#photography
A post shared by The Barn by Odin (@niseko_thebarn) on Dec 12, 2017 at 3:56am PST
Drink: A taxi ride will take you back to The Barn, another stunning architectural delight reminiscent of the traditional Hokkaido farm barns, but with a glass front façade. Wind down with a selection of wines from across the world and original cocktails, before you head back to your chalet/resort and get cosy.
7. Ezo Pub & The Crab Shack (Niseko Village)
Many of the staff can't speak Japanese...This is Japan??#apresski#ski#bestskihotel#Niseko#Hokkaido#Japan#ニセコ#hiltonnisekovillage #hotellife#Hiltonhotel#EzoPub#ヒルトンニセコビレッジ #ヒルトンホテル#エゾパブ#loveniseko#luxuryholiday
A post shared by Chioco (@chioco32) on Jan 2, 2017 at 4:17am PST
Drink: We love the casual apres-ski vibe at Ezo, and you will too. Come straight off the mountain in your ski gear, then settle in by the heaters with some mulled wine or a frothy beer and some bites.
After a day of great skiing, you can enjoy apres-ski @nisekovillage Shopping & Dining Area. アフタースキーはニセコビレッジのショッピング&ダイニングエリアで. . . @bangnoogen . . #niseko #nisekolife #nisekojapan #nisekovillage #shopping #dining #dinner #nightlife #loveniseko #hokkaido #japan #snow #snowlife #ski #apresski #ニセコビレッジ #ニセコ #北海道
A post shared by Niseko Promotion Board (@nisekotourism) on Jan 30, 2018 at 12:46am PST
Eat: Two-minutes away, “The Village” is a collection of boutiques and restaurants housed in traditional Japanese machiya structures – one of them being The Crab Shack. You can huddle over a shabu-shabu or nabe teeming with succulent crab, local wagyu and Makkari pork. What’s a winter date without some hot pot?