HOKKAIDO is famous for its fresh organic vegetables, and Niseko’s Huckleberry Farm is one of the few places here that serves its produce in its very own restaurant – Ristorante 89 – on the farmland. Newly opened in November 2011, the French and Italian inspired restaurant puts its emphasis on organic vegetable flavours, and accents them with meat, poultry and fish.
Ristorante 89 got its name on a play of words with Huckleberry Farm in the Japanese language. Locals call the farm ‘’huck’’ for short. The number 8 in Japanese is hachi, and number 9 is kyu. Put them together and it becomes Hachikyu. Shorten it to Haku and throw in the word restaurant in Italian, and you will get Ristorante 89 (hachi+kyu=haku).
Huckleberry Farm was originally built to be the private farm and supplier for a hotel in Niseko, and the Inoue family from Kyoto was hired in 2006 to run the farm. After the hotel went out of business, Kinji, Kyoko, and Kengo Inoue decided to open up a restaurant on the farmland, to continue making full use of their organic vegetables.
I sit down at the counter inside Ristorante 89 and son Kengo, who is the chef, offers me a basket of panfried potatoes from the farm. He also asks me to try the custard pudding he made and explains that the eggs used in the custard come from their Chinese Silkie chickens.
Up next is the appetiser, a scallop, foie gras, and grapefruit salad. The lettuce comes from their green house, located beside the restaurant, where they are able to grow their leafy greens and potatoes throughout the winter.
Following is one of the mains: Sweet carrot and Rutsutsu boiled pork. The attention to detail is immaculate in the way the carrot and other vegetables are cooked, and the flavour is one that can only come from fertile soil and traditional farming methods. The pork just melts in your mouth.
Finally, the Wagyu Hokkaido steak with roasted onion and gobo sauce are served. With each bite I remember another philosophy Kengo explained about their restaurant –to make the most impact possible with each bite. I completely agree.
They do a ¥3500 cheese fondue course, a ¥4500 French course with one appetizer and choice of one main, and a ¥6000 French course complete with two appetizers and two mains.
As well as an organic vegetable farm and a restaurant, Huckleberry Farm houses livestock. Seventy Silkie chickens were imported, because they are believed to have healing powers and have high omega-3 content in their eggs. These rare birds from China have such a good reputation that their eggs are sold for ¥250 each here in Hokkaido, and up to ¥500 each in Tokyo. There are also some miniature horses and cows on the farm. Kyoko explains to me that they imported the smallest breeds in the world, so children could play with the cows and ponies without feeling scared or intimidated. When you come here for lunch or dinner make sure you ask for a tour.
Booking Information // Lunch is from 11:30am-3:00pm, and walk-ins are ok. Dinner is by reservation only. Please call 0136 22 3388
Huckleberry Farm is located just outside of Hirafu on route 343 between Hirafu and Niseko Village.
WORDS BY // kanami anderson PHOTOGRAPHY BY // yasu – niseko photography