SHIOSAI is the newest addition to the Senchou dynasty of seafood restaurants in Hirafu.
Meaning ‘ship captain’, Senchou has been serving the freshest of Hokkaido seafood since Masaaki Konno opened the first restaurant, Senchou 1, in the Middle Village 15 years ago. Six years later he opened a second, Senchou 2, on Hirafu-Zaka Street in the Upper Village. This year, alongside Senchou 2, Konno-san opened the doors to Shiosai, a more modern, upmarket take on its casual izakaya brothers, this time specialising in superb sushi.
As we stepped into Shiosai, a traditional sushi counter was filled with the day’s premium catch – hairy crab, king crab, lobster, o-toro (the prized fatty tuna belly), sea urchin and fresh wasabi. The counter’s six places were beautifully set with Japanese paper placemats and wooden chopsticks resting on an origami paper crane.
The menu actually includes many items from the Senchou restaurants, but the order of the day at Shiosai is sushi and sashimi. And if you’re at the counter, we recommend you just ask the chef what today’s catch is.
We sat down and ordered a round of beer, which reached us accompanied by a little bowl of baby scallops that had been steamed with a little sake and soy.
We started with the chef’s selection of sashimi, which included sweet shrimp, hairy crab and taraba crab legs, slices of tuna, octopus and uni (sea urchin roe).
Next up we ordered some sushi – for those who need some clarification here, sushi has the nigiri (ball of rice) underneath – which was made right before us. A long plate was placed in front of us with a small mountain of pickled ginger, and a little bowl of soy sauce. As each piece is made, it’s placed on the tray. Tonight’s selection included chuu-toro (medium-fatty tuna belly), yellowtail, salmon, grilled eel and egg.
The chuu-toro sushi was so good we decided to order the ‘three types of tuna sashimi’ – a showcase of maguro (the regular lean, red-coloured tuna), chuu-toro and o-toro. Each stepped up in grade, getting more succulent and decadent with each bite. The o-toro in particular was like butter, melting on the tongue.
On this occasion, the chef also recommended we try the live scallops. They’re prepared by removing the meat and roe from the shell, slicing and placing back into the shell with a little soy sauce and a dollop of butter. Then brought to the table before a small flame is lit under the shell. We fish some pieces of flesh from the bubbling butter while still semi-raw, but leave pieces of the roe to simmer a little longer. A beautiful concept that highlights the delicacy and sweetness of the scallop at its finest.
Between Shiosai and Senchou 1 and 2, you can now cross several Niseko dining experience musts – izakaya, sushi, sashimi and Hokkaido seafood – off your list in style.
Open 12-2pm / 5-10pm
Tel 0136 55 5009
More reviews at www.powderlife.com/niseko-restaurants