THE unique design for new east-meets-west fusion restaurant, The Barn, was interestingly inspired by a real Hokkaido barn that stands just outside Sapporo.
Perfect because the A-frame roof assists in shedding the plentiful Niseko powder, this one-of-a-kind conceptual restaurant also makes for a classy dining experience in Hirafu. How often can you say you’ve dined in a barn?
A towering, peaked rooftop gives a feeling of space, and the front floor-to-celing glass wall brings the outside in, allowing diners to watch the world and weather go by. Should you choose to turn your back to the street and sit at the sushi bar, watch the deft hands of chef Toshitaka Kasseki as he prepares fresh sushi or sashimi.
I must say, it’s not a surprise that within The Barn is a recipe for a classy, unique night out. Nestled in the Middle Village – adjoining boutique hotel, Kimamaya by Odin – The Barn is also an Odin creation dreamed up by creative entrepreneur Nicolas Gontard. The charming, passionate Frenchman’s local claim to fame is The Odin House, which he has developed with his Scandinavian partners Bjorn and Chris Fjelddahl, an innovation in design and eco-friendly architecture that sets a new high standard for houses in Niseko.
Chef Toshitaka-san (pictured top right) is an asset, too. The friendly cook speaks of his impressive pedigree, with years spent at the Hong Kong Marriot’s five-star restaurant. His time in HK is obvious by looking at the menu, which builds a bridge between the Orient and the western world – ideal for Niseko’s international visitors.
We start our night with the spider crab roll containing soft-shell crab, avocado and tobiko caviar, and to follow is the foie gras roll with goose liver, mango, cucumber and blueberry sauce. One particular beautifully prepared California-style sushi, the caterpillar roll, is filled with warm eel and covered with avocado and sweet soy sauce. As delicious as it is humourous!
Next up, the Norwegian salmon carpaccio is swimming in sake, soy sauce, sesame oil and spring onions, followed by toro aburi salad, a blue fin tuna belly flavoured with leek, red miso sauce and exotic truffles.
For mains, pan-fried, mushroom-stuffed chicken breast with crispy noodles and wok-fried vegetables, and a char-grilled sirloin steak on garlic mash with caramelised onions, saute greens and a cabernet jus.
We had room for one dessert, and maintain it’s a healthy option – fresh fruit… dipped in rich chocolate.
Be sure to arrive a little earlier and check out the cosy lofted bar that serves a very quaffable selection of wines from Gontard’s parents’ French vineyards in Burgundy.
Overall, The Barn is a welcome newcomer to Hirafu’s bustling restaurant scene. While it’s early days for the restaurant, it’s a memorable dining experience.
Where Momiji-Zaka Street, Middle Hirafu
Tel 0136 23 0888
More reviews at www.powderlife.com/niseko-restaurants