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sake, shochu and sushi
After our remarkable cruise along the World Natural Heritage of Shiretoko Peninsula, we leisurely drove away from the centre of Abashiri into the neighbouring forested hills in search of the Hotsprings Auberge/Inn called “Auberge Kita no Dandan”/”Warmth of the North Inn”.
It is surrounded with a pristine forest of white birches and fir trees (I was told there are plenty of wild mushrooms to pick inside!). It was built about two years ago with the view to offer guests a traditional glimpse of Japan. It is replete with antiques and local crafts of every possible kind.
The bedrooms are quaint and delightful combination of tradition and state-of-the-art equipment.
The place itself is worth hours of exploration. They even leave cold snack and food all night in the “lounge” for hungry night owls!
Each room has its own individual bathroom, but you may also use a private hotspring bath. or even better take a dip 24 hours a day in the “Rotenburo/Open air bath”! This alone is worth the visit!
Now, you might have wondered why it bears the French appelation of “Auberge”?
Fairly simple: all the food is of French concept with whenever possible local Japanese ingredients accompanied by a short but well-balanced French wine list! (and local sake, and so on!)
We had reserved our dinner and breakfast on the Internet. In any case the deal includes them and eating out would have been a bit problematic. We certainly did not regret it!
The four of us opted for local sake as aperitif to accompany the amuse-bouches/starters (see above pics): Taitetsu no Kura, honjozo, and Kita no Katsu, futsuhu, both sake from Hokkaido.
From the wine list we started with a refreshing Kuentz Riesling 2005 from Bas Alsace.
Only then could we seriously commence the feast:
“Ao Soi to Mizutako no Arai, O Tsukuri Fuu”: a sashimi salad consisting of “blue soi”, a fish caught off Hokkaido island and mizutako octopus, a small variety with vegetables grown in the Auuberge garden.
“Ke gani no reisei kappriini/Cold Cappellini with spider Crab”. Alright this is not French, but Italian in concept and taste. Absolutely succulent crab legs (enormous!).
“Taihei no nama Ham maki/Braised Raw Ham Roll”. Someone will say it’s Italian again! And I don’t mind as long as I can get my hands on that morsel again!
“Yaki Nasu to Masu Yamato Mushi/Grilled Aubergine/Egg plnt and Trout Steamed in Tradtional Japanese manner/: this both Japanese and Italian in concept. After peeling off its skin the grilled aubergine is rolled into a paste of trout before being steamed and served hot with a slightly sweet translucent sauce.
“Hotate no Poare/sauteed scallops”: I won a little contest on that one. I was the only one to understand that fresh cream and sieved seaweed has been included in the sauce!
I don’t have to explain that the wine had disappeared by then! We contued with a Cote du Rhone, 2006, Parallele 45 distributed by Paul Jaboulet. Just what we needed for the meat!
“Shari Machi, Tamura san ga sodateta Sanrokuton/Sanroku pork from pig raised by Mr. Tamura in Shari Village (nearby village)”. It almost looked like a big sushi on a ball of vegetables. It melted inside the mouth!
“Kasupe Hoppe Moromi Yaki/Kasupe Fish Cheek grilled with a moromi coating”. Kasupe is a local fish big enough to have its cheeks grilled. A discovery!
“Gohan.Kaori no Mono.Shirumono/mixed rice, soba buckwheat noodles in light soup with a piece of grilled herring”. No need to say this was a turn around to Japanese cuisine! Surprisingly good herring with soba. A common dish in Kyoto, this is the first time I really appreciated it!
Now I defy Rowena, Bentoist and Tom to describe our dessert:
Wild Wasabi Sherbet and Creme Brulee accented with String Beans (first boiled and and sieved!)
Alright, we also had coffee, mignardises and a nightcap!
The next morning, the breakfast was served on plates course by course. But I forgot to bring the camera (mobile phone)! Sorry guys as this was the best-ever hotel breakfast!
Auberge Kita No Dandan
093-0045 Hokkaido, Abashiri Shi, Oomagari, 39-17 (3 minutes by car from Abashiri JR Station)
Credit Cards OK