Sobahouse Konjiki Hototogisu review: The newest Michelin star ramen shop in Tokyo!

I had the bright idea of taking a discounted (but longer) route to Tokyo via Manila. Tickets were RM1,345 per pax return from Kuala Lumpur. That’s easily RM600 cheaper than ANA but with a transit in the Philippines. We departed KL at 2am in the morning and arrived in Tokyo at 12pm the next day, sleep-deprived. We checked into our AirBNB before lining up at Sobahouse Konjiki Hototogisu, groggy and in need of sustenance.

This was a mere 12-minute walk from our accommodation. I used Google Maps and Mandy was adamant I took the wrong way coz it led us down a dingy back alley. I told her that this particular restaurant is located in a small alley. There was no signage but I saw a line of people snaking out the front of the pinned location. This was 30 minutes before the ramen shop opened! We joined the line.

It’s summer in Japan now so lining up in the heat isn’t a very pleasant experience. There are lots of smells, and not the good kind. I’m talking about BO instead of pork oil. Wet, sweaty armpits abound. The queue had a lot of foreigners from China and Australia too and these are not countries renowned for their personal hygiene. Thankfully we got into the first seating coz we’re a couple and secured a table.

Sobahouse Konjiki Hototogisu has a vending machine at the entrance where you’re supposed to make your order before passing it to the staff. The vending machine is in Japanese, but there’s a laminated A4 paper attached with English instructions for two of their most popular ramen – their recommended shio soba and their signature shoyu soba. I ordered one of each, with additional toppings of ajitama (egg) and chasiu.

I got a Kirin Heartland (600 yen or RM24) – a beautiful green bottle of beer with embossed logo and no labels except for a small government mandated neck wrap. It’s a European Pale Lager. It came super chilled. The beer is easy to drink and the slight hoppiness goes with with the heavy flavors of ramen. I also ordered a white bait and umeboshi (picked plum) rice bowl meant as an ochazuke (300 yen) but they ran out and the staff returned my coins.

Sobahouse Konjiki Hototogisu’s Shio Soba Ramen. The stock is made with two different types of salt – Mongolian rock salt and Okinawan sea salt. They use red sea bream and hamaguri clam to make the soup broth. It’s then finished with Italian white truffle oil, homemade porcini mushroom sauce, pancetta bacon bits, and inca berry sauce. Even the noodles are made with 6 different types of domestic flour!

This is the one that tasted better to me. I love the seafood sweetness in the broth. The toothsome and textural ramen noodles were excellent too. The broth is complex and layered and I enjoyed drinking it tremendously. I wish I had the sold-out rice bowl to go with the delicious soup base.

Sobahouse Konjiki Hototogisu’s Shoyu Soba Ramen. This is made with 3 different types of soup – clear pork broth, wa-dashi (Japanese stock) and a hamaguri clam dashi. The ramen is then topped with homemade truffle sauce, porcini oil and porcini mushroom flakes. It’s very fragrant! The pork broth is also heavier than the red bream one in the previous bowl.

Fans of heavy tasting ramen would love this bowl but it’s a bit too much for me. I struggled to finish the soup coz the overwhelming pork flavours made it a bit difficult to drink. You’ll love this ramen if you enjoy fatty pork belly, but I don’t so I preferred the seafood shio ramen. It’s nice to try both of their signature and recommended ramen dishes though.

There are only 7 counter seats and two small tables for 2 pax each so expect to wait unless you come early. Do not expect excellent service – this is a neighbourhood ramen stall so the interactions are short and terse. They have notices telling you not to linger too long after finishing your bowl of ramen and no photos are allowed inside except for the food. It’s a good experience to see what the latest ramen joint to get a Michelin star in the Michelin Guide Tokyo 2019 is about.

The bill came up to about 4,200 yen (RM165) for two including beer. I’ll like to try Tsuta and Nakiryu next time to see how they compare.

Nakiryu 1 Michelin star instant ramen review – a collaboration between Nissin and 7Eleven Japan

Nakiryu means “Screaming Dragon” in Japanese and they’re the second ramen shop to get a Michelin star after Tsuta. The ramen they do is very different from the light tasting Tsuta – Nakiryu’s tantanmen is unapologetically heavy, spicy and rich. I’ve eaten a previous version of their instant noodles (also by Nissin) in 2016. This was before they’ve won their Michelin star and the Nissin version then was in cup noodle format with all the seasoning and dehydrated protein bits inside the noodles. There was a sachet of hot oil to finish the ramen with and it tasted really good and nutty.

Their latest is a collaboration with 7Eleven Premium Japan. The recipe has been refined and inside the bowl ramen is a packet of powdered soup and dehydrated meat, a sachet of hot oil and a pack of finishing oil. You’re only supposed to put the powdered soup + dehydrated meat inside with the noodles when hot water is added. The other two goes on top of the lid to absorb residual heat and they’re only added when the noodles are done.

Nakiryu’s broth is so thick and creamy it’s almost like a starchy stew! There’s also bits of dehydrated meat inside to add texture. This is a type of ramen called tantanmen which is a Szechuan inspired ramen dish. It’s spicy and flavorful and there’s nutty undertones in the soup base. This isn’t a refined and gentlemanly ramen like Tsuta – the Nakiryu instant ramen is overpoweringly in-your-face.

I liked it but the previous discontinued cup version had a better ratio of dehydrated meat to noodles. The portion in this variation seems miserly in comparison. The powdered soup base also didn’t fare as well as Tsuta’s liquid soup base. I must compare these two as they’re both Michelin starred ramen outlets that produced an instant ramen version by 7Eleven Premium. I’m glad I tried it but both Mandy and I felt it’s overshadowed by it’s much superior and delicious tasting Tsuta instant ramen sister product. Or maybe I just don’t know how to appreciate these Japanese-Szechuan flavors – I was also decidedly unimpressed by 2 Michelin star Shisen Hanten.

Nissin x 7Eleven Premium Japan x Tsuta Japanese Soda Noodles – 1 Michelin star instant ramen review

Tsuta is the first ever ramen shop to get a Michelin star in 2015 and they’ve retained that star every year since. They recently did a collaboration with Nissin and the 7-Eleven Premium line of instant ramen to produce a ready-to-eat version of their famous noodles, sold exclusively at 7-Eleven Japan. As a Michelin star chaser, I owed it to myself to taste this interesting instant ramen. I shipped a few bowls in via personal shopper at a cost of around RM 400, which works out to RM 45 per bowl. Spoiler: It was damn worth it!

As the name suggests, Tsuta doesn’t serve typical ramen – they do soba noodles in ramen style. The broth they use is a chicken and clam combination, which is a lot less heavy than the typical pork stock. They’re also famous for finishing all their ramen with truffle, and this holds true for their faithful instant ramen adaptation too! This isn’t just a meagre drop of truffle you can barely taste – the broth is richly infused with truffle flavor and it shines through with every slurp of the ramen.

There are 4 packets of inside the bowl – a vacuum packed sachet of bamboo shoots, a piece of dehydrated pork belly with green onions, a sauce soup base and a foil of truffle oil. There are no powdered flavorings here. The thin, curly noodles look different from most ramen too. You’re supposed to put the dehydrated chasiu + green onion into the noodles and add hot water for 3 minutes. All the other packets go on top so it gets indirect heat and they’re only added after the noodles are cooked.

I love the light tasting broth that’s packed with umami flavor. You can really taste the seafood and chicken in it and there’s yummy notes of truffle in every mouthful that elevates this instant ramen head-and-shoulders above all its peers. This is truly the best instant ramen I’ve ever eaten – no contest. My housemate Mandy loved it too. Nothing comes close, not even its sister 7Eleven Premium instant ramen by 1 Michelin star Nakiryu. Tsuta’s instant ramen is breathtakingly delicious! 🤤

Ice Cream Factory Hokkaido, Japan

Eating Ice Cream

The thing I like about Japan is that most of their shops, regardless of whether they sell ramen or omurice, have a running popularity board. This allows the shops to display which item is #1 selling on their menu and the customers to know what the place is known for. We saw this Ice Cream Factory in Sapporo after buying toys for the kids and since my better half loves the ice cream in Hokkaido, we got a couple of cones to eat.

Ice Cream Factory

Ice Cream Factory is one of those cold plate/stone places e.g. your ice cream and condiments is mixed in sub zero temperatures before being served to you, in this case -30 Celsius. My dear wanted to get a simple swirl ice cream and I did pause to wonder why she’s ordering something that’s not their specialty but I know she just wants to save money. I did order their #1 bestseller though. Haha. I thought it’ll be nice to order an ice cream that’s mixed on the cold slab instead of just served.

Ice Cream Mix

Come to think of it, the wait staff have to put up with a lot nowadays. There are a lot of people taking photos of them working, and expecting them to serve up a picture perfect dish to boot. I can’t imagine being a waiter nowadays, although fun fact, I was one for a few months when I first went to Melbourne for my college.

Sapporo Ice Cream

My order is their Sweet Berries which came with an assorted local cranberries, blackberries, strawberries, redcurrants and blueberries mixed together with strawberry and vanilla ice cream. I love the use of winter berries and the cold stone places do it well coz the ice cream doesn’t melt on the super chilled slab, but incorporate tighter instead. It’s as if a machine made it in factory with the berries intact.

Sweet Berries

Sweet Berries is 750 yen (about RM 30) which is what you’ll expect to pay locally for an ice cream of this size and magnitude too. I love the creamy ice cream and the best part is that it’s not very sweet. The berries contrast nicely by giving off an acidic burst too. The crunchy cone is also fresh and nice and there’s a spoon to eat everything with.

Mix Ice Cream

My dear got the more pedestrian Mix Ice Cream (chocolate and vanilla swirl) for 230 JPY (about RM 10) which came out of a machine instead of being mixed like mine. Good stuff! We also bought a lot of random stuff in addition to toys for the kids. I went to the gachapon machines a few times and devoured the Love Live merchandise they had at Japan Post and my dear got some Doreamon stuff too since the movie came out at the time we were in Hokkaido.

Wasabi Kit Kat from Japan (Shizuoka Kanto Edition)

Wasabi Kit Kat

These remarkable Japanese Kit Kats are made with wasabi! It’s not fake wasabi or the imitation horseradish that’s often passed off as cheap “wasabi” either. Nestle Japan teamed up with the huge Tamaruya-Honten Co Ltd (who has been manufacturing wasabi since 1875) to make these delicious snacks. I couldn’t resist trying this weird flavor so I snapped up the Wasabi Kit Kat as soon as I saw them.

Tamaruya Wasabi

There are 12 pieces of Kit Kats in the box, all individually wrapped. A regular pack in Japan holds 3 wrapped pieces of 2 Kit Kat mini bars so this is four times the amount. It’s presented in a nice box meant as omiyage (souvenirs). It opens up from the front to reveal two rows of Wasabi Flavored Kit Kats. There is writing on the flip side of the cover which explains the provenance of the product.

Wasabi

No, I didn’t inexplicably start reading Japanese from a single trip to Hokkaido. I took a photo of the text with Google Translate and it showed me the English translation. That’s actually how we got around in Japan when we were there earlier this year. Haha. These are special edition Kit Kat from the Shizuoka-Kanto area.

Kit Kat Wasabi Flavor

Tamaruya-Honten uses only wasabi from the Shizuoka Prefecture with no coloring and horseradish added. The latter two is basically what makes up virtually 100% of wasabi locally. No such shenanigans here, the stuff Nestle Japan puts in these Kit Kats is real wasabi made by a reputable wasabi manufacturer. There is a blurb at the back introducing Tamaruya and a link to their website. I believe “honten” means original shop.

I took a bite and was startled to find out that the wasabi flavor was really strong. It cleared up my sinuses and I could taste/feel the pungent wasabi notes through my nose. It was not unpleasant but the taste combination was strange. My better half didn’t like it though, she found the strong wasabi kick rather off-putting. I didn’t mind, I’m quite fond of wasabi but honestly it doesn’t go very well with chocolate.

Kit Kat Wasabi

These Wasabi Kit Kat are more of a novelty item. I was glad I got the chance to taste them but I probably won’t buy them again. I love how Nestle Japan hooked up with an established wasabi producer to make these Kit Kats. The Nestle x Tamaruya partnership for this makes for a great story. It’s the perfect souvenir due to its exclusivity and a regional specialty to boot, but they’re really not that great to eat. I’m definitely keeping the box though.

Oden + Snow Miku 2016 drink

Oden Shop

Oden at the airport? Yeah, that doesn’t sound like a recipe for success. We arrived at New Chitose Airport very early and was hoping to get something to eat before we boarded our flight. Unfortunately, all the shops are still closed. We’re too used to 24 hour service in our (relatively) large, bustling airports but a lot of the airports around the world aren’t open all the time. This one at Hokkaido only had a stall open but they serve oden, which I was keen to try.

Oden

Oden (おでん) is a winter food in Japan. It’s made with a whole bunch of stuff in a flavored clear dashi broth. The usual ingredients are daikon, boiled eggs, konjac, and processed fishcakes. I love the texture of the shirataki (白滝) which is a noodle made from konjac – the transparent bunch you see in the photo. There’s also a nice chunk of konjac and despite not containing regular sources of carbohydrates, the konjac elements tricks you into thinking you’re consuming starch.

Snow Miku 2016

I also got a Snow Miku 2016 (translated from Hatsune Miku) drink made in partnership with Pokka Sapporo. The oden was 600 JPY (about RM 25). My better half got herself a box of noodles with some karaage to go with it. The oden was surprisingly decent. I would have thought it’ll taste pretty bad since it’s airport food but it’s actually rather good. I’ve seen oden being sold in konbini like 7-Eleven but there are so many things to eat that I’ve put it quite low on the priority list.

Crab Feast in Hokkaido: Raw King Crab Donburi and a Trio of Crabs (Crab Steamed Bun, Crab Gratin, Crab Miso Soup) in Nijo Fish Market

Crab Donburi

Look dear!” my better half exclaimed while tugging at my arm. We were at Nijo Fish Market in Sapporo and there was a stall selling a trio of crab delicacies. We just ate at the Michelin rated Nanabe but I could tell she was intrigued by the crab bonanza so I ordered a set for us to try. You can get a Crab Steamed Bun + Crab Gratin + Crab Miso Soup for 1,200 JPY (about RM 50) or individually for 500 yen each.

Hokkaido Crab

Hokkaido is famous for their fresh and local crabs. Red King Crabs and Snow Crabs are the most well known ones but they have other delicious and more obscure species that only foodies would know, like the Horsehair Crab and Spiny King Crab which we ate the day before. Otaru also has a variety called the Sand Crab. They’re all really good and if you want to have a crab feast, you’ll do no wrong in coming to Sapporo.

Torching Crab

The friendly owner did the Crab Gratin right it front of us. There is a makeshift bench and chairs in the open where 3-4 people can sit down while eating. The crab in the shell was brought out and torched on the table. It was quite cold in Hokkaido and he suggested moving inside (to opposite the road) where they had a restaurant to get out of the wind and snow and so we did.

Hokkaido Crab Restaurant

It was about time for lunch and although I was still full from the Bib Gourmand ramen, I thought I should eat local Hokkaido crabs while I still can. The place specializes in donburi – a rice bowl with regular hot rice topped with fresh sashimi. I went for the Fresh King Crab Sashimi Donburi (2,700 JPY or RM 110) and it was glorious!

King Crab Donburi

The donburi was topped with beautiful thick slices of raw Red King Crab. It was slightly more than a leg’s worth of crab meat. If you’ve never eaten King Crab before, the legs are super meaty. It’s not like mud crabs or flower crabs at all. The size of the meat from the King Crab leg is the same dimension as those highlighter pens you used in high school.

King Crab Sashimi

The raw crab was slippery, clean and sweet tasting. Wonderful stuff. There’s nothing quite like eating king crab with shiso (perilla) leaves and a dab of real, freshly grated wasabi. They serve a mean bowl of crab miso soup too. It’s complimentary with my order of donburi so naturally it wasn’t as good as my dear’s 500 yen bowl.

Crab Three Ways

I present to you, the 1,200 yen trio of crab! This was taken in the cold outdoor seating before we came inside.

Crab Gratin

The thing that actually caught her eye was the Crab Gratin. The kind proprietor actually helped us to take the dishes into his other shop across the street. There is a generous amount of King Crab meat in addition to the melted cheese, breadcrumbs, and butter. Good heartwarming stuff.

Crab Steamed Bun

The Crab Steamed Bun was decent too. I knew my dear liked it so I didn’t eat too much (and besides, I had my own donburi) but the tiny bite I had tasted delicious. There are only two items inside – vegetables and crab. They really stuff a lot of real Red King Crab meat inside.

Crab Miso Soup

Check out my better half’s 500 JPY bowl of Crab Miso Soup from the “Crab 3 Ways” set. It’s truly a luxurious bowl of soup. They use Horsehair Crab, Red King Crab, and Spiny King Crab inside – all three are wonderful in soup, especially miso soup.

Nijo Fish Market Us

The stall at Nijo Fish Market actually sells all varieties of local Hokkaido crabs so the dishes are made from fresh crab meat. There is a lot of said crab meat too, I guess what they don’t sell in time gets turned into food. The Japanese are really serious about freshness – even a day is considered “old” so you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you eat crab in Sapporo. There are also many “crab buffets” in town but I would personally avoid them. The locals don’t go anywhere near crab buffets coz the quality is nowhere near as good as the stuff you pay for in the markets. I don’t mind paying extra for awesome quality crab and this was the best!

Nanabe – Michelin ramen in Hokkaido

Nanabe Michelin

I read about a ramen shop called Nanabe (菜々兵衛) which was awarded with the Bib Gourmand in the Hokkaido Michelin Guide during our trip to Sapporo. I really wanted to go there so we poured over the transportation maps before trekking out to this secluded neighborhood in Shiroishi-ku. This ramen restaurant is located in a residential area quite far from the usual places tourists go so it was challenging to find.

Ramen Nanabe

We trudged through the crunching snow and slippery ice for about 30 minutes after a 1 1/2 hour train ride involving 3 different lines to Heiwa. No one here spoke English and they only have a Japanese menu so ordering involved deciphering the menu with Google Translate app and a lot of gesturing. The crowd consisted almost entirely of salarymen and OL (office ladies) from small businesses nearby and there is usually a bit of a queue to get in.

Nanabe Hokkaido

You need to take off your shoes at the door. I have seen this arrangement in the ryokan we stayed in but it was really unusual to have to do this in the city. However, this isn’t the city center of Sapporo per se, it’s more like a friendly rural neighborhood joint. I took off my soaking wet shoes and lined them up with the row of other customer’s shoes beside the entrance. The tables are shared tables and we were seated beside two friendly lady office workers (who took a photo of us).

Nanabe Ramen

I ordered the flagship Salt Ramen with White Chicken Broth (鶏白湯 塩) for 750 yen (about RM 30). The broth is rich and almost creamy. I practically inhaled the ramen and slurped down the soup with satisfaction. The chashu was perfectly done – a beautiful pinkish brown slice of pork perfection. The generous scattering of menma and spring onions added a lot of flavor to the broth. It’s strange that I find tofu offensive but I’m happy to scarf down menma. The homemade ramen noodles are springy and texturally pleasing. This is ramen done right.

Nanabe Sapporo

The signature ramen served here is not the usual miso soup base which Hokkaido is famous for but a white chicken based broth. They also have a “Nagoya Cochin” style. The noodles they use are not Sapporo egg noodles too, which my better half dislikes, but a more neutral and less rich wheat variant. They also give you a lot of menma (fermented bamboo shoots). Nanabe uses hosaki menma, which is thinner than regular bamboo shoots and more absorbent. There are even menu options for extra menma which my dear looked upon with horror. Haha.

Nagoya Cochin Ramen

She went for the Nagoya Cochin Shoyu Ramen (名古屋コーチン 醤油) for 750 yen (around RM 30) and it tasted completely different from mine. It has a lot of chopped leeks. I ended up eating all her menma. I enjoyed the shoyu broth her ramen was made of, both the original tori sayu shio (my order) and Nagoya Cochin shoyu are good options since they taste equally good but Nanabe is famous for the white chicken stock. You can also add condiments (red pepper flakes, sesame seeds, etc) to your broth to change its character – it’s provided free of charge, together with complimentary ice water.

Nanabe Us

The ramen here is really delicious! It was very rewarding to enter a warm, bustling neighborhood restaurant after walking in the snow to eat a piping hot bowl of ramen. The service here is friendly and personal despite the language barrier – it reflects the country vibe of the place. The bill came up to just 1,500 yen (RM 60), which was a lot cheaper than the Hokkaido style ramen we had earlier. I would highly recommend this place if you’re willing to hunt for your food.

Chasiu

Nanabe was awarded a Bib Michelin for good reason – the food is spectacular and they’re rated as the #1 ramen in Hokkaido!

LeTAO (ルタオ) Double Fromage Cheesecake in Otaru, Hokkaido

LeTAO Cheesecake

LeTAO (ルタオ) is a famous bakery, café and sweet shop with branches all over Hokkaido. We saw one in New Chitose Airport when we landed in Sapporo and again when we went shopping in Daimaru but my better half wanted to eat at their head store in Otaru. Otaru is a quaint little town where they have a huge presence – it’s where their HQ is, as well as their chocolate shop (called LeTao le chocolat) and lab (LeTAO Cheese CakeLab).

LeTAO PATHOS

There are at least six (6) different LeTAO shops in Otaru, all selling something unique. We saw one in Otaru Station when we arrived which is called Ekimo LeTAO and they sell roll cakes in addition to their regular product lines. My dear wanted to check out their sit-down café though so we walked over 30 minutes in search for LeTAO PATHOS – their largest store and café in Hokkaido.

LeTAO Otaru

LeTAO actually pioneered the “Japanese Cotton Cheesecake” craze. This is a soufflé-like cheese cake with a distinctive look. However, LeTAO doesn’t call it that themselves (no one in Japan does). It’s called the Double Fromage by LeTAO and it’s one of their most famous products. LeTAO also has a presence in Thailand but if you want to eat the real thing made with Hokkaido dairy, you better get your ass down to Otaru…and that’s what we did.

LeTAO Menu

The café at LeTAO PATHOS is huge and you’ll be escorted to your seat by a nice Japanese girl who’ll take your order while kneeling down (!!!). This really surprised me and made me a little uncomfortable. However, it’s part of the renowned Japanese approach to service and they even make a point of stating that their tea is not ready made – it’s only brewed each time there’s an order so it’ll take a while for drinks to arrive.

Double Plate with a drink (1,404 JPY or RM 58)

LeTAO Cafe Double Plate

This is all of LeTAO’s favorites on a plate! It contains two of their most popular cheese cakes – Double Fromage and Chocolate Double together with a crème brulee tart called Venezia Rendezvous. I have no idea why this is called a “Double Plate” when it contains 3 items but I suspect the Japanese words mean something entirely different.

LeTAO Double Fromage

I really enjoyed LeTAO’s Double Fromage. It’s made with three (3) different cheeses – Italian mascarpone, Camembert and cream cheese. All the cheeses used here are produced in Hokkaido from a local dairy. The upper layer is a creamy and smooth no-bake cheesecake and the lower layer is rich and tasty baked cheesecake. Insanely good stuff…

LeTAO Venezia Rendezvous

The Venezia Rendezvous is a mascarpone crème brulee made using mascarpone from Lombardy, Italy. The cheese is added to LeTao’s original fresh cream in Hokkaido and flavored with natural vanilla beans from Madagascar. The light and crispy tart provides a nice texture to the 42% milk fat cream used in the filling and the natural sugar beets grown in Hokkaido. The dessert is not sweet at all, the only sugar used is from the locally grown sugar beets.

LeTAO Chocolate Double

The Chocolat Double is the chocolate version of their bestselling Double Fromage. They combined the cheese cake with a chocolate cake to produce a two-layered chocolate cheesecake. The cocoa is from Europe but all other items are local and the bitterness of the cocoa makes the cheesecake more suitable for adults. It cuts down the mildly sweet Double Fromage with some bitterness to produce a slightly bitter dessert.

Strawberry Mille-feuille with a drink (1,816 JPY or around RM 72)

Strawberry Mille-feuille

This beautiful dessert can only be ordered in LeTAO’s café. It’s made with LeTAO’s original custard and Hokkaido grown strawberries for a towering treat that looks almost too good to eat. My dear saw this highlighted in their menu and didn’t want to order it coz it was over RM 70 for a plate of pastry. We had just eaten sushi at the 1 Michelin Star Isezushi so this was primarily a dessert run but I insisted on ordering it coz I knew she wanted to try it.

LeTAO Strawberry Mille-feuille

The custard was very good – it was speckled with real vanilla beans from Madagascar and there are superbly tart red currants strewn throughout the plate. However, I thought the crispy sheets of pastry was slightly over-done and bitter. Granted, desserts in Japan are an order of magnitude less sweet than Western or local counterparts but we’ve had really good mille-feuille from 2 Michelin Star Le Relais LOUIS VIII in Paris, France so it can’t really measure up to that (especially when the mille-feuille was the star dessert that got them their two Michelin stars in the first place).

LeTAO Hokkaido

LeTAO is a great place to visit if you want to have a luxurious and warm sit-down dessert in Otaru. The café in LeTAO PATHOS also serves savory food like pasta – it’s the only one that does that so it’s something to think about if you’re heading here instead of the main store. It’s also larger than the head store or LeTAO Plus. The bill came up to 3,220 JPY (about RM 130) for the two of us, including drinks and the service was excellent. I would highly recommend eating at LeTAO if you’re ever in Otaru – after all, this was where LeTAO was born.

Hokkaido Milk Ice Cream

Hokkaido Ice Cream

Hokkaido milk is loaded with one of the highest butterfat content numbers I’ve ever seen. The 4.8% milk fat from local cows is higher than any “whole milk” product in the US and Australia. It tastes more like half and half or cream. I was truly impressed by the extraordinarily creamy milk they have. Thus, when we passed by this little mom-and-pop ice cream parlor in Otaru, we immediately went in and got one…even though it’s the middle of winter.

Ice Cream Sign

They even have a little sign out front which tells you to be careful with your cone should you take photos of it, lest it tip over. I found that hilarious, the lengths to which the Japanese go to be considerate is quite amazing. Of course, I’ve had Hokkaido milk before, but it’s the inferior 3.8% stuff they sell in Bangkok, Thailand. I’ve also had mind-blowingly delicious Channel Island milk while I was backpacking in the United Kingdom.

Hokkaido Milk Ice Cream

However, the ice cream made from Hokkaido milk in Sapporo is peerless. The best specimen we had was near Chitose when we just arrived, and the 8-flavor ice cream cone is pretty decent too. This one was slightly disappointing compared to those but at 300 JPY (about RM 12) you can’t really complain. It was still better than any ice cream I’ve had in Malaysia. The high milk fat in Hokkaido milk makes the ice cream taste so creamy and rich we had to eat it, despite the cold weather. :)



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