By Chris Barnes
As a Hotel Manager in Niseko, my main task is to ensure that my guests get the most enjoyment out of their visit to the area. In the early years of the resort this would be a simple task, accomplished by pointing guests in the direction of the slopes and letting the famous powder snow do the work for me. As the resort has developed over recent years, so too has its reputation as a fine dining destination and the number of culinary tourists has increased as a result.
Luckily for my guests and I, there is a veritable wealth of fantastic dining options with enough variety to tickle all range of taste buds. With complete disdain for my own waistline I have selflessly sampled most of the restaurants and cafes in the area in order to provide the best recommendations, and whenever I need an absolutely guaranteed happy customer my Go-to place for the past couple of years has been Kame.
Kame, The Secret Restaurant, was built with the Field of Dreams mantra of "If we build it they will come" very firmly in mind. Situated at the end of a muddy dirt track off route 343 outside Hirafu village, it can be difficult to find in summer, even more so in winter with the huge snowdrifts, but for visitors wanting something special, the extra effort is well worth it.
Chef Harada-san purposefully built Kame in this out of the way location to avoid the cramped and crazy surroundings of Hirafu village and to afford his customers the space and relaxation that suits his fusion menu so well. The menu at Kame is a tour of all the best produce in the region and is as varied as the seasons; with locally sourced fish particularly prominent.
Visitors dining in the evening have the option of a multi course chefs special that is completely different each time I have visited, but you are always in good hands. Expect to pay upwards of 5000 JPY per head especially if you tap into the very extensive wine menu as well. My last visit was for lunch and was a lovingly prepared sashimi platter accompanied by grilled white fish and local vegetable salad covered in an exquisite dressing, with a drink it came in under 2000 JPY—very nice indeed!
The interior of the restaurant is absolutely beautiful, with the open kitchen taking centre stage amongst the organically laid out wooden chairs, flooring and overhead beams that seem to be an extension of the forest outside. As more and more people discover this hidden gem each year it is debatable how long Harada-san will be able to hold onto the moniker of the "Secret" restaurant
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I was born and raised in London, UK and developed the travel bug from a very early age on regular family trips to the English countryside. After graduating from university I worked as a wildlife biologist and was lucky enough to find jobs that let me live for extended periods of time in the Bahamas and Canadian Rockies. I came to Japan on a bit of a whim 8 years ago, expecting a fairly short stay; however, I quickly fell in love with the place and settled down with a beer in hand in Hakodate on the southern tip of Hokkaido. After my son was born I moved to Niseko and have stayed here ever since. Unlike 99% of visitors to this part of Japan I harbor an intense hatred of snow and live for the glorious Hokkaido summers and working on my BBQ skills.