A feast inspired by the country cooking of Tuscany is a delight for the eyes as much as the taste buds. La Stella, on top of the Emisia Sapporo Hotel, takes it to another level with its panoramic vistas from the clouds.
Looking below from the floor to ceiling windows on a sunny autumn’s day is like being the master of your own toy town. There are little red cars, neat houses and apartment blocks, and right on cue, a freight or passenger train winding the curves as they pull into Shin Sapporo subway and railway station and shopping center as if I have got all the trains going around in circles on cue. Further afield there are vistas of forests and hills and cathedral and stadium like buildings, all landmarks to the locals, but the visitor, their anonymity only added to the toy town fascination, it could mean anything I wanted as the master of this town.
Being mesmerized by the view can be such a pleasant distraction. Now, back to the restaurant.
The lunch set menu has a selection of pastas, and a dessert of the day, in keeping with the Thanksgiving theme is a pumpkin cake with vanilla ice cream and a rich caramelized chestnut infused sauce, all inclusive starting from 1400 yen.
I start my long lunch with some handmade artisan bread. A delight for the eyes and the stomach, it has a rich, soft texture which just the right amount of give. Hokkaido is famous for its fresh air and wide open plains, as featured in the Yukiko Mishima film, The Bread of Happiness or しあわせのパン. Each loaf of handmade bread is a work of art, being a reflection of the love poured out by the baker, with no two loaves the same.
A delicate vegetable salad, with a palette of greens, blues and reds was next to grace the table. Dressed with balsamic vinegar and complemented by slices of salmon sashimi, capers and shellfish, it was light and refreshing.
The next dish to shine is tagliatelle, a Fettuccine like pasta originally from the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. Its coarse and porous texture is perfectly paired with a hearty braised beef sauce. Over the centuries, pasta has taken on many incarnations from China, Italy and now in Japan. Some of the best pasta I have eaten around the world was in Japan. The in house chefs have reinterpreted its Northern Italian heritage for a gentler palette, while keeping the taste and the al dente texture. Sitting back with a glass of Sangiovese and admiring the rough stone walls and timber floors, I almost felt like I was on top of a country villa. Being located out of the business district, it was very quiet at lunch time, as if I had the place to myself.
The golden days of autumn is infused in the dessert, a Thanksgiving themed pumpkin cake topped with homemade vanilla bean ice cream and a rich chestnut sauce. Nothing speaks to the heart more than the sun blessed goodness of the chestnut and pumpkin, and while the pumpkin cake was a touch dry, it is beautiful finale to a relaxing afternoon, with comfort food that is contemporary and well balanced.