So we got here late at night after a long train ride with a caravan of luggage, to the Comfort Inn. After cramming our luggage into the sardine can of a room we had, we walked over to this place in the fish market area. We were so excited to just dig into fresh seafood from the market at Hakodate, which is a port town on the southeast coast of Hokkaido, almost like a hairpin cove that is created by the underbelly of the island of Hokkaido. No fuss, no Michelin, small town, just fresh seafood. We can still smell the aroma of the sizzling abalone juice and scorched scallop shell sitting on a a bed of hot salt.
No English menu. This is what you want. You want this uni, you don’t know how bad you want it! Unfortunately it was the tail end of uni season so the pickings were slim, but overall the wide variety of fresh Hokkaido seafood was a rare treat. I so crave the little stinky Hokkaido uni in LA compared to the ubiquitous Santa Barbara, so this was heaven for me.
I want this beer right now. It was so malty. So perfect, with a soy-like character to match the seafood. So good. I need to research how to get this beer in the US somehow.
First up was fresh uni, presented in a wooden box, live and raw, no prep/heat, etc. Hokkaido uni typically has more of a saline, horse dung-ish characteristic to it compared to the sweet and smooth Santa Barbara uni. It also has a bit more of a spongy texture to it as well. The lobes tend to be smaller with the Hokkaido uni compared to Santa Barabara uni. Due to being out of season, the aromatics fell kind of flat. More of the uni flavor came out when it was served later, cooked in it’s own shell.
Next up was squid that was swimming in the tank when we walked in. Flavor was more bland, but it was super fresh, with amazing texture, not rubbery, gives way to the bite and spreads in your mouth, no chewing to the point of TMJ.
More fresh seafood from the saltwater tank , baby botan ebi. Look at the blue roe, never seen that color before in ebi varieties in US, maybe due to the cold water? Botan ebi roe has this signature blue color. Anyways, it was so special to get the local terroir of the seafood. This stuff does not make it to the US due to the small quantities, so it’s best to come here to consume the catch of the day, fresh. Keep your eyes peeled for future posts that will show you giant Botan Ebi we had at various locations. Very special shrimp..Botan Ebi, probably the highlight item in peak season of our Hokkaido trip.
Next was the ebi and uni cooked in their shells on a hot cast iron skillet. The smell of the bubbling shrimp guts and uni juice with the burnt shells, OMG, so powerful, I am transported to the restaurant as I type this.
Amazingly fresh abalone, squiriming in it’s shell before it was sliced up, so damn fresh, nothing like fresh abalone from Japan, tastes different from US abalone, no fishiness whatsoever, much more smoky and saline.
Oh wow, look at those guts and brains, I just sucked it out like a rampaging zombie.
The olfactory experience here just took control of your senses, the scallop in it’s own shell, the giant clam, OMG, we were taken for a ride, endless sizzling bubbling assortment of shells in our faces, we couldn’t figure out what to eat first, food came out flying at us.
Look at the beautiful ceramic pot/bowl for the left over shells.
I believe the next plate was either uni wrapped in mint leaf, panko battered, and tempura’ed, and next to it was a mixed tempura plate. Tempura uni was very mushy, brought out the unctuousness of the uni, but the texture was totally lost.
The ikura was sinister, salty, popping boba sensation, with the rice, just put me into a trance. Everyone was zoned out at the table at this point, throwing shells into the ceramic pot in silence, binge shucking/chucking. Eat as much Ikura as you can in Japan, I wish I had more of this stuff, not the same here in the US.
The heavy cream uni hot pot and uni on crispy rice were just debauchery by now. Too heavy, we were dying. Save yourself the pain and just get more seared shellfish.
Again, nice pottery/bowls. Very cozy spot, hit the spot, great Comfort Food before heading back to the Comfort Inn.
I could stretch my arm across the bed and open the door in the hallway, I had a dream that I turned into a sardine, oh wait…