Arriving in Niseko today one can sense the growing optimism as a new wave of developments attracts a rich array of talents from across the cultural spectrum. One of the most exciting new projects arrived early 2017 – Sushi Shin Niseko (鮨 心) landed in Annupuri village, just up the street from Sobatei Rakuichi. It brings with it the promise of a higher level of sushi experience than Niseko has ever experienced before.
Prior to Sushi Shin’s opening in 2017, there was simply no expectation of enjoying outstanding sushi in Niseko. Exceptional ingredients could be sourced with the right connections however the talent to finesse those ingredients into great sushi was yet to arrive. Remote locations present a unique set of challenges for high quality restaurants and it takes both logistical smarts and ambition to overcome them. Sushi Shin Niseko has assembled a talented team already experienced with sourcing the finest produce in Hokkaido and beyond. Combining this expertise with technical skill and discipline honed under the tutelage of master sushi Chef Miyakawa, Niseko at last has the recipe for precisely the sushi travelers had dreamed they might one day experience here.
FOUNDER CHEF MIYAKAWA
The foundation for Sushi Shin is Chef Miyakawa who over decades accumulated a remarkable depth of experience that included a lengthy stint as executive head chef of Hong Kong’s most celebrated edo-mae sushi restaurant Sushi Shikon. He now has his own celebrated restaurant in Sapporo where Chef Miyakawa is known for his approachable sushi with a strong focus on showcasing an ingredient’s purity of flavors. The eponymous Sushi Miyakawa was one of the first of several high-end restaurants to locate in Maruyama, Sapporo. Inside, Sushi Miyakawa offers a refined atmosphere in a subtle room anchored by an L-shaped counter constructed from single plank hinoki (Japanese cypress). The atmosphere at Sushi Shin echoes this beautifully minimalist aesthetic that encourages patrons to focus their full attention on the theatre of sushi being conducted from the hands of Miyakwa protegé, Chef Hitonori Satake.
HEAD CHEF SATAKE
Born and raised in Wakayama, a prefecture known for its rich farmland blessed by the warmth of the sun, Chef Satake’s mother was a chef and so cooking was taken up early in his life. After graduating from high school an uncle recommended he work for at a local sushi restaurant. The professionalism of the restaurant staff made a positive impression and he took up his first apprenticeship position. During the first few years of an apprenticeship basic jobs like washing and cleaning are all one is allowed to do as patience and discipline are developed. Those who survive the early test eventually take on ever greater responsibilities as they simultaneously develop their skill set. In Japanese cooking knife skills are of great importance and no where is that more true than in a sushi restaurant. The craft of sushi takes a decade or more of diligent practice to evolve skills to the point in which the intrinsic character of ingredients can be expressed freely. For 30 years Chef Satake has committed himself to mastering the craft of sushi and now, as head chef of Sushi Shin, he commands a sushi restaurant at the perfect moment in his career.
At Sushi Shin, Chef Satake and his team offer tradtional Edo Mae Sushi using Hokkaido’s exquisite seasonal ingredients. For those not familiar with the style of Edomae-zushi, it was developed in the late Edo period around Tokyo Bay, a place well-known for its abundance of fisheries. Drawing together the quality ingredients of soy sauce produced in neighboring towns, rice of local farms and fresh fish from the sea – Edomae-zushi became popular first in Edo (Tokyo) and later spread to Kyoto and the greater Kansai area (Osaka + Kobe).
Sushi Shin’s overall style showcases the best of Edomae sushi whilst intricately weaving into the menu ingredients native to Hokkaido. The emphasis on tsumami small plates allows the chef’s skills to shape the ingredients into a focused expression that offers peak umami, the maximum flavors. As the meal progresses, a story of Hokkaido – via the food ingredients harvested from it shores, farmland and forests – is told through a thoughtfully composed menu that leaves diners with a vivid sense of time and place.
A brief glance at the menu and the experienced sushi connoisseur will know they are in for a memorable dining experience. Each course utilizes a cooking technique tailor-made to heighten the taste and texture of the key ingredient. Being made aware of the ingredient’s place of origin adds to the depth of the dining experience while enriching one’s sense of place. The meal begins with a familiar treasure unearthed from the soil of one of Hokkaido’s many great farm fields. Potatoes grown in the nearby town of Rusutu and paired with scallops and caviar starts the gastronomic journey locally.
In winter, richer tasting fish like saba (mackerel) is straw smoked and served with horseradish, ginger and green onion. Kinmedai (golden eye snapper) skin is kissed by red-hot bincho charcoal, its fresh and charred flavors melded together by ponzu sauce. Awabi (abalone) is one to look forward to as its flesh and liver are prepared separately and then brought together in one of Sushi Shin’s definitive dishes that needs to be tasted to fully appreciate its beauty. Snow crab is another dish that one feels a need to eat when in Hokkaido and here it is paired with a delicate sudachi jelly that seems to bring out the sweetness in the crab’s plump, juicy flesh.
The deftness in which Chef Satake forms the sushi shari – the oval rice that sits beneath each slice of fish or shellfish – is further enhanced by the precise steaming and temperature control of the rice. Rice is seasoned perfectly, with just a hint of vinegar that lifts the raw fish flavors ever so slightly.
Sushi Shin sources the best ingredients from the best locations wherever they may be within Japan at that particular moment in the season. Hokkaido ingredients are thoughtfully incorporated together with them whenever the pairing and quality matches well. An interesting case that highlights this point is with tuna caught off the north coast of Aomori and just below Hokkaido. Although tuna is caught close by, all the best maguro tuna is sent to Tokyo’s Tsukiji market and this is where Sushi Shin procures its tuna as well as anago (sea eel).
Other fish markets utilized include Sapporo, Shimane (Sushi Shin’s signature Awabi or abalone) and Shizuoka. Hokkaido ingredients making their way onto the menu include potatoes, lily bulb, wakame, scallops and incredible sea urchin (uni). Perhaps the best uni in the world is sourced in Hokkaido with the far north island of Rishiri in the Sea of Japan considered the most fertile waters for uni and kombu – a key ingredient in Japanese cooking.
Sushi Shin offers two course menus: Omakase (Chef’s selection) course consisting of seasonal appetizers, nigiri sushi, soup and dessert. Nigiri sushi course consisting of an appetizer, nigiri sushi, soup and dessert. A Children’s menu is also available upon request. Following is a sample menu from Sushi Shin:
Potato Potage + Scallops & Caviar
Potato is local produce from next town Rusutu, Hokkaido
Charred Kinmedai with Ponzu Sauce
Golden Eye Snapper (Alfonsino) with its skin seared by Bincho charcoal
Ivory Shellfish and Yurine + Ume Sauce
Lily bulb from Yoichi, Hokkaido with Ivory Shellfish
Steamed Awabi + Kimo Sauce
Black Abalone with a sauce from its liver
Mackerel fish smoked with straw
Snow Crab Ball + Sudachi Jelly
Snow crab with a Sudachi Citrus Jelly
Akamatsu– Black throat sea perch
Akami –Lean Bluefin tuna
Hirame – Founder
Chutoro – Medium Bluefin Tuna
Kohada – Gizzard Shad
Sawara – Spanish Mackerel
Kamasu Japanese Barracuda
Ikura – Salmon Caviar
Uni– Shin-style Sea Urchin
Kuruma Ebi– Kuruma Prawn
Anago – Sea Eel
Tamago – Japanese Egg Omelet
Summer Omakase course *16,000 yen per person
Summer Nigiri sushi course *9,500 yen per person.
Children’s menu *7,000 yen per person
Winter Omakase course *26,000 yen per person
Winter Nigiri sushi course *19,000 yen per person
Children’s menu *11,000 yen per person
( *10% service charge and 8% consumption tax will be applied )
Sushi Shin offers an excellent and well-priced selection of sake sourced from only the best breweries within Japan. An omakase sake menu is also available to match with the course menu which is sure to delight sushi afficiandos. Once chosen, the sake is presented in one of the beautiful carafes within the Sushi Shin Niseko collection. Service staff present a tray full of unique glass and ceramic cups from which guests choose the vessel they would like to drink the sake from. The variety and quality of tableware in the restaurant is outstanding and adds an exciting element of color and surprise as the meal progresses.
One of the challenges for foreigners when eating sushi across Japan can be communicating with the restaurant staff. At Sushi Shin there is a friendly and communicative environment that is created by the service team, no matter the customer level of experience or language spoken. The general manager Fumiko has lived in Niseko for 12 years and her passion for fishing in Hokkaido means guests get insightful stories to go along with their meal. Overall, there is a comforting feeling that stems from the organization and warmth that resonates from staff members and that makes the customer experience at Sushi Shin all the more enjoyable.
KAMUI BUILDING ANNUPURI
Sushi Shin Niseko is located inside the “Kamui-Niseko” residential complex. Kamui Niseko is the name of the building that Sushi Shin resides in and comes from the language of the Ainu tribe who are indigenous to Hokkaido. The Ainu hold the belief that divinity exists in everything – animals, plants, mountains, rivers, and even natural phenomena like snow and rain. The name Kamui was chosen with the hope that every visitor will spend a peaceful time in the natural environment of Niseko. The architectural design was influenced by the existing environment in Annupuri. The chosen palette of pale colors is a reflection of winter snow and forests of silver birch trees. Viewed from outside it shares the same sense of tranquility one feels when walking through the Annupuri area. Just a 15 -20 minute taxi drive from Hirafu depending on the weather, it is very accessible with a little advance planning.
SUSHI SHIN NISEKO EXPERIENCE
In just its first year Sushi Shin has set a new standard of excellence in Niseko for not only sushi but also for restaurants. Impeccable ingredients are rendered into petite plates of gastronomic pleasure by a chef now approaching the height of his culinary powers. By embracing the ingredients of the surrounding land and sea, a meal at Sushi Shin transcends the traditional dining experience to take patrons on a remarkable journey across the landscape of Hokkaido gastronomy. This is the restaurant Niseko residents and visitors have been yearning for. A ski holiday in Niseko is made more complete having experienced the profound flavors and charms of Sushi Shin.
LOCATION: Niseko, Niseko-cho, Abuta District, Hokkaido 048-1500
HOURS: Tuesday to Sunday (Closed Mondays)
Lunch 12:00 ~ 14:00 Dinner 17:30 ~ 22:00
RESERVATIONS: International tel. +81-136-59-2808 Japan tel. 0136-59-2808
WEBSITE: Sushi Shin Niseko