Eating my way around Hokkaido – 2

Here’s more food from around Hokkaido. I just put all of my smartphone food photos from our month in Hokkaido into one single folder. It came out to 141 photos and 1.4 GB worth of foodiness. Here’s a smattering in this second installment of Eating my way around Hokkaido.

Lunch at Matsuya

¥980 lunch at Matsuya

This is my wife’s favourite fast food restaurant in Japan. We’ve been to Matsuya almost every time we’ve been in Japan. I guess it’s almost a tradition for us. My first experience of Matsuya was 4 o’clock in the morning on our first day in Tokyo.

This time we were experiencing the lunch hour rush of downtown Sapporo. The restaurant was full, and full of men. My guess is that the demographics of Matsuya customers skew heavily to the male end of the scale. My wife was probably the only woman in the restaurant when we entered. We ordered our food from the ticket vending machine. I punched the buttons for “Bibim Don” (Korean style rice bowl) and a bottle of beer (cuz why not?). The machine then dutifully spat out the food tickets.

Turnover was quick. It seems like the Japanese know how to Hoover their lunches lickity-split. We grabbed the next available table and handed our tickets to our server. Within minutes, our food materialized on our tiny table. So did a 500 ml bottle of Asahi along with two tiny chilled glasses. Oh. I was only expecting a regular sized bottle. I didn’t expect to be guzzling half a litre of beer for lunch. Oops. I can’t complain though. It was only ¥430 for the 500 ml Asahi. I’m sure it would have cost me more for a regular size bottle of beer back here in Canada.

Lunch from the food floor at ESTA

Cheap lunch was a must for us while studying Japanese for a month in Japan. Thankfully, the language school is only two blocks away from the ESTA department store attached to the JR Sapporo Station. Almost all department stores have food floors on the first or basement floor. ESTA had probably the cheapest and most affordable food floor of the department stores in the area. We often ran to ESTA and grabbed our lunches to take back to the school for a quick lunch before the afternoon activities.

¥500 Cup Lunch

Take this Cup Lunch for example. It’s got egg, some breaded meat, and a little bit of veggies topped on a bowl of rice. I can’t say that this was totally filling, but it was a good quick fix for lunch. I probably needed to snack on something after this meal. However, for roughly CAD$5, it’s not a bad deal.

¥900 variety bento

One other day, I was feeling really hungry and decided to go for this larger ¥900 bento . It was the variety pack. There were 3 different styles of rice, a tiny piece of pork cutlet, some chicken, cooked salmon, penne, coleslaw, and potato salad. It was all just a little bit of everything. I barely finished this particular bento. It was so filling.

Chinese bun and siu mai

One other day, I had a craving for the Chinese food that they were serving at ESTA. One particular kiosk specialized in Chinese food and dim sum dishes. So I grabbed a giant Chinese meat bun and a large serving of siu mai, or shu mai (as it’s pronounced in Japanese).

There were also a variety of sushi, rice bowls, pasta, pizza, and meat skewers available at the ESTA food floor. We were in Sapporo for a month and found that we could always have something different at the ESTA food floor depending on our mood for that day.

Ootoya (大戸屋)

For yet another lunch, a few our classmates gathered together and tried something completely different. Ootoya is a chain of restaurants across Japan. It’s not fast food like Matsuya, but it is just as ubiquitous across the Japanese food retail landscape. We found this particular Ootoya in the basement lobby of an office tower a couple of blocks from the language school.

Because there were about 10 of us, we had to wait a while before we could sit down and eat. We were all trying to interpret the menus posted outside the restaurant and figure out what we wanted to eat. We were all trying to use our limited Japanese in combination with the abundant photos to figure out what each dish was.

natto, nori seaweed, okra and egg – a wifey favourite

When we finally got seated, my wife knew that she wanted what I call the “slimy dish.” It has natto (fermented soy beans), okra, nori seaweed placed all on top of an egg. Then you mix all the ingredients together and you get one of the slimiest bowls of food that you will ever try. However, my wife loves all these things. I’m not partial to natto, but I don’t hate it. I don’t having natto from time to time.

Ootoya lunch set

Another Ootoya lunch set

A few of us ordered a variety of lunch sets. The lunch sets were better deals since they included rice, a small salad, pickled radish, and miso soup on top of the main dish. Each set was under ¥1000 from what I remember. However, I can’t remember which lunch set was mine and exactly what the main dish was. I think mine was chicken and the other was just veggies. They look almost the same. I don’t remember now that I’m posting this 4 months later. What I do recall is that there was a black vinegar sauce of sorts drizzled all over the dish. I really liked it, but I’m not sure it’s suited for everyone’s tastes.

With 141 photos from my Lumia 1020 smartphone alone, I don’t think I’m done talking about Eating my way around Hokkaido. Until the next food installment.

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