Top 7 hidden gems for eating out in Hakuba, Japan

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With so much information – and indeed mis-information – out there when it comes to Hakuba`s best dining spots, it can be very difficult to distinguish the true culinary delights from the everyday restaurants. How we all rate dining experiences is a rather personal and subjective thing, but from 10 years of living in Hakuba and swathes of guests feeding back their experiences, here are our top 7 hidden gems for eating out in Hakuba, Japan.

1. Enchante

As an all round experience, Enchante comes high on our ranking. Underrated, understated, excellent local Japanese food with a French twist – and exceptional value. Fortunately it is not on the beaten path for most tourists in Hakuba – so you can truly escape for the evening and enjoy the warmth of hospitality and cooking expertise that this 3 generation family have to offer. 5 courses from ¥5,000 per person – these dishes are entirely original and wonderfully executed; it is a dining experience quite unlike any others in Hakuba.

2. Mimi`s

Not so underrated, but well deserving of its acclaim – is Mimi`s. Located inside The Phoenix Hotel, this restaurant rivals other for the title of `best restaurant in Hakuba`. Indeed, the Italian menu has been thoughtfully created, and the delivery consistent in its excellence. There is no questions as to the chef`s skill set, and the ambiance, service and wine list is in keeping with the food. The prices are up there, and it is popular during busy times – so be sure to book well ahead.

3. Marutama

Much closer to earth when it comes to price and atmosphere, but by no means lacking in flavour and authenticity, is the brand new ramen shop in Echoland – Marutama. Ramen is a very individual in how its taste and consistency is received – varying wildly in the base broths and flavour profiles incorporated. That said, Marutama offers a deep, full flavour with a more than generous portion size. Consistent in flavour and quality, and great value at ¥850 for their house ramen, this has quickly become a favourite lunch or casual dinner venue. To some – they may it is Hakuba`s best ramen. Do note though that it does not have a vegetarian option, as the other popular Rame spot `Totsuan` does.

4. Niku Masa

Another for the understated list, this modest in size yet authentic in style restaurant should be the `go to` for all meat lovers. A humble log cabin homing a tranquil atmosphere and choice meat cuts, Niku Masa`s menu is simple and yet full of flavour. No expense has been spared in sourcing the ingredients, and it is another establishment that is owned and operated by a local Hakuba family.

5. Hakuba Hifumi

Located inside the hotel of the same name, Hakuba Hifumi takes the prize for best Kaisekki in town. Original, creative and true to Japanese cuisine, an evening here gives the full Kaisekki experience. Each dish is carefully prepared and impeccably presented, making it hard to put the camera away and tuck in for fear of spoiling it! It is well priced – though leaning towards the higher end – and definitely designed for those with an adventurous palate that enjoy Japanese food.

6. Denenshi

Another for the understated, underrated and purely authentic list! This quaint restaurant inside a house offer two `set menus` – a western & Japanese – and excels at both. With an ever evolving menu and passionate culinary wizard behind every dish, it makes for a rather memorable experience; the hand written menus are a great touch. The space itself is cosy and cute and completely void of hustle, bustle and tourists. It is well priced, and does book up quickly – so be sure to book well in advance during peak season.

7. Traumeri

Once the holder of a Michelin star, Traumeri would be one to rival Mimi`s for its excellent Western cuisine. Sporting the image of fine dining in the French Alps during the `80s, the food is not as dated as the nostalgic decor could be accused of being. The space is charming and atmosphere pleasant, and the service and food is nothing short of impeccable. The experience is further added to by the extensive wine list and food passionate owner who has been known to share some stories and wine with his patrons. As with others, the pricing is on the higher end of the scale – but you can guarantee a truly special experience.

Nadine Robb is Owner and Instructor at Hakuba Ski Concierge. Hakuba Ski Concierge is a boutique ski school in Hakuba, Japan.

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