ガンゲット・ダイマ — A daydream of interwar/postwar France

Guinguette Daima is one of my two favourite haunts in Sapporo. Situated in a small building down a narrow alley just behind the Nijo market, it’s the kind of place you will stumble upon by accident, and completely miss if you are looking for it.

Guinguette Daima has an extensive menu of drinks, specialising in liqueurs from France and Europe, which are also used as bases for a variety of cocktails. They stock one of my favourites, blue curaçao, which – in my experience – isn’t all that common in Sapporo. They also have a small and delicious line in western food.

By far the highlight of the establishment is the live music sessions. They have a monthly Gypsy Music Night (first Sunday), Ragtime session (third Sunday) and open night (fourth Sunday). There are also live music events featuring independent artists or groups, usually about once a month. The proprietors are both active musicians, and the establishment is pretty popular with musicians in the same genre – bal-musette, I believe.

The establishment itself is worth a visit just for the interior decor. The proprietors are in love with France and it shows. Stepping inside is like being transported to an amalgamated fantasy of interwar and postwar France. The music that plays is very French – stereotypically, even – and there are posters all over the walls referencing Jacques Tati films and hearkening back to the turn of the 20th century. It makes for a lovely little spot that will always have a place in my heart.

The establishment is run by Naomi-san and Kumiko-san. I first came across it by chance. While on a date at Kotobuki coffee, I picked up a flyer for a ukulele concert by a Dynamite Asano. That combination was completely irresistible, and the rest is history. I still have the little toy stamp he handed out to the audience that day. I”ve been going back ever since. The proprietors are always glad to see me, and always make conversation – with the help of Google Translate, since my Japanese is very far from good. Recently, I turned them on to board games, and they’ve gone so far as to organise a couple of game nights, including one the last time I visited Daima. I can’t wait to go back.

ガンゲット・ダイマ (Guinguette Daima)

北海道札幌市中央区南3東1丁目6 (6, South 3 East 1, Chuo Ward, Sapporo, Hokkaido)

18.00 – 24.00 (6 p.m. to 12 a.m.); Sundays and holidays: closed unless live event.

Rating: 5/5

Price: 1500¥ to 2000¥ a person.

Notes: Perfect place for a nice, quiet night. If you play an instrument, they would love to have you at the open night. And if you care for a board game, ask for Cluedo/Clue.

Website: http://www.guinguette-daima.com

Tabelog: https://tabelog.com/hokkaido/A0101/A010103/1005909/


山次郎 — Budget Ramen

Six months into my life in Sapporo, I started hearing about these giant ramen places – the ramen was huge, not the establishment. It wasn’t until sometime in late 2014 or early 2015 that a friend finally took me to one of these establishments.

Yamajirou is a budget ramen restaurant, with the best ramen I have ever tasted in Japan, bar none. For as little as 600¥ you can eat enough ramen to keep yourself full enough for a whole day. For 800¥, you can get so much that you won’t be able to eat for 24 hours or so.

The menu is quite small, with only four types of ramen – ramen (small and normal size), tossed ramen (和え面), tossed ramen with the house miso (みそ和え面) and miso ramen (ヤマジみそ). There are also a number of add-ons, such as, extra noodles, extra vegetables, spicy sauce, and others. So you go up to the machine, put in the cash, press the button and get a ticket. Simple.

The magic starts when you take your place at the counter. The noodles they use are prepared in-house, and are thick and full, nothing like the standard thin, yellow ramen. The entire preparation takes about 10 minutes. With ramen or miso ramen, there is the option to get a ton of toppings – vegetables (boiled sprouts and boiled cabbage), pork fat, and chopped garlic – free of charge. The first time I went, I ordered the biggest bowl of ramen, with extra noodles and all the toppings. Predictably, by the time I finished the toppings, I was beyond full. I managed a couple mouths-ful of noodles before accepting defeat.

The real star of the establishment is the tossed ramen. This is essentially ramen without the broth. Thus the flavour is much stronger, and the dish that much more delicious. Moreover, the fat and ginger are served separately, so they can be added in at your discretion. The tossed ramen has the flavour of sunny side up runny egg yolks in salt and pepper (one of my favourite tastes), despite the lack of eggs. For all that, I prefer the tossed ramen with miso, and the flavour is that much more exquisite.

山次郎 (Yamajirou)

北海道札幌市北区北13条西4丁目1‐5 クローバービル 1F (Clover Building, 1-5, North 13 West 4, Kita Ward, Sapporo, Hokkaido)

11.30 – 15.00; 17.00 – 21.00 (11.30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.); Weekly holiday: Wednesday.

Rating: 5/5

Price: 500¥ to 1000¥ a person.

Notes: One or two people. There is a table that fits 4, but it may be occupied. Go early. Do not drink the all broth, if you value you stomach. If you can’t finish the bowl, retire gracefully.

Tabelog: https://tabelog.com/hokkaido/A0101/A010201/1029911/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/masimsai/

For a list of other places I’m reviewing, go here.


Tepp’s – at the top!

Tepp’s. Ah, Tepp’s. If you have a limited amount of time in Sapporo and are not looking for Japanese cuisine, this is the place to go. After 4 years in Japan, I cannot eat Japanese cuisine anywhere else, as nowhere else is nearly as good. But Tepp’s has set the tone for my expectations of western cuisine.

For me, Tepp’s is first and foremost associated with bread. They have the best bread I’ve tasted since I left Germany. The last time I was there, a week before I left Japan, the bread platter comprised a buttery brioche; a scrumptious whole-wheat bread with raisins, figs and walnuts; and a delicious organic whole wheat bread with lees or wine sediment (not very clear which) as the leaven, in place of ordinary baker’s yeast. Heavenly.

Tepp’s also has a wide variety of wines – white, red and rosé, from wineries the world over. I’m not a wine person, but after Tepp’s – admittedly in the company of friends who know wine – I do enjoy wine like never before.

And finally. The food. Oh, the food. I you asked me to describe it in one word, that word would be ‘foodgasm’. The menu at Tepp’s is just two pages, and is deceptively limited. The food itself is absolutely divine. The tastes are subtle; the way it melts in the mouth, sublime. I’ve had the opportunity to sample a variety of the menu in my numerous visits, and not once has it failed to delight. I’ve even been moved to tears, something that – for all my love of food – rarely happens, if ever. The menu also includes few exotic dishes such as Hokkaido deer pâté. The food is by far the highlight of the establishment.

Tepp’s is run by Teppei and Mariko Kawase. I first met them in November of 2016, at the Hokkaido cider collection – a small cider festival in Sapporo. They gave me their card, and I thought I’d visit sometime. I may never have actually gone around, to be honest, except for a stroke of fortune (sort of). A friend was leaving Japan at the beginning of December 2016, and since he was a gourmand like myself, I suggested we go around. And I’ve been a fan ever since.


北海道札幌市中央区南3西7丁目6-5 タヌキスクエア 2F (Tanuki Square, 6-5, South 3 West 7, Chuo Ward, Sapporo, Hokkaido)

18.00 – 24.00 (6 p.m. to 12 a.m.); weekly holiday: Monday.

Rating: 6/5

Price: 3500¥ to 5000¥ a person.

Notes: Small groups are best. I recommend not more than 4, or if you simply must, 6. The proprietors also organise events every month or so, which are totally worth the experience.

Tabelog: https://tabelog.com/hokkaido/A0101/A010102/1053578/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/teppsbread/

For a list of other places I’m reviewing, go here.