5 Places to Eat in Otaru (Hokkaido, Japan)
Coming from Niseko where we skied for the first time, we would pass through Otaru before reaching Sapporo. Otaru is usually a day trip from Sapporo, but since we were on the way, we stayed one night at Dormy Inn Premium Otaru. It was a good thing, because that meant we could start our day early at Sankaku Fish Market before the crowd from Sapporo flooded Otaru. :) With so many places to eat in Otaru, I will be writing a separate post for the sweet tooth at ‘What to Eat in Otaru? | Sweets Edition‘.
I have included photos of the shopfronts in this post to help you locate the restaurants. I too brought along such photos to recognise the shops! Otherwise, I would have more difficulties finding them by their Japanese signboards. Moreover Japan’s addresses are not always accurate on Google map.
Use this map to locate the places to eat in Otaru as listed below. Zoom in at this high resolution map.
The places are listed chronologically based on when we ate them:
Naruto Honten (Fried Chicken)
Japanese food is not all about sushi and ramen, there’s fried chicken! We had Wakadori Jidai Naruto Honten (若鶏時代なると本店) for our first meal in Otaru. Our dinner was slightly more expensive than its lunch menu. We spent ¥2450 (S$31) on one half chicken set and a dish of chicken karaage. If you must eat sushi, they have a fried chicken set with sushi. :P
Refer to their Japanese menu with prices and pictures.
I read somewhere online about going earlier because it’s always full. But it was quite empty when we reached. And surprisingly, all the patrons were Japanese. We were expecting more tourists because of the many overseas online reviews. The availability of English menu suggest a sizable foreign crowd too.
Later on Otaru map, I spotted a New Naruto along the Hanagindori Street which is nearer to the tourist spots. Perhaps that’s why there were not as many tourists here. Another reason could be because most people who made a day trip from Sapporo had returned for dinner.
How to order?
We noticed shoes on the floor and hence took off ours and went to one of the tables shown in the photo below. However, we noticed customers who came in later requested for a table where you wouldn’t need to take off your shoes. So if you are not keen to take off your shoes, tell them to sit you at the appropriate table. But do note that their English is limited.
I can’t remember why, but even with the English menu, we didn’t really understand the different chicken parts served. So we ordered the online recommended half chicken and chicken karaage by pointing to the pictures on the menu. You can order draft beer to match the fried chicken too.
One bite, and it tasted normal. It’s just… fried chicken. Were our expectations too high? But after munching a while more, the taste grew on us and the chicken became finger licking good! The chicken was juicy and not like those dry meat of a over-fried chicken. It was also marinated to leave a sweet aftertaste without being too overbearing.
However, I might not go back for it again, even though it’s good to try this at least once. If you have no better alternative or you simply love fried chicken, you should go for it! Personally, I still prefer Four Fingers. >.<
- 11:00 am – 9:00 pm (last order 8:00 pm)
- 3 Chome-16-13 Inaho, Otaru-shi, Hokkaidō 047-0032
About 7-8 minutes walk from Otaru Station. From JR Otaru Station, walk down Chuo Dori street towards the canal and then about the third junction, turn left into a quieter small road.
(Ref Map #1: Top right, near “ToYoiChi” – Otaru Station)
(Ref Map #2: According to the map, the other shop is at the middle leftmost end of Hanagindori Street )
Sankaku Fish Market – Ajidokoro Takeda (Fresh Seafood Don)
After having Naruto for dinner, we planned to eat fresh seafood for breakfast the next day! We checked out of Dormy Inn Premium Hotel early in the morning and made it to the nearby (just across the street!) Sankaku Fish Market.
Compared to the Tsukiji Fish Market, this fish market is really small, with only a short stretch of shops. Good thing we stayed over for the night and were able to start our day early at Sankaku, because when we left the eating place, the crowd from Sapporo started to pour into the market.
Along with shops selling fresh seafood for you to bring home and cook, there were also many restaurants which cook them for you on the spot. When we stepped into the market, we felt a bit lost, and that’s when the owner from the first shop detected our tourist aura and started spouting English to us. I vaguely remembered reading about him, the English speaking person with food that was average.
We would be lost as to which restaurant to go to if not for the recommendation of kimi-tourguide.blogspot.sg to go Ajidokoro Takeda (味処 たけだ) (“Takeda”). This eating place is operated by the shop opposite, Takeda Fish Store (武田鮮魚店), which sells fresh seafood. As in the photo above, they have a yellow and white signboard respectively.
Another determining factor for going to Takeda was because we spotted a big group of Japanese high school students having breakfast at Takeda. So we followed the locals and moreover, students know where to get value for money meals. But still a luxury! Imagine having fresh sashimi breakfast on a regular basis. The shop owner seemed friendly and caring to the students, so we assumed the students are regular customers.
Takeda has a variety of Sansyoku Don (三食丼), a bowl of rice topped with three kinds of fresh seafood. Hubby ordered a bowl of don (photo above) at ¥2,000 (S$25). There were generous portions of sea urchins, slices of salmon, shreds of crab meat, and salmon roes. I don’t eat raw Sashimi, so I just tried some from hubby’s bowl.
All lunch comes with a bowl of crab soup, however since we went for breakfast, I ordered the crab soup separately (photo below) at ¥250 (S$3.20). There were two types of crab leg in this bowl of soup. It was a small bowl but enough for me to start the day. Moreover, we had much food lined up for the day.
Super value for money! Especially if you consider the overpriced bowls in Tsukiji Fish Market. Our friend told us they ate a similar bowl at Tsukiji for double the price, about S$50.
As for the taste, Otaru is a port city near to the sea, so it’s not surprising that the food was oozing with freshness, freshness and MORE FRESHNESS! There wasn’t much seasoning because the food itself is enough to shine and tantalise our tastebuds. If you love seafood or sashimi, you should definitely go for the Sansyoku Don. In fact, if you don’t mind paying a bit more, you can get even more variety of sashimi on your don. It’s the freshest sashimi hubby had ever eaten at this price. The humble crab soup was wonderfully tasty and fresh as well. You can taste the sweetness of the crab even though it’s just miso and crab.
- 8:00 am – 6:00 pm
- Otaru, Inaho, 3 Chome−10−16
Step out of JR Otaru Station and it is a short walking distance to your left.
(Ref Map #1: At the top right corner, just below JR Otaru Station clock building image.)
Kamaei (Fish Cake)
Kaemei (かま栄) is where you get your fill on fishcakes! You will also be spoilt for choice with the variety of freshly-made fishcakes. Sure, you can get the fishcakes in Sapporo supermarkets, such as in Daimaru, but they are fresher here! :)
We almost missed the shop because based on our research we were looking for a blue signboard. Walking from Otaru Canal, we spotted the blue signboard from afar, but almost passed by its retail space because it was quiet and unassuming, with a well blended signboard. The retail shop is a dark golden brown standalone building. The space is quite big, selling fresh fishcakes and other packaged products.
p.s. The blue signboard was on a bigger building beside the shop and hence I assumed it to be one of their factories.
Apparently the fish cakes are prepared with freshly caught seafood from the nearby waters. I read from a blog that if you come early enough, you will get to see the staff clean, descale, and dissect the fish before it becomes fish paste for the fish cake.
We were there about 9:45 am and the staff were already working on the fish paste – both with machines and their hands. See the insane amount of paste in the photo below! So if we had gone later in the afternoon, we might not be able to catch the preparation buzz.
We got the best seller and popular choice as indicated by the shop. They’re chewy and yummy! Remember to eat them while it’s still warm. Buy and enjoy them immediately at their seating area.
Other online recommendations include deep fried sandwich with fish paste and kamaboko fish cakes. If you want to bring some home, you can buy pre-packed ones in the refrigerated section.
- 9:00 am – 7:00 pm
- 3-7 Sakaimachi, Otaru 047-0027, Hokkaido
From Otaru Canal, cross the main street to the pavement opposite of the canal and keep walking. Kamaei will be on your right. Spot the shopfront as shown in the photo above.
(Ref Map #1: Towards the bottom, it is above the “Kitaichi Venetian Art Museum” speech bubble.)
(Ref Map #2: According to the map, there’s another shop located along Hanagindori Street, near New Haruto.)
At Yabuhan Soba, there are two kinds of soba made from different types of buckwheat flour:
- “Jimono-ko” is made of buckwheat flour from Rankoshi, about 100km away from Otaru; and
- “Nami-ko” is a blend of Rankoshi buckwheat and US imported buckwheat. (Cheaper option)
Order the dish you want and then choose the type of soba – locally-made or the mixture.
The shop has servers who speak English and an English menu that explains the different types of soba and history. Again we were expecting a crowd based on online reviews, but it was relatively empty. Perhaps it was dinner time and hence again, the crowd from Sapporo went back for dinner. Or it’s simply the off peak season.
Hubby ordered the cold soba while I had the soba in hot soup because I was shivering in cold! We got “Jimono-ko”, the locally made buckwheat soba, for both dishes. After our meal, the shop served us “Soba-yu”, which is hot water left after boiling the soba. They claimed that the water has plenty of vitamins and thus good for health.
The soba was very well made and had a clean and pure taste. We could taste the high quality of the buckwheat soba, but it was not woah fantastic. We are not food purists to appreciate that. But I must say, it was good we were having this light diet with no strong flavour because we were already having a sugar overdose from eating the sweet stuff around in Otaru (more on that in the next post).
If I have to choose, I would prefer my hot soba with shrimp tempura because it was more flavourful and warm for my cold stomach. The tempura was a nice addition to just having soba noodles. But then again, their sauce mixed well with the cold soba.
- www.yabuhan.co.jp/index_e.html (English Website)
- 11:00 am – 4:00 pm; 4:30 pm – 8:30 pm (Closed Tuesdays and in November)
- Shizuya ‘st, 2-19-14 Inaho, Otaru City, Hokkaido
6 minutes’walk from the JR Otaru station. From JR Otaru Station, walk down Chuo Dori street and turn right at the 2nd junction. It’s in a quiet small lane.
(Ref Map #1: On the map, spot “Hotel Dormy Inn Otaru” below JR Otaru Station, then look to your left. It’s 2 blocks away.)
Otaru is well-known for its sushi, with over 100 sushi restaurants in the area. There are about 20 sushi restaurants along Sushiya-dori Street (Sushi Restaurant Street), a 10 minute walk from JR Otaru Station.
Among the sushi restaurants in Otaru, Toppii sushi is one of the more affordable ones. Even though Toppii is budget friendly, it doesn’t sacrifice on the taste. Tripadvisor reviews prove just that. This conveyor belt sushi restaurant located along the canal is slightly hard to spot. The place gets crowded during lunch. We didn’t have the time and stomach to try this. Moreover, it didn’t top my to try list because I am not a raw food person. :)
- Their website is down. Reference: www.best-of-sapporo-japan.com/sushi-bars.html
- Likely opened for lunch and dinner hours.
- 6-4, Minatomachi, otaru-shi, Hokkaido, 小樽市港町6番4号
From JR Otaru Station, walk down Chuo Dori street, turn right at Otaru canal and you will find the restaurant on your left after another 400 meters or ~5-7 minutes, just before the Eneos Petrol Station.
Enjoy eating at Otaru! Next up: ‘What to Eat in Otaru? | Desserts Edition‘.