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Zen – Hakuba, Japan

Although Zen is known for it’s Soba, their Japanese small plates are a great option as well, especially for larger groups.  Reservations are recommended although not necessary.  Typically tatami mats can be a little uncomfortable but here they have seat backs to help your back and make it a little more comfortable.  Below are my favorites dishes of the night.  The menu is quite large so if you have a good group you can get away with ordering a lot of dishes for everyone to try.

Sashimi – Salmon and Tuna Sashimi

Tataki Kyuuri – cucumber with spicy Japanese sauce

Chicken Karaage – Fried Chicken

Agedashi do-fu – deep fried tofu in soup

Yanaimno – yanaimo and spicy roe pizza

Tako no peperonti-no – octopus with spicy olive oil and garlic sauce

Assorted Tempura

Gobou no Karaage – deep fried burdock

Le Vin sur la Table – Otari, Japan

We found this charming little restaurant from the staff at our lodge in Hakuba.  The chef had spent a couple of years working in the south of France before opening his own restaurant in his hometown of Otari, about 30 minutes from Hakuba.  It’s not very convenient unless you happen to be in the Cortina area.  If you ski there I highly recommend making the 15 minute drive to this spot for an impressive meal.  My dish, the trout, was $16.25…a steal considering the quality of the food and overall experience, not to mention it included soup and dessert.  This was such a special lunch.  I totally recommend this place to anyone in the area.

Pumpkin Soup

Roasted Trout

Pork Minced Meat

Wild Boar Stew

Dessert – panna cotta with espresso caramel, fresh seasonal fruit and persimmon ice cream

Our chef and his wife

Maeda – Hakuba, Japan

Every year we go back to Hakuba my husband and I make this restaurant a must for lunch.  It usually happens on our first day in town because we’ve been thinking about it for a year and just can’t wait any longer.

The tonkatsu is to die for.  The breaded pork cutlet is so tender and with the egg on top and the perfect rice underneath, this dish disappears fast!  Another favorite is the tempura udon and most recently for me the tempura soba…same dish just with buckwheat soba noodles instead of the udon noodles.

I’m not sure what this was but it was so tasty.  Some sort of pickled or fermented vegetable.  That’s a vague description but I really have no inkling as to what it was.  Most likely a veggie we don’t have in the states.

This was some of the BEST Kimchi I’ve ever had!  I could have eaten this whole plate by myself.  Next time:)

My tempura soba…DE-lish!  I couldn’t eat even half the noodles but I loved everything about this.  You could tell the noodles were made fresh…they were incredible!  I’m probably going to be dreaming about this until the next time we get back here.

My husband’s tempura udon…you can’t go wrong with this one!

Mmmm…the tonkatsu…this is unbelievable – that is assuming you eat pork.  I’m afraid to try this dish in the states assuming it might not live up to my expectations.  I don’t want to ruin it.

Denenshi – Hakuba, Japan

My fiancé and I were in Japan this March when the 9.0 earthquake struck.  We honestly couldn’t have been in a better place at the time considering the magnitude of it.  We were sitting on an airplane on the runway in Tokyo getting ready to take off for Sapporo when the plane starting violently shaking.  Long story short we were fine but as you can imagine it changed the rest of our travel plans a bit.

Leading up to it though we had a wonderful few days in Hakuba, skiing our brains out in the backcountry and eating the most delicious food during the day and night.  A favorite of ours in the area is Denenshi.  We had one of the best meals of our lives the year prior and made the effort to go back this year.

The restaurant is run by a husband and wife duo out of their charming French inspired home.  There are two set menus to choose from; Japanese and French.  We always choose the Japanese as we should when in Japan.  If you’re ever in Hakuba this place is a must.  You’ll be so thankful you discovered it.

Baked mushroom marinade

Cold pasta with sliced bream

Curried flavored crab and vegetable gratin

Deep friend yellowtail with brown rice sauce

Roast beef with miso sauce

Green tea ice cream

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