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Top 7 hidden gems for eating out in Hakuba, Japan

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. If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

Nadine Robb

Nadine Robb is Owner and Instructor at Hakuba Ski Concierge. Hakuba Ski Concierge is a boutique ski school specialising in private ski lessons, snowboard lessons and resort guiding services. The first of it`s kind in Hakuba, Japan – guests have the freedom to manage their time how they see fit, and have a choice of ski resorts, onsens and local lunch spots to ensure that they get the very most out of Hakuba. Originally from the UK, Nadine has been in Japan for 10 years now, with time spent in Austria and Canada previously. Author to the children`s book `Joey`s First Ski Lesson`, Nadine is also a professional Ski and Snowboard Instructor, Wilderness First Responder and Swift Water Rescue Technician and mother of two.

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  1. Lots of excellent choices. It always helps to get recommendations when you’re new to an area because restaurants can vary so much in terms of quality and price and it can be quite a shock if you go somewhere nowhere near what you’d hoped for or anticipated! Good to see some nice diversity in terms of dishes and budgets. I love a bit of quality Japanese food and I quite like the idea of French influences, though I’m probably not all that adventurous in trying too much newness. That said, I’d probably risk it for trying out Hakuba Hifumi – that’s such a sweet way to present food in those baskets, I love it!

    1. Thank you for your comment Vanessa – it is much appreciated! It was hard to zone in on just a handful, but as you say, I think it is important to have variation in budgets and styles!

  2. I’m beginning to get into Japanese food but am far from an expert. You write that “Hakuba Hifumi takes the prize for best Kaisekki in town”. Sorry, I might have missed something but what is Kaisekki? And why is Hakuba Hifumi the best in town?

    1. Hi Karen,

      Kaiseki is a multi-dish dinner that showcases impressive execution in culinary skills, menu creativity, excellent presentation and a variety of tastes and textures. Using traditional Japanese ingredients and flavours, but elevated to a fine dining experience. It could be compared to our westernised word of `degustation`. A real experience in itself, and entirely authentic.

      I am not sure why it is that Hakuba Hifumi does this so well; it could be because they are a Japanese run hotel, so the authenticity is throughout. It may be also because they maintain their local team year round, which allows them to be consistent in their quality and delivery.

  3. Interesting to find a Japanese-French fusion in Japan. When I visit, I normally just dine where the locals are. You know those typical (and literal) hole in the wall kind of restaurants where only a few people can sit? I love those. But then it also makes sense to try some of the Japanese dishes done masterfully in the skillful hands of the Itamae.

  4. Ah yes – those are the best places! It can be hard to find those and know which are the stand outs, as these would often be the places that are not widely broadcast on the internet or in English! Asking accommodation owners and other locals is often the most reliable way to find the truly authentic gems!

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