The Sweet Life
Niseko’s specialty desserts reflect the communities and cultures that are brought together by the deep powdered snow.
Diversity married with raw creativity, intercontinental culinary techniques and fresh local produce makes Niseko’s dessert scene one to pay attention to.
Known as a winter paradise, chefs and restaurateurs are reimagining the beautiful winter scenery, fun atmosphere and welcoming nature by creating lasting sweet memories of Niseko through heavenly indulgent desserts.
Shinichi Maeda, An Dining
Fittingly named, An Dining’s signature dessert, Snowball, plays with the senses and invites diners on a gastronomical journey.
Visually striking, a fluffy white dome rests gently on its plate as it is first presented at the table. Made from layers of plum wine infused with marshmallow and garnished with a generous amount of white chocolate shavings; the pure white pillow is almost too pretty to eat.
After marvelling at the perfectly shaped dessert, take an effortless spoon full into the semi sphere to reveal a centre of Hokkaido rare cream cheese. The cloud like marshmallow exterior and soft mousse melts within seconds on the diner’s palate and disappears just like snow.
This is exactly the impression and texture Shinichi Maeda, Head Chef and Owner of An Dining hopes to achieve with his signature dessert.
“The dessert has to be the lightest and the shortest lasting dish on the course menu. Made to order, sent to the table, explained quickly and eaten straight away,” Maeda says of his innovative dish.
“Just like Hokkaido’s seasons, everything is short. Beautiful but very short. The whole concept is simply that. Like powdered snow which isn’t heavy, it has to melt fast and not stay for long,” he explains.
Conveying this idea of short seasons in Hokkaido and mimicking the texture of snow, Maeda took over a year to perfect the look and taste of his dessert to match his image of the winter scenery in Niseko. He drew a lot of his inspiration for the dessert from his visit to Niseko in 2010.
Returning to Hokkaido after a decade and seeing Niseko’s powdered snow left a strong impression on Maeda. This urged him to strive towards creating dishes that leave diners with a reflective impression of the area, eventually leading him to open An Dining in 2014.
Leaving diners scraping plates for more, Snowball attracts guests from all over to visit the restaurant. “Pretty much every night someone comes here just for dessert. They’ve either had it here before or they’ve heard about it,” Maeda says.
“Ordering [dessert] in a restaurant, there is normally a lot of condiments and more detail. But when they see [Snowball] it’s so simple, it’s just a ball, just like snow. Before you even taste it, you already expect it to be light and fluffy as it jiggles slightly.”
Maeda hopes to create an even more refined flavour that is only found in Niseko. “I want people to travel to eat this and make it so unique that no one can mimic it from anywhere else in the world,” he says.
Kiyoshi Burgess, Kumo Restaurant
Kumo Restaurant’s S’mores, brings a fun, modern Japanese spin on the American classic campfire treat.
Coming in both matcha (green tea) and yuzu (Japanese citrus fruit) flavours, diners can enjoy roasting the s’mores over a small charcoal grill at the table. Pair it with one (or two) slices of chocolate and rice crackers or eat it straight from the skewer.
The seemingly effortless sweet dessert takes delicate handling of local ingredients and several hours of preparation before arriving on the table. Made every morning before the sun rises above Mt Yotei, the marshmallow mixture is whipped until perfect stiff peaks are formed whilst slowly adding matcha powder and yuzu extract for a light citrus punch and aromatic matcha sweetness.
Making his debut in Niseko as Head Chef at Kumo Restaurant, Kiyoshi Burgess’ eclectic culinary experience and multi-cultured background as Japanese-Australian has played a defining role in shaping the menu at the Hokkaido izakaya and creating this signature dessert.
Acquiring over 13 years of experience at Zuma, Shunju and Bone Daddies Group in London, Burgess believes dishes should be delicious without being over complicated. "My approach to cooking is to keep everything simple and work off traditional recipes but always adding a bit of a modern twist to it, " he says.
Coming to Niseko, Burgess was pleasantly surprised by the international feel that Niseko has. This served as an inspiration to create carefree, unexpected combinations of traditional Japanese and western dishes.
Visualising the fun and easygoing vibes between skiers in Niseko's winter playground, Burgess’ take on the traditional campfire treat adds in mellow matcha and tangy yuzu while replacing traditional graham crackers with milk senbei, a type of dagashi, which are quick and easy snacks typically eaten by kids growing up in Japanese households.
The dessert brings both domestic and international guests back to the simple childhood memories much alike exploring Niseko’s varied snow slopes.
Burgess’ S’mores further embodies the spirit of adventure and playfulness in Niseko’s powdered snow through introducing an interactive element to the dinner table.
“I want something that the guests can make at the table so they can feel like a part of the whole dish,” Burgess says.
At the casual, affordable Kumo Restaurant, guests are encouraged to play with their food, get their fingers messy with the sticky, melted marshmallow and take satisfying bites into the sweet and scrumptious s’mores sandwiched between two crisp rice crackers.
“Making [guest’s] dining experience more interactive, makes it more memorable for them. Quick or long chats over s’mores recapping the fun day out on the snow. We want a connection between Kumo Restaurant, our guests and the overall experience in Niseko. Memories that make people want to come back,” Burgess explains.
Burgess hopes that his dessert will “add a bit of fire, and a bit of fun” to guests’ day. The Head Chef’s hot tip on cooking the perfect s’mores is to make sure they’re crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Gather around the fire at Kumo Restaurant with friends and have a chat for the perfect end to a day out on the slopes.
Okada Shingo, L’ocanda
Run by a local Japanese family, the Italian restaurant’s popular dessert, Louvre Chocolat conveys a heartwarming message to newcomers in Niseko.
At first glance, diners are presented with an interestingly built dessert. A chocolate box made from Belgium chocolate and shards of almond protects a light chocolate sponge cake and the crumbly bottom layer made from cornflakes, almond and caramel. Above this is a swirl of caramel cream and passionfruit sauce with a thin piece of chocolate laying slanted on top.
Pastry chef Shingo Okada reveals his creation is designed to resemble a house. Lovingly named by the patissier’s wife, Louvre Chocolat is meant to loosely translate to “Chocolate House” in French and symbolise the welcoming nature of the family restaurant.
“Just like a house, the cake is made part by part, each layer is put into the fridge to set. The entire cake takes roughly three to four days to make,” Okada says.
Treasuring family values, Okada returned to his hometown to open L’ocanda with his older brother and parents after working at famous patisseries in Tokyo and Nagoya for over 10 years. Taking up the role as patissier, other family members take care of the dining service and front of house.
Okada’s decadent dessert aims to welcome guests with a substantially rich treat to indulge and warm-up indoors on a chilly winter day.
“Texture is really important for me when making Louvre Chocolat. I want to give everyone something rich and fulfilling to eat after being outside in the snow,” Okada says.
As Okada further explains his dish, he draws out a rough sketch of his cake. “When you eat the cake as a whole, there is a lot of different textures. Soft chocolate, light cornflakes, crushed almonds with melted caramel paste, an airy sponge cake, thick caramel mousse and passionfruit sauce. Multiple layers of textures create an interesting texture in your mouth,” Okada illustrates.
Digging in, the soft Belgium chocolate sponge cake strikes the perfect balance with the crunchy chocolate walls and almond bites. Meanwhile, the remarkably creamy caramel mousse topped with a spoon of passionfruit sauce brings a subtle acidity which furls joy to the mouth.
Originally made as a Christmas cake last winter to share between families during the festive period, Okada introduced Louvre Chocolat as a mini version so wandering solo travellers can also feel the festivity.
This article was originally published in the Experience Niseko 2018/19 Winter Magazine.