UPDATE (Aug 2014) – Picchu has moved! You can now find it just a block from the Susukino metro station (Exit 2 or 4). Check the website for an updated map.
Sapporo is known for its beer, cheese and crab, and don’t get me wrong, I ate my fair share on our trip to Hokkaido. But I was also looking for something a little more unique and memorable. So before we left for Hokkaido, I did my research – of course – and discovered a consensus among foodies who’d been to Sapporo … the restaurant Picchu was not to be missed.
At first glance, this is not an obvious temple to gastronomy. Rather, it looks like a trailer set down on the edge of Sapporo’s fish market, with only the simplest of signs marking its presence. Inside the scene is just as sparse – a counter with 12 seats and one chef and his assistant.
Don’t be fooled … I had some of the most memorable food here that I’ve ever eaten in my life. There WAS a menu, written in Japanese on a blackboard, and I could have read most of it but I was both lazy and hungry, so I chose to order the omakase, or chef’s tasting menu. It was supposed to be seven dishes of his choice, though I made the mistake of telling him I wasn’t super hungry and, through my own fault, only wound up with six. But at least three of the six were dishes I would sell a body part for if I could eat them again. The menu was as follows:
1. A starter of tart tomato gazpacho with grappa infused shaved ice topped with cracked black pepper. Oh my god – my taste buds were going haywire. It’s sweet, it’s tart, it’s spicy, it’s COLD, and all over again with the next bite. I was in heaven.
2. Two plump oysters topped with celery greens in a citrus sauce. I don’t care for oysters much, but these were so perfectly soft and chewy at the same time and the celery greens provided a bit of bite for contrast. Very very good.
3. Crab stuffed sausage. Very good, very crabby, very filling, but not stunning. He’d set the bar too high with that gazpacho.
4. Homemade piti(?) pasta with light cheese and spinach sauce and fresh Hokkaido wasabi grated on top. I don’t like wasabi too much but this dish would have been lost without it. Pasta tasted obviously homemade and the cheese sauce was light but flavorful. Did I mention the wasabi was good? Reputation redeemed. (If I misidentified the pasta, it’s because I have not an ounce of Italian blood in me. Just lots of Italian wine.)
5. Sea urchin (uni) carbonara pasta with bacon and, again, homemade fettucine noodles. Good. Very filling. Not too strong of an uni taste, which was ok by me. By this point, I am getting full but desperate to eat all seven courses.
6. Grilled Hokkaido scallop over rice and edamame pancake. I. Love. Scallops. I’ve even had REALLY good scallops in Japan. But this one took the cake. Salt, pepper and a grill, That was all he did. The pancakes were good but superfluous. By this point I was stuffed and he sensed it. We called it a meal at six dishes.
The chef barely spoke for the entire meal, although I was the only customer for 5 of my 6 dishes. The assistant and I chatted a bit but not too much. I didn’t mind. I was there for the food and will return for the food. Sapporo may be a culinary backwater when it comes to “haute cuisine” but Picchu will definitely put it on the map.
(In case you’re curious, my six-dish meal cost me $36, $45 with the glass of wine added. It doesn’t get much better than that.)
Picchu’s website is here, but you’ll have to use google translate if you want to read it in English. Reservations are a must.