After my whirlwind 24 hour stay at Sapporo, I headed off to Niseko for 5 days of snowboarding. Thanks to the world of social media, I discovered a mate of mine was also there and he recommended that I check out this duck soba restaurant which was apparently so good he went multiple times during his trip.
Rakuichi Soba is located at the village base of Niseko Annupuri, which is one of the four ski areas that collectively form Niseko United. I was staying at Grand Hirafu which is two ski fields away, so it took me about an hour to get to the Annupuri village base by snowboard. From there I made the mistake of walking to the restaurant. It takes about 20 minutes to walk there, and it would’ve been a pretty nice downhill walk had it not been snowing the whole time, along with the fact that I was wearing my snowboard boots.
When you do eventually reach Rakuichi Soba, it looks like a hut set amongst the most picturesque backdrop of snow and trees. The restaurant is really small, seating only 12 guests at a time, and when we arrived at 12pm there was already a waiting room full of people (the waiting room fits around 10 people, equivalent to another full house). There’s only 4 staff on deck, so turnover is slow, but after about 45 minutes of waiting we were finally seated.
The lunch menu is limited to only a few options, but apparently their dinner menu features a full degustation (you’ll need to book well in advance though). There’s more waiting to be done after ordering as everything is made fresh and to order, to the point where we even see them start prepping dishes all over again. I got to see the owner preparing fresh batches of soba noodles from scratch multiple times which kept me entertained while I sipped on some hot tea.
Assorted Tempura – ¥756
Eventually my entree came out, which was the assorted tempura served with green tea salt. These are perfect – light and crispy with fluffy batter. I quite enjoyed the green tea salt as well which added a salty and bitter taste to the tempura, quite different from the usual soy dipping sauce I’m accustomed to.
Duck Soba (Cold) – ¥1,620
Next up is their duck soba which they’re famous for. I opted for the cold option, which is served with hot duck broth, onion tempura and a grated radish dip. The hot duck broth is amazing! It contains slices of medium rare duck floating through which are succulent and juicy, and the soba noodles are very refreshing when dipped into the slightly salty broth before eaten. The duck broth is also served in a small teapot, so if you run out of broth in your bowl you can always refill it from the pot. Aside from the noodles, the tempura onions were also so crispy and juicy thanks to the onion texture, and I quite like dipping it in the broth and eating it with the noodles. Every component of this dish was amazing and the saddest part was knowing that I would be finishing it in no time.
After finishing our meal, we noticed that there wasn’t much of a queue anymore. That is because they stuck a sign outside saying that they had sold out for the day, and also an additional sign that I missed before which says “ADULTS ONLY” (sorry, it’s not a kid friendly restaurant).
The verdict on Rakuichi Soba is that they are finger licking fantastic, and if you’re ever in the area you have to go get the duck soba noodles. They open at 11:30am for lunch, so try and get there early if possible. Commuting there can be a bit tricky as walking in the snow is quite exhausting, but on the other hand there is a very limited availability of taxis in the area. But if you’ve travelled all the way to Niseko, what’s a bit more travel and a wait going to be? Trust me, it’s worth it.
431-2 Niseko, Abuta District, Hokkaido Prefecture, Japan
Ph: +81 136-58-3170
Opening Hours: lunch and dinner daily, closed Thursdays, reservations only for dinner