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Release | Yulia Ezhikova

The Alpinist: contemporary alpine dining in the heart of Niseko

Probably one of the most soulful dining experiences out there, Alpine cuisine is an interesting phenomena in culinary world. It is as much about food, as it is about the context and atmosphere. Take snowed in winter landscapes, cozy alpine chalet interiors, the heat of a fireplace and the sound of crackling wood away from it and the magic is gone. That’s why alpine restaurants are hard to come by outside of winter mountain areas. It’s simply impossible to transport the atmosphere of a ski resort to a megapolis or deliver the same experience in a tropical climate.
 
With opportunities to indulge in this hearty cuisine being so limited, many guests see alpine dining as an essential part of a perfect ski vacation. Niseko may not seem like an obvious choice for this experience, but only till you learn of its history. From Kutchan town being nominated as a sister city of the legendary Swiss resort St. Moritz in 1969 to the architecture of older log houses and chalets in Niseko area, this place has always looked up to the Alps for inspiration not just in skiing, but also in the way of living. Add a vibrant local community of French chefs and food affectionados and it was only a matter of time till alpine cuisine made its entrance to the resort with opening of The Alpinist in 2016.

Odin place

The Alpinist in the heart of Grand Hirafu Resort

Located on the second floor of Odin Place building in the heart of Grand Hirafu Resort, The Alpinist is one of the most sought after restaurants in the village. Its interior is designed by the same world wide famous architecture collective, as the Odin building itself and is both cozy and sleek at the same time. With natural wood used generously in restaurant’s decor, floor to ceiling windows overlooking a snowy mountain range and a designer fireplace, The Alpinist delivers a contemporary take on a traditional alpine chalet vibe, creating atmosphere that feels both relaxed and elegant at the same time.
 
If there is one core ingredient that defines alpine cuisine, it’s definitely melted cheese in its varieties, so it only makes sense that fondue and raclette courses are front and center on restaurant’s menu. Being quite similar in idea, these two dishes provide a different take on cheese melting from the way it is performed to accompanying dishes and even the type of cheese used.

The Alpinist's cheese fondue

Fondue is a dipping dish that calls for sharing and the minimum order is for two people, so make sure to bring a partner in crime. It is served in a cast iron pot that comes with a mini stove to keep the temperature high enough for cheese and white wine mix to remain gooey and is accompanied with French croutons for dipping. Apremont wine that is used in this recipe comes from Savoir region in France and thanks to its freshness and acidity, balances the richness of fondue flavor perfectly. An assortment of boiled local vegetables is available as an alternative to bread in case you prefer to keep it gluten free.

Cheese from Raclette course

Cheese from Raclette course

Raclette course involves a wheel of cheese being heated in front of you till it bubbles, then scraped  quickly over a plate of boiled potatoes in skins accompanied by cured meats and salad leaves, as well as obligatory serving of cornichons for extra acidity kick to cut through the richness of the cheese. The Alpinist serves authentic Raclette cheese imported from Switzerland, which is quite a rare find in Japan. 
 
Make sure to accompany both courses with an appropriate bottle of white wine, although the wine list at The Alpinist calls for all sorts of experiments and is one of the best in the village.

The Alpinist's French galletes

If melted cheese dishes are not up your alley, The Alpinist has you covered with a great selection of savory French galettes made of locally grown buckwheat and traditional crepes accompanied by various gourmet toppings. My personal favorites include braised duck egg galette with spiced apple and cider sauce and salted butter caramel crepe for dessert. For an extra indulgent dinner finale try a chocolate version of fondue served with brioche, marshmallows and fresh fruits for dipping.
 
  • The Alpinist: contemporary alpine dining in the heart of Niseko
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