In January 2020, Hokkaido’s most popular ski resort Niseko added another luxurious hotel residence. This time the biggest yet, the global chain Park Hyatt. Connected to Niseko Hanazono Ski Resort, Park Hyatt Niseko Hanazono is a ski-in ski-out accommodation that opens the gate to those who seek the northern island’s famous powder snow.
What waits after the full power day out? Park Hyatt provides weary and hungry hotel guests as well as the general public with a wide selection of 11 restaurants, lounge and bars. These range from a variety of cuisines including Japanese, Italian and Chinese food.
The team at Honest Food Talks had the privilege to try out Park Hyatt’s Italian restaurant Olivio during the busy ski season. The restaurant is on the first floor of the Residences building along with other dining places. The casual restaurant has a family-friendly environment that welcomes everyone to enjoy its specialty of Northern Italian classics.
Olivio focuses on sourcing fresh ingredients and herbs locally. But if it’s not available locally, the restaurant will look to its preferred alternative, Italy. One good example is the Parmesan cheese used in the main course Saffron Risotto. More on this later, but let’s delve into some of the dishes we tried from start to finish.
There’s nothing better than the Italian culture serving food as soon as a diner is seated. In Olivio, they serve house-made bread and assorted black and green olives. These home pickled olives were juicy, and far less bitter than the olives commonly found in Japanese supermarkets. These were somewhat sweeter.
Another complementary starter was the Focaccia bread. It was a generous serving but there was nothing fancy about the bread. I wished it came warm, especially since we arrived on a typical winter day of around -10 Degree Celsius. Having said so, I suggest anyone to give it a go just because of the sun-dried tomatoes inside it. The moisture from the tomatoes balances out with the texture of the dry bread. It has a good harmony of sweet and sour taste. It is interesting to know that the tomatoes are also sourced from within Japan, and not from Italy. Breaking the common practice! Olivio sources Japanese tomatoes as these are sweeter and have more water content, which is harder to retain its flavour and moisture when sun-dried.
Olivio’s Assorted Appetizers
This is a classic Italian appetizer that includes a selection of Italian Hams, Olives, grissini, fried calamari, a seafood salad and caprese. A large plate with a mix of flavours that would pair well with wine and is good for sharing in a group. The starter comes with a side of mustard mayo and tabasco for those who would like to add a kick of spice to the assorted appetiser. Personally, the best way to try a new dish is to taste the natural flavour of the ingredients and how they complement each other, without the additional condiments.
What’s not to love about Caprese, Burrata, Fruit Tomatoes and Basil?
This dish is for all the cheese lovers. It is by far the simplest yet gorgeous appetizer I have ever had with no exaggeration. The plate comes with a helping of rocket leaves, tomatoes and a large fist-size of Burrata cheese. The cheese is from Italian Fattoria Bio Hokkaido and is made by renowned cheesemaker Giovanni Graziano. He came to Hokkaido from south Italy to make a cheese on his own using Japan’s finest quality milk, Hokkaido milk. The best word to describe this cheese is milky, a masterpiece in texture that will not be achieved otherwise if it wasn’t using Hokkaido milk. This is because Hokkaido milk generally has a higher fat content.
If you are an Instagram foodie, be prepared to your phone out to take a video or Instagram story when you slice the burrata open with a sharp knife. The round ball of cheese bursts and spreads out on a big plate in seconds. Scraping those silky cheese in an almost liquid form with tomato was heavenly. Needless to say that we cleaned our plates as if it came out from a dishwasher!
Spaghetti, Hokkaido Beef Ragu, Parmesan Cheese
The Hokkaido Beef Ragu Spaghetti is one of the most popular dishes in Olivio and is highly recommended by the staff at Niseko Park Hyatt Hanazono. However, this dish was my least favourite. I am no expert in Beef Ragu or what the standard is in Italy, but I felt meat pieces could’ve been diced into rougher pieces. I felt that the dish didn’t bring out the tenderness of the Hokkaido beef used. I don’t recall ever trying Hokkaido beef this dry.
The spaghetti is made by the in-house chefs. The texture was amazingly chewy, one twirl with a fork and you get an enjoyable bite that’s more than a usual mouthful.
The seasoning of the spaghetti is simple. When I first heard Beef Ragu, I imaged the sauce to be thick and heavy, but what came had less of a flavourful punch that I was expecting. When I think back to my trips to Italy and the food there, perhaps this spaghetti dish was made to recreate that authentic Italian taste. On another note, I find Italian restaurants in Japan have heavier seasoning and stronger flavours, in general, to accommodate for the Japanese palate. I needed the extra seasoning for this, so I requested some chili oil (see Chilli oil section below).
Parmesan Wheel Saffron Risotto
This risotto was more than just a regular main, as it came with a performance. While our risotto was still being prepared and we were keeping ourselves busy with other food, a chef pushed a trolley with a large half-wheel Parmesan cheese to our table. Swiftly, the show began. The chef poured the hot risotto mix that’s been prepared in the kitchen into the Parmesan cheese wheel for the final touch, which is to evenly coat each grain in cheese with a large wooden spatula. By mixing in the wheel of parmesan cheese, the risotto became creamier and trapped the cheesy aroma. The risotto was served in a medium-size plate with a pinch of saffron on top.
The risotto shined bright with an appealing golden colour and tasted delicious. The Parmesan cheese used in this dish was imported from Italy. The cheese itself has been kept in storage for 24 months to age.
Well mixed with the Cheese, the rice fully absorbs the cheese and had an overall balanced creaminess. Parmesan cheese in this dish has a strong fragrance and taste so it might not be the first choice for many young children, but it’s perfect for those who love this type of cheese. The risotto had a simple seasoning to it so that diners can enjoy the full taste of the cheese or have it with other dishes.
Parma Ham, Mushroom, Mozzarella Pizza
With love from the chef, we received a heart-shaped pizza! This was an oven-baked pizza which usually comes in a round shape, not a heart. This was a simple authentic Italian pizza, coming with the exact toppings stated on the menu. These are mozzarella cheese, parma ham, and mushroom. It comes straight out from the oven and served on the table warm and crispy. Shimeji mushroom and cheese gave an interesting combination of flavour and texture. It is a simple pizza that lets you focus on each topping and the dough itself. Parma ham had a silky texture with slight moisture on the surface as it had been freshly cut and prepared after the order was received.
Usually pizza restaurant has chili oil as an additional condiment. It has a distinguished flavour different from other hot sauce like tobacco. While most of these tastes similar universally, surprisingly it was different at Olivio restaurant. Their chili oil was not spicy at all! I asked one of the crews to get it for me for my pizza for an extra kick. I bit into the pizza, held it for a while as it waited for the flame to come. But there was nothing. I put more chili oil just in case I hadn’t put enough the first time around but still there was no spiciness at all. I left the slice of pizza drenched with olive oil on the plate instead.
Hidden Menu Item at Olivio, Tiramisu
Does anyone have a thing where you always order a dish every time you visit a certain type of restaurant? For me, that’s Tiramisu whenever I visit an Italian restaurant. When I saw there was no Tiramisu on the dessert menu in Olivio, I went to inquire about the staff with high hopes. Expecting ‘sorry, we don’t serve Tiramisu’ as the reply, turns out they said they can get it for me. It is an item on their hidden menu, and I assume it’s not always available either. Olivio serves tiramisu only when they have been asked.
The taste was overall sweeter than what I’m used to. I assume this is catered more for a young child. There were rocky chocolate biscuits on the top which reminded me of a cocoa crunch cereal I used to have for breakfast before I went to kinder garden. I love a tiramisu that has a bit of both bitter and sweet. However, the Tiramisu here was just overly sweet. The spongy layer with cream was pure sugar, which was far from my preferences of it being soaked with rum or cognac. I could hardly taste anything bitter on the sponge layer. The lowest layer had crushed chocolate fingers which tasted again very sweet.
Visitors should take note that the bill comes with a 10% service fee and a 10% consumption tax. All things on the menu are high in price, having considered it is still a casual family dining set and the amount of volume on every dish served was small.
But it is within a price range of the international ski resort and some of the ingredients must have cost a lot like the variety of cheese imported from Italy. The prime location of this restaurant provides a magnificent view of ski hill comes another factor. And let us not forget it is in a renowned hotel.
Park Hyatt Niseko Hanazono
328-47 Aza Iwaobetsu, Kutchan-cho, Abuta-gun, Hokkaido, Japan, 044-0082
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Japanese born, Singapore bred foodie with a passion for all things food and urban planning. Having studied in the UK for extensive years, Shuya Araya is bi-lingual in English and Japanese. With previous experience in marketing, hospitality and city planning, Shuya now works full time in development and design but still enjoys finding a good spot to eat and drink at on the weekends.