Sapporo Beer Garden and Genghis Khan Lamb Grill—For Old Times Sake
Sapporo Beer Garden, its slogan “The Beer that Made Sapporo Famous”
Genghis Khan Grilled Lamb, or Jinghis Khan Barbecued Lamb is the speciality of Hokkaido. Whatever you call it, it’s delicious.
On our first evening of our recent visit to Sapporo we went with our hosts, Satoshi and Max, to the Sapporo Beer Garden, one of the most well-known eating places in the city, and recommended by all the guidebooks and the CVB brochures. It’s also called Sapporo Bier Garten, as it is modeled on the German concept of a beer hall and the beer is based on German-style brewing techniques. We’d been there a number of times on our last visits, so this was a great place to eat and reminisce about the wonderful former dinners. We’d had fondue before (hot oil or broth), and Chinese Hot Pot (hot broth in a pot, either individual or shared), and food cooked on a hot stone. But never quite like this until we came to Hokkaido six years ago—meat on a grill surface but not touching an open flame or any liquid.
We went by taxi, as many people do, but there is also a direct bus from the Sapporo Station. Sapporo Beer Garden is a huge, very popular, place, in a traditional red brick building next to the Beer Museum. It was built in 1890 as a sugar factory, and then was used as a malting plant until 1963. From 1966 it became the Sapporo Beer Garden. So, this year is a special year, as they are celebrating 50 years in business.
The beer hall-restaurant in Kessel Hall is on a number of levels around an open atrium, with many tables. The speciality is Genghis Khan lamb, and each table is especially equipped with a couple of black gas grills, in a special domed shape/design. There are also other eating halls and an outdoor beer garden in the warm season.
Modeled on a German beer-drinking hall, the main floor of Kessel Hall has tables and a large copper kettle dating from 1912 in the corner. There are also tables upstairs, overlooking the main hall.
Beer of 3 types (light, dark, and medium) comes in small (500ml), medium (830ml) and large (1L) glass steins—pretty good, very cold. It’s fresh draft beer, straight out of the factory. The hall has a very convivial atmosphere and it seems that most people choose the speciality, the Genghis Khan lamb. Depending on size, each table is equipped with a number of the specially designed gas grills (our table for 6 had 2 grills). The grill is ridged domed, with an outer lip along the bottom, and the handles and outer edges have a shape that Satoshi tells me look like the shape of Hokkaido.
Here’s how you do it:
When we arrived we put on our bibs, a large plastic white one with the blue symbols of the Beer Garden: 2 lions round a star. The servers also brought large plastic bags for handbags, scarves etc, so they don’t take up the lamb cooking smell. There are two types of lamb, both thinly sliced: fresh strips, or the frozen ones, which are all circular as the meat was frozen in a cylinder shape. Many people think that the round slices look much more attractive. The slices of the two meats came on separate platters, plus a platter of raw vegetables—pumpkin slices, very coarsely shredded cabbage, onion strips, mushrooms, and huge bean sprouts.
One of the servers turned on the grills and our hosts rubbed the top point of the dome with a piece of lamb fat till it dripped down and the grill was coated. Using wooden chopsticks or metal tongs they put vegetables round the bottom edge, then slices of meat, turning and manipulating frequently. Each person got a small serving plate and a dipping bowl, which the waitress filled with dipping sauce from a metal jug on the table.
It gets very hot and steamy round the grill, with wonderful lamb aromas. Very tasty and perfect for a group. It’s quite noisy, but that’s part of the atmosphere.
The menu has pictures and English sub-titles, but the wait staff don’t speak much English, so we were very happy to have guidance.
Address: Kita (N) 7, Higashi (E) 9.
Open 11:30am-10pm (last order 9:30pm), 7 days a week.
Note: they really do close at 10pm, as they warn the patrons promptly at 9:55pm, and begin playing a version of “Aulde Lang Syne”!
www.sapporo-bier-garten.jp (click on English on the top menu bar, towards the right)