Salt Moderate, Sapporo

Is Salt Moderate a beer bar? No, but they have an excellent beer menu. Is it a restaurant? It is, but this place is special to me, so it feels like more than that. Salt Moderate restaurant is the beginning of a new list here on the ICHIBAN NO MACHI blog of exceptional experiences here in Sapporo…the best city in the world.

Salt Moderate is located on the south side of Tanukikouji (in the street between Tanukikouji 1 and 2), a short walk from Odori station and an even shorter walk from Susukino. It has a bit of a Susukino vibe (and a late crowd), but it is in a somewhat quiet part of the district, away from the noise and anything “dodgy” seeming. It’s a cool place, and a nice place.

Is Salt Moderate “Hawaiian?” Sure, I guess so? I don’t know if “Hawaiian” sounded that good to me. And maybe because of that, and their other emphasis on oysters (which are not really my thing), I walked past Salt Moderate too many times before I ever came in…

And Salt Moderate has much more offer than what you can see from the street. Hawaiian influence? Yes. Big, beautiful oysters on platters surrounds by ice? Yes. But they have so much more than that, that you should walk in, take a seat and check out the full experience.

One day, I did walk in. They gave me a seat at the counter (I am here right now, as I write this – and ahh, how many times have I sat here since? Maybe 50 times? Maybe more? I love it here.) And that first night was the beginning of an almost romantic relationship with this spot.

Salt Moderate has great beer, exceptional food, and… it is open late. They serve food until at least 11 PM. And there is often a decent crowd at that time of night. During earlier hours, they are often full – and I have been turned away many times when there was no room for me. That usually makes me mad, but I love this place too much to stay mad for long. If you want to make sure you get a seat (or a couple of prime seats, side by side at the counter over looking the kitchen, which I recommend), you’d be smart to call ahead and make a reservation.

For my part, I am likely to stop in after a long day. Everytime they usher me over to a seat at the bar, I feel “blessed,” almost “lucky” to be back here once again. They know me here, so (if I’m alone), they’ll confirm I want my usual beer (which is the tall pour of the Kona Hanalei Island IPA) and a glass of water, no ice.

(I don’t always know the staff, but I know many of them. And I have been here before when someone new brings my water “with ice.” And this server that has been here a while will notice. And before I can even flinch, she will come over and replace it with a new glass that is “ice free.” And that may seem like nothing (particularly if you like your water cold), but to me… that is excellent service. I notice that kind of attention to detail. And it makes me love this place. I have many such stories from Salt Moderate.)

For food, like I said, they love their oysters (which don’t interest me). And they have a long list of “specials,” written in Japanese (which I can’t read, but I order from when I am with local friends). But usually – I have some steak and sweet potato fries, served with a side of mustard (Dijon?), a slice of lemon, and a small pile of pink sea salt to dip the steak in and… fantastic. Every time.

When I am feeling like & want something different, I love their seafood salad – topped with several cuts of raw sushi-grade fish (and some smoked muscles?!?), which is truly one of the best salads I have ever had, anywhere.

For more “drinking food” they have several varieties of specialty French fries (topped with chili, or sausage with mustard, etc). Their BBQ’d chicken is smoky and salty and remarkably good too. And they even have some properly Hawaiian “Spam” and rice onagiri-like combinations that mix sweet and savory in a perfect way – fried “mystery pork,” fresh avocado, and a sweet sauce, amazing.

I happened to have this picture I took a long time ago of one of the spam delicacies.

It wasn’t our intention when we first wrote this review, but as we started to think about the best places to have a beer in Sapporo, once again, Salt Moderate came to mind. They do have an extensive list of beers, including many imports. And the environment is exceptional.

The food here rocks. I am at the bar right now, I just finished eating, and listing out my favorites like this makes me hungry again.

Beyond the food and the beer (and their “osake” menu goes way beyond beer, including a long list of lemonade drinks), the vibe at Salt Moderate. The crowd is usually a little bit “cooler” than most places. Usually couples on dates (it is a killer date spot), or groups of two to four friend drinking and eating and enjoying each other. Almost entirely Japanese people, but I have seen a couple of hakujin in there from time to time.

The music is in English, and is sort of jazzy and sits well “in the background.” I must have heard each song 100+ times, but they always land nice. And, and…

Did I mention they always have a surfing movie playing above the bar? As I said in my Route Nine Sapporo review, I don’t think bars and restaurants should have TVs; TVs distract you from one another. But at Salt Moderate they keep the sound off, and there are no commercials (these are surf DVDs), and having waves and tropical settings in the background… I am from California, I am a surfer, but you don’t have to be “gnarly” to enjoy how the surfing adds to the mood.

This blog is about really good places, not “cheap” places. We feature some good bargains, but most of the places we feature require at least a little bit of a budget. This place, however, requires a little bit more. For context: a typical two-beer night here, with (really great food) food might cost me Y5000 (that includes the table change). And a date, with a couple of drinks each, could be Y10000. That isn’t shocking (and I will tell you it’s worth every penny), but some readers might keep that in mind and bring some cash (or your credit card) when you come in.

I could also add that Salt Moderate allows cigarettes. And while the open flame grill where they cook the steaks and the chicken creates it’s own smoke, the cigarettes smoke can get a little bit thick in here sometimes. Do I like cigarettes? No, I do not. But I accept everything here as part of a magical combination that I am not (quite) arrogant enough to think I could improve.

Salt Moderate is perfect… just the way it is.

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