We had to drive for some 300 kilometres from Akan to Sapporo which would mean more than five hours of driving. Fortunately, the city of Obihiro lies somewhere in between the two locations, providing us with a delicious mid-day jaunt.
While I hadn’t read much about Obihiro beforehand, I knew that one could not possibly go hungry here with all that it has to offer on the culinary front. It’s worth noting that the information counter at the Obihiro railway station carried an assortment of colourful pamphlets with photos of the local specialties in the Tokachi area. We picked up a mind-boggling illustrated map depicting the neighbourhood around the station where one street after another seemed to have at least one notable eatery or confectionary shop!
As we were famished, we zoomed in on a nearby restaurant selling butadon 豚丼 (grilled pork served over a bowl of rice). When we found Pancho 元祖, which is right across the road from the train station, lunch time was in full swing with a patient line of customers outside. After some 20 minutes of anxious fidgeting, we were ushered inside.
Ordering at Pancho is a breeze – never mind if you don’t speak Japanese – as there’s essentially one item on the menu: butadon! You just need to select the size of your order which starts from 松 (the smallest serving with four slices of pork)，竹， 梅，to 华 (the largest portion and it overflows with pork). In the butadon, the grilled pork slices glazed with a sweet and salty sauce take centrestage with a token sprinkle of green peas and accompanied with white rice.
Bowls of butadon soon arrived at our table. Whiffs of the caramelised pork escaped as the lids on the bowls were lifted, causing a unanimous sigh of contentment across the table. This was worth the wait.
Open 1100-1900 Tuesday-Sunday. Closed on Mondays as well as the first and third Tuesday of each month.