Link: Caffeine Heaven in the Osaka

Coffee is addictive and finding a place to drink some is  even more addictive.

I’ve drank coffee pretty much every where I ever been and my last visit to Osaka brought me to Link Handmade Roast Coffee just off the popular Shinsaibashi.

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Hitachino Nest Beer Nipponia

Finding beer in Japan is never a problem, you can even purchase a can of Asahi Super Dry in a vending machine, but finding microbrewery beer is often a challenge if you don’t live in Tokyo or Osaka.

I found a new liquor shop in Kurashiki last weekend and I was really happy to see Hitchino Nest Beer on the shelves.   The Nipponia caught my attention with its 550 ml size.

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Poko Bagel: the cure for home sickness

Have you ever been away from home for a very long time? I’ve now been away from Montreal since late July 2008 and I’ve noticed that what I miss the most from back home is food.  Maple syrup, smoked meat and poutine seem to be part of my DNA.

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Kurashiki Coffee-Kan

I have walked in front of this discreet coffee shop on numerous occasions without really noticing it.  Kurashiki Coffee-Kan is located right in the heart of the historic Bikan area of Kurashiki city in  Okayama Prefecture.  I think I might have found my little  coffee heaven only 20 min from my house.

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Jean-Georges on the Bund

There is something about the Bund that gives Shanghai a special feel, like catching a glimpse of the Eiffel tower in Paris or walking on the Brooklyn bridge with the Manhattan skyline in plain view.

During my stay in Shanghai, I just kept going back for a stroll on the Bund and I decided to find a place to eat on the Bund.   The restaurant Jean-Georges located at No 3 in the Union Building immediately caught my attention.

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Nanxiang steamed bun restaurant

I really don’t need a lot of convincing and arm twisting in order to go try a new dumpling shop.  Nanxiang steamed bun restaurant is probably one of the most famous restaurant in Shanghai. After watching an episode  of  No Reservations,  I knew I really had to try this place.

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Yang’s Fry-Dumpling

Is it food?  Is it delicious torture?  I guess that Yang’s Fry-Dumpling could fall in both categories.  Let’s make one think clear from the get go, I like my food spicy, but before coming to Shanghai I had never dealt with food so “molten lava” hot.

Yang’s Fry-Dumpling wins the palm for the hottest food in Shanghai.  This shengjianbao dumpling restaurant is a Shanghai institution and comes  highly recommended all over the internet so I was really curious to get a taste of these famous dumplings.

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Ajisen ramen in Shanghai

There is a considerable dose of irony in eating ramen in China. Ramen which most people would consider typical Japanese fast food was  introduced from China a long time ago and it’s seem to have been around for enough time that most people forgot it’s origin.  Ramen in contemporary Japan is still refer as ch?ka soba or basically Chinese soba.

It’s now possible to find 86 Ajisen ramen franchises in the city of Shanghai and on my second day in the city, I must have ran into 4 or 5 restaurants so I was intrigued.  How would the journey back to the homeland taste?  I was expecting a carbon copy of a carbon copy but who knows?  Fake watches, fake ramen, let’s find out!

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First night in Shanghai

I doubt this is politically correct, but I left for Shanghai humming the tune “I Like Chinese” by the Monty Python. I briefly studied the city of Shanghai at university when I took an intro to urban studies, so I was always curious to see this city with my own eyes. China is moving  fast and I was becoming afraid that I would not be able to catch a glimpse of Shanghai with it’s old shikumen (traditional 2 or 3 stories buildings) since they are being destroyed at an alarming rate.

I had 2 other reasons to visit Shanghai.  First, the Shanghai Expo 2010 will be over this October and secondly I wanted to eat real Chinese food in China. My conception of Chinese food like almost everybody has been dictated by the worldwide interpretation of original homeland dishes by the ever-growing diaspora of Chinese chefs.

A first meal in a new city or a new country is like a  first kiss.  Would it be something memorable or just a speed bump on the road to unfulfilled desires.

I took the  Maglev train into the center of Shanghai, nothing like a futuristic floating train to put you in the mood.   Finding my hotel on East Jingling Road turned out to be a lot easier than I expected. Shanghai is pretty easy to navigate with its grid design.

From my hotel, my first destination was the  Bund with its view on the hyper-modern Pudong skyline.

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Tottori pear and Izushi soba

How far would you drive for food?

I woke up last Sunday with no intentions of going further than the couch, but I ended up going on a 500 km car ride just for the sake of buying Japanese pears and eating the famous Izushi soba.

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Hiranoya Okonomiyaki

Before I came to Japan, I had never eaten a okonomiyaki.  This all changed on my first visit to Hiroshima city and since then I’ve been trying to find great okonomiyaki places.

Hironoya is one of them and according to my co-workers, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Hironoya is located in Fuchu city, just outside of Fukuyama. Fuchu is not a big place, but there is a small country road that pretty much goes from my village in the mountains all the way to this okonomiyaki shop.  The route 417 is one tight scary road barely larger than my miniature Japanese car.

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