I want to describe CJ Foodworld in Seoul, Korea as a perfect definition of modern Korean culture. A manufactured perfection carefully designed to appear as accomplished as possible by a monumentally large organisation. The show piece of South Korea’s largest food conglomerate CJ Cheil Jedang, CJ Foodworld is a food court consisting of every one of CJ’s forays into the world of dining.

The plethora of choices extend from Loco Curry, Vips, Twosome+, Tofu House, China Factory (What a name), ColdRock Ice Creamery (CJ bought the American franchise into Korea) and Tous Les Jours, one of many bakery chains that are dotted through out Korea. In total, there are 17 choices in dining as well as a supermarket, flower garden and cooking school.

The design is what I grew to expect from walking around Korea. Clean lines, wooden paneling and soft lighting. It’s like everything everywhere in Korea was built last week by architecture fiends hell bent on being unobtrusive in their understated brilliance.

CJ Foodworld in Seoul also serves as a lunch stop for the employees of CJ as it’s located directly beneath their headquarters. I think that’s why it was so empty at 7pm at night.

Oh right, and free iMacs to use.

I just don’t know what to make of all this. CJ have managed to create a microcosmic food market outside of the ludicrously huge Lotte and Shinsegae chaebols and I kind of think that’s a good thing, even though they are insanely large conglomerate themselves. The product presented here is marketable anywhere in the world. A one stop shop to divulge in modern takes on classic food in a clean environment.

Okay, what did I eat? I figured I may as well do the Korean thing and had Bibimbap from Bibigo. It’s kind of a concept restaurant where you build your own Bibimbap from a Tapas menu. And look, it tasted good albeit lacking in real authenticity.

Look check it out if you’re in Seoul and tell me what you think. I’m curious to here peoples opinions on CJ Foodworld.

CJ Foodworld is located at:

Cheil Jedang Center Building.
292 Ssangnim-dong, Jung-Gu.
Seoul, South Korea.
+82 1577-9622

11/10/2012 Food, Shops

If I had a preference it would be that I’d stay at Hostel 64 in Osaka every time I visited there. I’m sure once I become a full fledged adult that the Grand Hyatt will become more appealing but as it stands as a wunderlusting backpacker I’d stay at Hostel 64 every single day.

It’s always going to hold a special place to me because it was the first hostel I ever stayed at but more than that it’s a sublime example of hostel life that is considerably rare when you’re a backpacker where cockroaches and communal toilets are common place.

Hostel 64 doubles as a show piece for local architectural firm Arts&Crafts who renovated every inch of the 1964 building into a hybrid of modern and retro styling. It’s so handsome in every single way that you sometimes have to force yourself to get out and explore Osaka.

Hostel 64 has a number of features that sets itself apart. Firstly the lounge area is small but incredibly cosy with boutique art, photography and architecture books and magazines available for anyone to read. Some of the best tips for design hungry travelers resides in these articles.

The hostel also has a typically small Japanese style bar that is open every night  to the public as well as guests. Hostel workers Naomi and Mineko are beyond friendly and will share a drink with you as well as offering tips on upcoming art launches or places worth checking out.

There is also a brilliant roof top area for lounging on those super humid Japanese nights. The fact there is a Family Mart 1 minute walk from the hostel and that the hostel has no problem with you bringing back a swag full of Asahi’s makes it all the better.

Breakfast is available and is cute beyond belief. A small affair consisting of yogurt, bread and OJ and costs ¥300. One communal laptop is for guest use and costs ¥100 for 20 minutes.

The hostel also holds community events every so often. When I was there all guests were invited to take part in a Mochi making night, probably because Naomi is vocal in her love for Mochi. It’s just another excellent way to keep guests communicating with each other.

Lastly, you have to try each of the 4 showers in the hostel. Each one is a different experience and as foreign as it is the ‘Automatic Cleaning System’, where you sit down and a machine oscillates around you actually works. It feels like your in the year 3000 but whatever.

The dorm is the best I experienced on my trip purely because of the security shade. I honestly can’t figure out why more hostels don’t offer this. Temperatures are cool because of the walls and floor are concrete and its on the ground floor. If you’re still hard to please just crank up the air conditioner but please be mindful of other guests.

A secure locker is provided but it can’t hold much more than your passport and cash but you soon learn in Japan that it’s quite okay to be a bit more carefree with your bags.

The dorm costs from ¥3,300 a night but there are also Western style private rooms and Futon rooms starting from ¥7900 a night.

But if I have to offer one tip it would be to rent one of the hostels bicycles for ¥1000 a day. Ever since I rode around Osaka I’ve been hooked on bike riding and for the rest of my trip I was trying to find bicycles to rent because of my love affair with my Hostel 64 bike. Sadly, every other bike felt like a cheap chinese knock off and couldn’t compare to the freedom I felt the first time I got a bike on my trip You could ride to any of Osakas main areas in 20 minutes from the hostel.

Geez, if you seriously can’t tell how much I loved staying here, I originally booked a week and couldn’t get my ass to leave Osaka for another 3 purely because I wanted to keep coming back. Did I mention that they have the best most fun music playing in the lounge all day?

By the way, one of the most hidden bars you’re ever likely to find is a 5 minute walk from the hostel (but good luck finding it).

Hostel 64 is located at:

3-11-20 Shinmachi, Nishi-ku
Osaka, Japan.
+81 6 6556-6586

10/30/2012 Architecture

Designed by German Tobias Rehberger in 2010, Il Vento is one hell of a strange dining experience in Japan. Your expectation of Japanese dining is thrown into disarray by this lonely restaurant on an island that takes an hour to travel too by Ferry. When I went to Teshima was essentially deserted which made all this even stranger. The restaurant also goes by the title ‘Was du liebst, bringt dich auch zum weinen’… which if you don’t speak German, you’re gonna be screwed to pronounce. Il Vento was obviously an exotic and easier name to pronounce.

Il Vento is part restaurant, part art installation and part architectural brilliance. An aspect of it was part of a concentrated effort born from a industrial disaster in the area in the 80s to encourage encounters of beauty in the Seto Inland Sea. It’s worked. The islands in the sea are a mini Mecca for architecture and art fiends across the planet. Il Vento also serves as a focus for how to make the most out of renovations on vacant houses which is increasing in rural Japan due to depopulation.

It’s a renovated two-story home completely covered from floor to ceiling with stripes, polka dots and camouflage patterns. I couldn’t imagine how fucked you’d be walking around this place on acid because most of the time you’re not sure of your surroundings.

Oh right, it does have food, although it is typically Japanese small. The lunch set is ¥1000 and includes the entry charge for the building or you can enter without it for ¥300. For a restaurant that is one of a kind its totally worth it.

For an added bonus the staff of Il Vento are housed in a wonderfully renovated dormitory a short walk from the restaurant. See more details here

Il Vento is located at:

2309 Teshima-Ieura
Tonosho Shozu-Gun
Kagawa, Japan.
+81 8 7968 3177

10/27/2012 Food

Brotures in Harajuku, Tokyo is the second store from Brotures after their re-branding from ‘Jah Life’ in mid 2011. Their original store in Yokohama is also famously popular and it’s nice to see them branching out further. They are the exclusive dealer for Leader, Affinity and Kissena frames in Japan and feature a full stock of all their latest models. They also have a range of Cinelli, Fuji and Giant bikes. On top of all that walking inside and seeing all this quality is as overwhelming a  case to take up bike riding I’ve come across.

Just about every part is available and suppliers include Julian, Phil Wood & Co, Aerospoke and Full Speed Ahead. Bikes can be custom built in house too.

In the flashy world of Harajuku the understated appeal and high quality of the Leader brand is a welcome change. While Brotures also stocks blindingly bedazzled 5-spoke aero wheels right next to bare 735 Leader frames its primary aesthetic is clean minimalism with a focus on superior finish. I also just can’t get over bicycle culture in Japan and how appealing it all is. They build their bikes with such personality and passion that its contagious. Brotures is worth checking out just to see the pinnacle of commuting cycling in Tokyo.

Brotures, Harajuku is located at:

4-26-31 Jingu-Mae, Shibuya
Tokyo, Japan.
+81 3 6804 3115

10/24/2012 Shops

Singapores cafe scene is a little bit of strange. It’s probably because it’s somewhat stifled by the constant drenching humidity so it’s hard to see the attraction of anything more than iced coffee when sitting down at any of Singapores growing western, or perhaps more true, Melbourne inspired cafes. Vincent Tangs cafe The Plain falls into that category seeing as though he lived in Melbourne and wanted to take that cafe culture back with him when he returned.

Inside possibly the most dissimulated shop fronts I’ve seen it serves all-day breakfast and delightfully simple lunch plates which reminded me of home more than any of Sydneys attempts. Is it worth mentioning that quintessential Australian items containing Vegemite or Pipsqueak cider are listed on the menu? Even though I was dying for a cold drink I felt overwhelming compelled to order a latte.

If you’re in need of a slice of home and in Singapore you’d have to come here, grab a magazine, sit at the communal table, order a coffee and shut out the concrete jungle around you.

The Plain is located at:

50 Craig Road, Tanjong Pagar
Singapore City, Singapore.
+65 6225 4387

10/21/2012 Food