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Jan 2004
Issue 044

KS Classifieds combined with Kansai Scene this issue!


Busy as a Bee

Usually, when you mention Nishinomiya, the first thing anyone says is “Oh, isn’t that near Kobe?” Indeed, even foreigners and many Japanese in Nishinomiya often know little about the terrific eating and drinking establishments within easy distance from their homes.

Of those clustered around Nishinomiya Kitaguchi, perhaps the best and most unique is Busy Bee Café. Situated on an unassuming corner just a few blocks from the station, Busy Bee hosts a wide selection of fine food and drinks just waiting to be discovered by the cool, hip, and tasteful who usually ride to Umeda or Sannomiya, and is even worth the trek for those unfortunate enough not to live nearby.

The owner, Dai, has run the Bee for five years after working on the Queen Elizabeth II as an escort for Japanese tourists. There he developed the passion and connections with chefs and bartenders from around the world that contributed to the varied menu and Continental atmosphere.

His food and drink menus—there are five of them--reflect this eclectic influence. For eats, the menu ranges from simple bar snacks like fried chicken and French fries to exquisite salads, curries, and a host of pizzas. The house specialty is the Firenze (¥1000,) a, flavorful pizza layered with spinach, fresh mozzarella, rich pancetta bacon from Italy, garlic, and egg on a crispy thin crust. While I wasn’t so sure about the big egg in the center at first, one bite quickly changed my mind as the egg simply enhances the flavor of the pancetta and garlic. The portions aren’t skimpy either, so this is perfect as a single meal or to share with friends.

While the food is excellent and worth the trip on its own, perhaps the most spectacular thing about the Bee for this author is it’s extensive menus of beers, wines, and spirits from the world over. The beer menu lists well over 50 brews, including two pages devoted to Belgian beers alone! I checked out the Abbé Rochefort (¥1300), a smooth and slightly sweet ale that so far from what is usually called “beer” that it deserves a category unto itself. While not cheap by any means, this and the other Belgian beers here are definitely worth a taste.

Busy Bee is also the only place you can get fresh Porter and Pilsner from the Rokko Brewery. The pilsner is light and fresh, the perfect accompaniment to any dish on a warm evening. The porter, however, is the star with its smooth, rich chocolate and maple taste. This should definitely put the Bee on the map for all you dark beer lovers that are getting tired of just Guiness and Kilkenny.

The wine selection is also quite extensive. The feature here, however, is the house sangria. In addition to the unremarkable red and the sweet but tasty Liebfrausmilch white, the Bee has some of the best sangria this author has had the pleasure to taste in Japan. Made fresh from a secret recipe and aged three to seven days, this sangria is perfect as either a stand-alone or to go along with one of their lighter dishes. And, at just ¥600 a pop, it won’t break your wallet either. The Bee also has a wide range of spirits, including an extensive whisky selection starting at ¥700.

Busy Bee has been a fixture among locals for quite some time, but it is well worth greater exposure to the larger Kansai area. With its delicious food and incredible drink selection, even people in Osaka and Kobe should come out here.

The Bee is open all night on Fridays and Saturdays, so those of you coming from elsewhere don’t have to worry about that last train. In fact, you won’t want to.

Busy Bee Café
9-12 Minami-Showa-cho, Nishinomiya-city
(8 min walk from Hankyu Nishinomiya Kitaguchi Stn, Northwest exit. Go straight past Nova, turn left at the 7-11, walk over the bridge and past two streets)
Open: Sun-Thu. 12pm-3am • Fri-Sat. 12pm-morning
Tel: 0798-68-1933

Text & Photos: Thomas Amundrud

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