Italian-Japanese cuisine. Yes, you read that correctly.
These two seemingly widely separate cuisines actually share a lot of common ground in their use of simple, seasonal ingredients.
The 80 seat Kissa Tanto was conceived by Tannis Ling and chef Joel Watanabe in 2016. It’s tucked up on the second floor at 263 East Pender Street, an ungentrified end of Chinatown in Vancouver. Recently voted Canada’s best new restaurant by a panel of critics and restaurateurs, it’s also in the top 20 of the overall Canadian best restaurants list.
We had to book our reservation a month in advance, it’s that popular. We were seated immediately at a banquette with neighbours to either side. It was loud, but that wasn’t surprising because the place was packed. Water was delivered and cocktails were ordered. I don’t know how, but Mike always seems to order the more interesting/better looking drink. His Ol’ Satchmo (mezcal, ginger chestnut honey vermouth, green chartreuse, lemon, toasted sesame rim) beat my Russian Lullaby (gin, vodka, noillly prat amber, cherry cedar bitters) by a long shot. Mine seemed a little watered down, his was like a smoky margarita.
The restaurant recommends a sharing paradigm, so we did. For starters we ordered the Pickle Plate and the Carne Cruda. The Pickle Plate was an assortment of six different pickled vegetables. Two of them were a little salty, but the rest were very tasty and they all disappeared off the plate.
The Carne Cruda (Snake River Farms wagyu, nashi pear, charred scallion soy, parmesan, arima sansho, gnocco fritto) was a delicious, tangy, dish of beef tartare. Scoop a bit onto the gnoccho fritto (olive oil crackers, reminiscent of pork rinds) for a perfect little savoury bite.
At this point our varnished wooden chopsticks were replaced with regular utensils. The Porchetta Agnolotti with kombu cured olives and smoked butter may have been the highlight of the night. The pasta was perfect, very thin and slightly firm to the tooth, and filled with tender little pork bites. The smoked butter brought it all together. Each bite was a smoky little pillow of delight.
The 24 hour slow cooked Wagyu Lifter Steak with fermented cabbage, calabrian chili, and parmesan, ran a close second to the agnolotti. Sliced into 10 pieces, it was tender with a little zing from the chili sauce. The cabbage was firm and tangy. We had a side of rapini with chili, sesame and dashi, as well. Spicy and broccoli-esque, it was a perfect accompaniment.
For dessert we shared the Yuzu Cream, a delicious, citrusy, dessert with pistachios and olive oil crumble topped with seasonal rhubarb. It was very smooth and tart/sweet. We also had an after dinner drink that included chocolate bitters and an espresso ice cube, it went very well with the dessert.
If you want a great meal, excellent service, and to leave full and happy, I’d recommend Kissa Tanto.