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Poisson chez Kissa Tanto

Kissa Tanto

Vancouver, BC Watch video

Kissa Tanto • Vancouver, BC

263 East Pender St. 778-379-8078

When the sun sets in Chinatown, Kissa Tanto’s glossy ceiling shimmers like a rain-slicked Vancouver street. It’s Saturday night, and suddenly I’m starring in a film noir with Italian-Japanese subtitles. I’ve been cast as the undercover detective, sipping my ume-plum-salted amaretto sour in a dark corner. There’s jazz on the stereo. Purple neon light filters in through the second-storey balcony. One bite of dainty chawanmushi, egg custard towed under by dashi and Parmesan, and I’m in deep focus.

Tannis Ling and chefs Joël Watanabe and Alain Chow are the cool cucumbers who conceived this upstairs lounge. Styled on 1960s Tokyo jazz cafés, it’s fitted with dusty-pink leather banquettes, banker’s lamps and brass railings. Their French-Chinese brasserie Bao Bei, a couple of blocks farther west, ranked second on this list in 2010. Here Watanabe proves that Italy and Japan are natural bedfellows, married by a shared love of noodles, mushrooms and umami. He tosses chewy housemade tajarin egg pasta with butter-and-Marsala roasted shiitake and porcini and tops the dish with a grating of miso-cured egg yolk. It seems simple, which is ultimately what these two cuisines are all about, but his talent pushes that fusion into original mishmashes that speak a common language. These are Kissa Tanto dishes.

I take up lacquered chopsticks to pluck leaves of baby gem lettuce and bitter endive dressed with a bagna cauda that adds bonito to the traditional anchovy base. This East-meets-West salad is sprinkled with furikake seasoning and laced with cubes of homemade mortadella, pan-fried so that they’re nicely caramelized at the edges. Propelled deeper into the night by a creamy, unfiltered sake, I use my fingers to pick juicy opalescent cubes of flesh from a whole yellow rockfish, diamond scored and potato-flour-fried. I dunk those in soy and grated daikon between bites of chili- and sesame-studded rapini on the side.

Kissa Tanto’s ephemeral tiramisu could bring a ninja’s nonna to tears; tofu is whipped into the airy mascarpone that’s layered between ladyfingers soaked in plum wine and espresso. It’s dangerously easy to order one more cocktail for the denouement. The Peacock Baby crafted by Wendy McGuinness, who once bartended with Ling at Belgian bistro Chambar, is a frothy anise-forward coupe of pastis, sake and Maraschino. I take a long drink and scan the room. It’s Chinatown, and everything’s jake.

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263 East Pender St. 778-379-8078

  1. Oregon Golfer

    October 26, 2016 at 8:28 pm

    I’ve eaten at Kissa Tanto on business trips to Canada a number of times and have never been disappointed. Amazing food, servers are incredible, and the atmosphere has a great fun vibe to it. Well deserved ranking. Good choice enRoute…

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