Exactly Five Years Ago, One of Vancouver’s Best Restaurants Softly Opened in Chinatown

For this week’s edition of #ThrowbackThursday we go back exactly five years to the week Kissa Tanto held its first friends and family service in Chinatown.

The spirited, Japanese-Italian restaurant on East Pender St. would officially open to the public (and much critical acclaim) some time later, but on this night the door was managed by invitation and the service was as tightly controlled as can be in order to test systems, bill times, protocols, et cetera. Here are my notes from that evening, plus a bunch of photos…

Kissa Tanto hosted its first friends and family night yesterday at 263 Pender Street. The highly anticipated Chinatown follow-up to Tannis Ling’s award-winning Bao Bei restaurant sees her once again partnered with her executive chef/collaborator Joël Watanabe and his long-time sous chef, Alain Chow (both of whom are on board this time as owners).

If you’re stuck on the name, “Kissa” is an old Japanese word for cafe and “Tanto” is Italian for “a lot”.

They took possession of the old, long commercially dormant space fifteen months ago so it’s been a long, hard slog for the trio. (If you’re a sucker for process, we last checked in on construction over a month ago here.) The surreality of its completion was pretty evident last night in brows furrowed by that heady mix of gratitude, wonderment, and lingering worry so peculiar to restaurateurs on opening nights (like being shot out into orbit while wondering if the stove was left on).

I won’t detail our first impressions except to report with confidence that the second storey, 75 seat, sublimely sexy Italian/Japanese hybrid is straight out of the Bao Bei playbook: at once comfortable, easy on the eyes, richly detailed, competently served, deliciously creative, and entirely one of a kind.

Vancouver diners expected as much from this crew, and I don’t think there was never really any doubt that they could cast another equally entrancing spell.

Kissa Tanto is closed tonight (Monday) and they hope to control the door and keep things soft for a few nights thereafter. We’re in for genuine bewitchment when it opens for real, which should be around this weekend. Take a closer look inside below…

  • Kissa Tanto
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  • Chef Joël Watanabe
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  • Kissa Tanto bread with nori butter
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  • Kissa Tanto creme caramel with rhubarb
  • Kissa Tanto Tortellini
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  • Kissa Tanto | Please fix your hair ...
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  • Kissa Tanto | Singapore Sling
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  • Kissa Tanto | Peacock Baby (junmai sake, cucumber, maraschino liquer, pastis, lime, egg white)
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  • Kissa Tanto | Chef Watanabe
  • Kissa Tanto | Singapore Sling
  • Kissa Tanto | Humbolt Squid
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  • Wrong Island Iced Tea | Kiss Tanto
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