Monday, May 15, 2017

2 New Vancouver Restaurants

At the end of last month, our food loving friends Junko and Yohei came to visit from Japan. Our local entertainment weekly The Georgia Straight had named Kissa Tanto, a Japanese-Italian place as the best new restaurant in Vancouver, with its chef Joel Watanabe our city's Chef of the Year. In the Straight article, Joel said, "To me, fusion is not a great word not because it was done so terribly in the 90s, but also because it kind of gives a sense that you are forcing two things together as opposed to commingling two things together. When it works for us, it feels natural and comes together naturally." This was a place we wanted to go.
I began with a cocktail called Tanuki’s Night Out:$13 pisco, fino sherry, apricot brandy, smoked pear bitters
I nursed it through several courses and it contributed to all of them.
Studying the online menu, I was attracted to  Beet Salad $18 stracciatella, artichokes, smoked maitake mushrooms, black garlic vinaigrette
Well it says, artichokes though I couldn't find any. The beets were fine and the vinaigrette was excellent, though there was way too much lettuce for my tastes. I've had vastly better dishes both in Vancouver and Vegas, but IT WASN'T BAD.  Another menu item that caught my eye was Frittelle di Melanzane $14 garlic eggplant fritter, yuzu gribiche, basil and bonito salt, shaved katsuo
Fumiyo scooped up the katsuo shavings and the eggplant dish beneath was sublime. I would return to Kissa Tanto to eat this again. It didn't taste particularly Japanese or Italian. So what. It's a great addition to Vancouver food.
Fumiyo ordered  Croquette $7 parmesan, ginger, chili, plum curry sauce. Curry isn't in my top trillion favourite things but it wasn't bad.
As a main, I ordered Tajarin $25 butter, roasted mushrooms, miso cured yolk. Didn't realize it was noodles. I never order noodles in restaurants. They are filling. I fill up on protein and veg so I was quite dubious. I had a fork full. It was the best noodle dish I've had outside of Japan. The commingling (miso, noodles) Joel talks about in the quote above. Astonishing. Also very filling I had no room for the chicken, lasagna and other things Fumiyo and our guests had. Really wanted to eat the mushrooms Junko ordered but I will eat here again and then feast on: Mushrooms $14
maitake & shimeji, soft herbs, garlic, citrus
We left Kissa Tanto profoundly happy with our meals.
My cousin David Wolowidnyk is creating drinks for a brand new restaurant called Botanist in the Fairmont Pacific Hotel.  I had never been to this hotel. The restaurant is extraordinarily beautiful. It was Mother's Day. We celebrated that fact with two of our daughter's old friends Mirza 

and Lara
The cocktail near Mirza's elbow is the same as the cocktail closest to the camera, from the cocktail menu at the table, POLLENATOR 15 Pisco, Pollen, Bitter Bianco, Lillet Blanc, Chamomile, Haskap Bitters. “Playfully coaxing blossoms to appear on trees and flowers to timidly shoot up”
I'd been wanting to drink this since it appeared on the website menu. Pisco was the main ingredient in Tanuki's Night Out that so thrilled me at Kissa Tanto so I figured my cousin could do something wonderful with Pisco. I was wrong. IT WASN'T TERRIBLE. That's not a reason to order a drink. As an appetizer, I ordered the scallop dish: red onion, green apple, guanciale, brown butter, PAN-SEARED SCALLOPS 20
It was a wonder. Food will be just as good here as at Kissa Tanto, I figured. Uh, no. The Pollenator neither improved (that would be difficult) nor diminished this beautiful meal. Fumiyo ordered a dish that had avocados in it: fava, garbanzo, avocado, burrata, lemon, ROOT VEGETABLES 18 I try and avoid universes that have avocados in them. Lara had the pea soup thing dungeness crab, mint, crème fraîche, ENGLISH PEA SOUP 18 while Mirza had some noodles: morels, mushroom soil, crispy piave, HAND-CUT TAGLIATELLE 19  For the mains, Mirza and I ordered another of David's cocktails, APPLESEED LANE 16 Calvados, Poire William, Coriander, White Pepper, Apple, Sparkling Water “Drawn west, sowing seeds along the way, an apple a day keeps the doctor away”  I mistakenly ordered a vegetarian entree: vegetable ragu, ricotta salata, pine nuts, basil, CAVATELLE 22  If I'd known it had noodles, I would have ordered something else. It WASN'T TERRIBLE but it was too salty and filling. The Appleseed Lane considerably improved its edibility. Fumiyo had the chicken, smoked potato, leeks, fennel mousseline, crispy skin, MUSTARD-CRUSTED CHICKEN 34. I had a bite and found it too salty. Fumiyo couldn't distinguish it from her appetizer, the avocado thing. Mirza had the pork belly, zucchini, radish, grilled apple, escabeche, HONEY-GLAZED PORK BELLY 34 while Lara had the fish dish, onion nage, fermented vegetables, puffed tapioca, SEARED SABLEFISH 38  Before ordering the Rose she's drinking in the above photo, Lara had a POETRY IN MOTION 15 Vodka, Grapes, Elderflower, Rhubarb, Lemon, Bubbles “Dance like nobody’s watching” as well as a GARDEN OF QARTH 14 Mezcal, Verde Cordial, Lime, Fennel, Ricard, Sparkling Water “Seeds, water, soil and sunshine, celebrate the garden”  I had a sip and thought it taste Japanese, a good thing. I asked Fumiyo and she agreed it did taste Japanese but she didn't like it at all. It worked for Lara though.
We were assured the deserts weren't sweet but we would find the intriguing. One was based on carrots. It WAS intriguing. Sweeter than promised but I'm not a desert person. Thankfully, Mirza and I had ordered another fine cocktail, COQUIHALLA 17 Vancouver Gin, Berry Cordial, Lemon, Mint, Okanagan Riesling “May your journey from there to here or here to there be memorable”  I'll return for this drink and Appleseed Lane but not the food. A fine scallop dish, a delightful, plant-filled ambience but basically, a bar with food. Fumiyo pronounced Kissa Tanto's food a hundred times better than Botanists.
The odd thing about the pairing of my cousin and this restaurant: we have an ancestor who was a major league botanist earlier in the previous century. His job (he worked for Huntington, the guy who owned the railroad) was traveling around the world, stealing plants, then bringing them back to California to mix them to create new fruit and vegetables. Botanist has a cocktail lab I'm sure my distant uncle would have envied. Perhaps because the restaurant is so new, the chef hasn't figured out how to use salt yet. Maybe the lab will help.