Kissa Tanto: Bao Bei team set to open new Japanese-Italian restaurant

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      The people behind Chinatown’s critically acclaimed Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie are working towards bringing some vintage glamour to the heritage neighbourhood.

      Kissa Tanto (263 East Pender Street) is a Japanese-Italian concept that is the brainchild of Bao Bei’s owner, Tannis Ling, executive chef Joël Watanabe, and sous chef Alain Chow.

      The three have partnered up to create this 80-seat eatery that brings the old-fashioned allures of bustling Tokyo to serene Vancouver.

      The name of the new restaurant derives from the Japanese term, jazu kissa, which refers to the Japanese capital’s 1960s jazz cafés that are quickly vanishing, and the Italian word tanto, meaning ‘a lot.’

      The restaurant is situated on the second-floor of a faded Chinatown building, but the interior has been completely redesigned by Ste Marie (Bao Bei, Savio Volpe, Ask for Luigi). Guests will be greeted with moody jewel tones, delicate textiles, and subtle Japanese elements that bring back the atmosphere of jazu kissas.

      “We want to create a space that gives people a sense of escape to a different time and place—a nightly celebration, even if there’s no real reason to celebrate,” said Ling in a press statement.

      Chefs Watanabe and Chow drew inspiration from both Japanese and Italian flavours to carefully craft Kissa Tanto’s menu—focusing on ingredients like fresh seafood, meat, and handmade pasta.

      Guests will be able to enjoy dishes such as chawanmushi—a savoury Japanese egg custard with saffron and parmesan on Koshihikari rice; plum-cured coho salmon with lemon-pickled walnuts, arima sansho, and Tokyo leeks; and kasu-braised pork ragu on fresh tagliatelle.

      Wendy McGuiness (Chambar, Royal Dinette) heads up the 14-foot-bar inside the Chinatown restaurant, creating retro cocktails with a contemporary twist: Swizzles, Amaretto Sours, Singapore Slings, and Irish coffees.

      Its wine list—curated by Layla Shea (Burdock & Co, Farmer’s Apprentice)—will feature European selections with a natural focus, including Italian wines and local choices. Guests will also be able to order sakes, Asahi, and a rotating selection of local craft beer.

      Kissa Tanto will be open for dinner five nights a week, and is scheduled to open its doors next month. 

      Follow Tammy Kwan on Twitter @ch0c0tam.