I never miss an opportunity to celebrate with food and for my recent birthday, I researched restaurants in the city for my celebration. I have always wanted to go to Kissa Tanto since it opened about a year ago. It’s a small restaurant in Chinatown, very intimate and has a sexy, jazz vibe. Kissa Tanto specializes in Italian-Japanese fusion and apparently the restaurant name is an old Japanese word for cafe and Italian for a lot. The restaurant is owned by Tannis Ling, who also owns Bao Bei Brasserie, and is partly owned by Joel Watanabe, Bao Bei’s chef.
Best of all, Watanabe is actually Corsican/Italian-Japanese himself, and Kissa Tanto was recently named Best New Restaurant in Canada for 2017 by Canada’s 100 Best.
We managed to get a seat at the bar in about thirty minutes on a Saturday night, which was a miracle, given how crowded the place was. Then the dishes started coming.
Grilled sea bream collar. The fish neck was very tender and a little fatty. What I really liked about the dish was the generous amount of basil and a kind of tart seasoning used in the dish. It kept the overall dish very light tasting, and I liked the crackly-dry seaweed.
The beautiful octopus salad with smoked octopus, fresh and pickled radishes, mustard greens, and parsley and chilli puree. This plate, with the pickled-pink radishes, looked like spring! The octopus was quite salty from being smoked, but the fatty tentacles were still tender enough. I really liked the pickled radishes here and the bright parsley and chilli puree. The puree was also a great dipping sauce for the fish too. The octopus salad was a popular dish that night among other diners too, and I recommend ordering it.
Fritelle di Melanzane, garlic eggplant fritter, yuzu gribiche, with basil and bonito salt and shaved katsuo. These were like little flavor bombs, I loved them. The gribiche is a creamy, cold egg sauce made with egg yolk and mustard and paired with the citrusy yuzu; it was perfect with the fried eggplant fritters. The fritters mixed the eggplant with flour and other ingredients, so I couldn’t actually taste the actual eggplant. Still, it was a creamy little ball of flavors, and delicious.
Carne cruda with wagyu beef, pearl onion, charred scallion sauce, fresh herbs, arima sansho, a shower of parmesan, and gnocco fritto, which were those super crispy, deep-fried crackers. The raw beef was tender, not too minced, a little salty, but I liked that they added little bits of orange, or some kind of citrus peel, which added some sweetness to the cruda. The crackers were made in house, incredibly crunchy and just a little oily. With just a little salt and a little spice, the gnocco fritto is probably an amazing movie snack.
Kissa Tanto has a few pasta dishes, and the Tajarin with butter, roasted mushrooms and miso cured yolk is probably one of their more popular options. I liked it, it looks like a plate of comfort food, and the rich, buttery mushroom flavor was amazing, full of umami. However, I did not like the actual pasta. It was not really ‘tender to the tooth,’ not as chewy as I imagined it would be.
Dessert time! They had two options, and since it’s my birthday, we got both!
The tiramisu on the left is made with soy milk and plum wine. When our desserts arrived, the waiter told us we should eat the tiramisu first, because the flavor is lighter. We didn’t believe it at first, but the tiramisu was lighter tasting of the two. The tiramisu did not have as much chocolate, so it was not as rich. I could taste the plum wine, but it was not overpowering. I was surprised that they can make the soy milk so creamy and thick, I did not miss the rich heavy cream or mascarpone traditionally used at all.
The yuzu set cream with rhubarb and pistachio sounds light and fruity, but it was really the stronger tasting dessert of the two. The yuzu cream, while rich and chilled, with the texture of a panna cotta, was quite citrusy and tart. The cream was still sweet enough to balance the acidic rhubarb. I liked this dessert more, because even though the flavors were strong, it did not leave me with a heavy feeling in my stomach.
I really enjoyed my dinner at Kissa Tanto, and there are still many options on the menu that I want to try. I also enjoyed their seamless blend of both Japanese and Italian flavors. It’s very creative and makes me want to return for more.