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Vancouver’s Kissa Tanto named Canada’s best new restaurant

Published in LifeStyle
Wednesday, 26 October 2016 08:06

Joel Watanabe’s restaurant Kissa Tanto, with a blend of Italian and Japanese cuisines, has been named Canada’s best new restaurant by enRoute magazine.

It’s not the first time Watanabe and business partner Tannis Ling have made the top 10 list. In 2010, the team’s French-Chinese brasserie Bao Bei was second.

“We’re all pretty thrilled,” Watanabe, 40, said from Vancouver. His 1960s Tokyo jazz bar-inspired Kissa Tanto — which means House of Plenty — is located in Old Chinatown on the second floor of a faded building. The 74-seat space opened in the spring.

“There’s a bit of a journey getting into this space, but I think people are usually blown away when they get in here,” he added, explaining the decor “really harkens to somewhere that is not Vancouver so you feel literally transported, I think, when you’re in this room. You feel New York or L.A. in its heyday.”

Watanabe refuses to let his food be pigeonholed into one cuisine. As an example, he’s now serving a lamb dish topped with tosaka seaweed and olive oil, accompanied by the Sardinian pasta fregula that is flavoured with anchovy butter and sesame and garnished with egg yolk puree, scallions and pickled chilies.

“Sometimes dishes tend to feel more Italian and sometimes more Japanese. It’s very rare that it’s right in the middle,” Watanabe said.

A blend of cuisines is not surprising for a chef who grew up in Ottawa dining on multicultural cuisine — French Canadian from his mother’s influence and Japanese from his father, while his grandfather was Corsican.

“My parents met hitchhiking in Guatemala in the ‘70s so there’s also South American and Mexican influence in the food I grew up with.”

The other restaurants on the top 10 list, marking its 15th anniversary, span the country, from Bay Fortune, P.E.I., to Victoria.

At FireWorks in Bay Fortune, celebrity chef-turned-innkeeper Michael Smith creates feasts served at communal tables with ingredients foraged from his land and cooked over live fire.

In Montreal, restaurateur Jen Agg teamed up with members of Arcade Fire to build Agrikol, a Haitian restaurant with a vibe straight from Port-au-Prince.

Kraken Cru in Quebec City, featuring seafood expertise in a raw bar, is an intimate and homey 12-seat space, while Victoria baker Cliff Leir takes his ethical, all-organic approach a step further with the French-by-Northwest cuisine of Agrius.

Backhouse in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont., won the Eat & Vote people’s choice award from among 35 nominees.

Here are the other nine winners in the top 10 list:

2. Alo, Toronto

3. FireWorks, Bay Fortune, P.E.I.

4. Agrius, Victoria

5. Foxy, Montreal

6. Agrikol, Montreal

7. Kraken Cru, Quebec City

8. Le Fantome, Montreal

9. Highwayman, Halifax

10. Savio Volpe, Vancouver

Winners will be profiled in the November issue of Air Canada’s enRoute magazine and at

The top 10 restaurants will receive their awards at a Nov. 10 gala at Toronto’s Design Exchange.

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Ukrainians (Ukrainian: українці, ukrayintsi) are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Ukraine, which is the sixth-largest nation in Europe. The Constitution of Ukraine applies the term 'Ukrainians' to all its citizens. Also among historical names of the people of Ukraine Rusyns, Cossacks, etc. can be found. According to some dictionary definitions, a descriptive name for the "inhabitants of Ukraine" is Ukrainian or Ukrainian people.

The Ukrainian diaspora is the global community of ethnic Ukrainians, especially those who maintain some kind of connection, even if ephemeral, to the land of their ancestors and maintain their feeling of Ukrainian national identity within their own local community.

A Ukrainian Canadian (Ukrainian: Український канадець, Україноканадець) refers to a Canadian of Ukrainian descent who is an immigrant to or a descendant born in Canada. In 2011, there were an estimated 1,209,085 persons of full or partial Ukrainian origin residing in Canada (mainly Canadian-born citizens) making them Canada's ninth largest ethnic group, and giving Canada the world's third-largest Ukrainian population behind Ukraine itself.

Ukrainian Americans (Ukrainian: Українці Америки, Українці у США) are Americans who are of Ukrainian ancestry. According to U.S. census estimates, in 2006 there were 961,113 Americans of Ukrainian descent representing 0.33% of the American population. The Ukrainian population of the United States is thus the second largest outside the former Soviet Union; only Canada has a larger Ukrainian community. According to the 2000 U.S. census, the metropolitan areas with the largest numbers of Ukrainian Americans are: New York City with 160,000 Ukrainians, Philadelphia with 60,000 Ukrainians, Chicago with 46,000 Ukrainians, Los Angeles with 34,000, Detroit with 33,000 Ukrainians, Cleveland with 26,000 and Indianapolis with 19,000.