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Food Notes: Vancouver’s Kissa Tanto wows with epic vegetable platter

The sister restaurant to Bao Bei, Chinatown’s new Italian-Japanese restaurant is the coolest room in Vancouver right now.

Chef Joel Watanabe’s chilled vegetable platter is served over ice and contains 14 delicious components.

Erin Ireland/Metro

Chef Joel Watanabe’s chilled vegetable platter is served over ice and contains 14 delicious components.

With an Italian-Japanese menu and a second-story location on East Pender in Chinatown, this new Vancouver restaurant is the definition of unique.

Kissa Tanto is the two-and-a-half month-old sister restaurant to Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie. If you’re a fan of the latter (as I am), be prepared to fall in love with a concept that boasts an equally stylish dining room and flavor-heavy menu.

Of the 25 completely original dishes offered (think Italian staples with Japanese twists, or the reverse), the $41 chilled vegetable platter caught my eye with its five-line description containing a dozen different types of pickles.

“Some are quick pickles. Others, like the shio koji radish, take a week to ferment. The black garlic kimchi takes three weeks. The nuka bed requires daily maintenance,” explained chef and co-owner Joel Watanabe.

The effort that goes into Joel’s truly epic veg masterpiece couldn’t possibly go unnoticed. Served in an 18-inch bowl filled with crushed ice (like a classic seafood platter) and tiny Japanese dishes, the kaiseki-style appetizer contains 14 components, including white kimchi, cauliflower karishi-zuke, burdock and carrot and nuka Persian cucumber.

The interior of Kissa Tanto in Chinatown, the sister restaurant to Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie.

Erin Ireland/Metro

The interior of Kissa Tanto in Chinatown, the sister restaurant to Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie.

Each bite is a delightful surprise and more suitable to the Western palate than the pickles I recently tried in Tokyo -- the vegetables were softer and more acidic.

There truly is not a vegetable-lover in Vancouver who wouldn’t be ‘wowed’ by this dish, which was inspired by the lack of thoughtful, special, intentional vegetarian dishes in non-vegetarian restaurants. Thank you, chefs!

Kissa Tanto is open Tuesday to Saturday from 5:30 p.m. until midnight.

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