Sherman's Food Adventures: Kissa Tanto

Kissa Tanto

Everyone has seen this story before - hyped-up restaurant wins several awards and is included in the "best new" list.  People go flocking there to see what the fuss is about and come away disappointed because either expectations were overly heightened or the place was just built up by various social media and traditional media outlets.  Well, we were going to find out for ourselves if the much-talked about Japanese-Italian eatery, Kissa Tanto, was legit or not.  The "we" sported Diana, Areta, Magi, David and Kristina including myself.

We started off with one of the prettier dishes of the night with the Albacore Tuna Crudo.  Each buttery slice of fish was bathed in a shiso vinaigrette that was herbaceous, yet clean-tasting.  I got hints of tanginess from the capers and mustard greens, but they were restrained.  There was added earthy brightness from the radishes and leek as well as an extra layer of mild saltiness from the olives.  Another example of visually-appealing plating was the Octopus Salad.  Underneath, there were slices of daikon and radish along with mizuna and charred scallion in a preserved lemon emulsion.  I thought the ingredients were bright and crisp, but the flavours were underwhelming.  The octopus was crispy, but ultimately too chewy for my tastes.

Arriving as a threesome (no, not like that...), the Frittelle di Melanzane or garlic eggplant fritter was accented by a yuzu gribiche, basil and bonito salt and shaved katsuo.  Crispy on the outside and a bit mealy (not in a bad way) on the inside, the fritter was definitely garlicky and well-seasoned.  If I didn't know there was eggplant in it, I would've never guessed.  The yuzu gribiche was salty, sweet and bright in a potato salad type way.  Our last appie was the Pork Terrine topped with pickled daikon, horseradish, sesame sauce and nori mustard.  I found the terrine itself rather meaty and natural-tasting.  It sat atop firm and smoky bread.  The combination of ingredients gave off an aromatic nuttiness interrupted by the sharpness of the horseradish and tart sweetness of the daikon.

Onto some pasta, we dug into the Tajarin with butter, roasted mushrooms, miso cured yolk and plenty of parm.  This was very tasty sporting chewy fresh pasta coated in just enough moisture to create maximum flavour without being wet.  There was this nutty buttery taste that was accented by the Earthiness of the mushrooms and saltiness from the parm and miso.  It tasted nearly like a soy butter sauce but with more depth.  I was equally impressed with the Lasagna with pork and chanterelle mushroom, miso bechamel sitting on basil bechamel.  The tender yet still al dente noodles were layered with tender nuggets of meat caressed in a creamy and deeply flavoured bechamel with a background smokiness and spice.

I found the Casarecce to be good, yet not as memorable as the first 2 pastas. The noodles were chewy and firm while coated in a cheesy parm, pork and sake kasu ragu.  There was a meatiness to both the texture and flavour to the dish with mild tomato undertones.  I found the salt level to be just right as it provided depth of flavour while not being overdone.  Moving onto our larger dishes, we decided on trying the large Flash Fried Ocean Perch in a lightly-seasoned potato starch batter.  The fish was definitely crunchy while still being moist and flaky.  It was accompanied by an overly mild-tasting soy mirin daikon condiment on the side.  Okay for tofu perhaps, but it needed to be more impactful for the robust fried fish.

Gelatinous, tender and moist, the Lamb Cheeks had penetrated flavours from the braise.  It was further seasoned with a brown butter anchovy sauce that was nutty, briny and of course deeply salty.  The addition of guanciale added another layer of meaty saltiness as well.  If that wasn't enough impact, there were capers that made sure there was enough salty tanginess.  This was a great tasting dish, yet the gnocchi was unfortunately too soft and as Magi exclaimed, "wet".  The last meat dish was the Lamb Shoulder with tosaka seaweed, fregola, anchovy butter, puréed egg yolk, Sicilian olives and pickled peppers.  I found the meat to be flavourful, yet a touch dry.  The silky sweet anchovy butter gave off the flavour of soy butter which made the dish Japanese-tasting.

Moving onto the sweets, we had Dark Chocolate Cake first.  It was definitely bitter and only mildly sweet with rich flavour and a touch of booze.  Texturally, it was not as heavy as it appeared, but it was not fluffy either. The miso frangelico ice cream was both sweet and salty with a background nutty liquour hit.  Next, we hit up a refreshing treat in the Yuzu Cream with fruit, pistachios and olive oil crumble.  The dessert was thick and creamy with a bright tartness.  I found the fruit to be a nice sweet touch while the nuts added both aromatics and texture. For me, this type of dessert is perfect after a filling meal.

Ending things off was the Tiramisu with whipped soy milk, plum wine and marscapone.  I found the tiramisu to be airy and light with a purposefully sweet creaminess.  There was a strong espresso hit to go along with the je ne sais quoi quality of the sweet plum wine.  Honestly, I couldn't tell they used soy milk as it was that good.  All-in-all, the meal was generally on point.  Sure, there were some things that could've been better, but that goes for anything when sampling an array of items.  Does it live up to the hype?  I would say it met expectations with a nice blend of Japanese flavours fused into Italian dishes.

The Good:
- Something different
- Flavours worked for me
- Generally on point execution

The Bad:
- Can get pricey as most dishes are modest in size
- Seating is "cozy" 

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