There’s a new definition of Asian fusion. French influences seem passé. Now it’s all about Japan meets Italy. Yes, Japanese-Italian. At Kissa Tanto, pasta mingles with shiso broth. Eggplant is Japanese, yet roasted Italian-style. Magret duck breast gets a hit of miso, while sake sidles up to glasses of big Tuscan reds. Yet, is it really that surprising? It’s the diversity of Canada in one spot and, even better, a relaxed, all-inclusive vibe that puts everyone at ease. Tokyo jazz cafés of the 1960s, known as “jazu-kissa,” inform both the ambience and the name, kissa. Tanto loosely translates to “so much” or “plenty.” Nevermind – after one bite,you’ll want to kissa the cook, plenty.
Californians are notoriously demanding restaurant patrons, but at chef Ludo Lefebvre’s collaboration with John Shook and Vinny Dotolo, guests must submit to buying tickets online ahead of time for the spectacular no-substitutions five-course tasting menu.
Though Lefebvre’s foundation is French cooking (he was born in Auxerre, Burgundy), don’t be surprised if curry, ceviche or other global flavours make an appearance in one form or another.
The small dining room (an old pizza parlour, sign still intact, just off Melrose Avenue) makes for an exclusive speakeasy-like experience.
You know Michelin-starred chef Cristiano Tomei has a big, playful personality without ever meeting him or seeing him on TV cooking shows. It’s all there in the flavours. While there’s certainly a Tuscan heart to his tasting menu (guests get only a choice of number of dishes), the key element is surprise: salty when you expect sweet and vice versa. Today it’s herring with dandelion, tomorrow, overstuffed ravioli sitting like eggs atop a bird’s nest. The dining room is located inside the Lucca Center of Contemporary Art, whose creative displays can also make your heart race.
Call us crazy, but we’ve rediscovered Italian here. Being Canadian, however, we appreciate MasterChef Canada host “Demon Chef” Alvin Leung’s Michelin-starred Bo Innovations, and new kid on the block Vicky Cheng (alum of Toronto’s George Brown College and Oliver Bonacini) and his one-Michelin-star VEA resto. But it’s the Italian, chef Umberto Bombana, that has us excited. Bombana arrived in 1993 with his truffle-flecked Northern Italian cuisine and never looked back. In 2010, he opened 8ó, a fine-dining experience with a little Fellini-esque la dolce vita (hence the name of his resto) thrown in that’s scored three Michelin stars – the only three-starred Italian restaurant outside
Italy. Don’t miss the caviar and abalone starter, the white-truffle pasta, risotto or, well, just about anything over which Bombana can shower those earthy truffles.
With a culinary scene that’s often overshadowed by that of its neighbour to the north, Chile has a deep need for champions of the kitchen. Enter Rodolfo Guzmán, who trained as a chemical engineer before working in restaurants in Chile and Spain. From the time Guzmán opened Boragó in 2007, the chef has scoured his native land for traditional ingredients (algae, beach asparagus, a fungi that grows on tree limbs, berries he finds on the forest floor) and embraced ancient cooking methods used by the Mapuche indigenous people – all, of course, with a modern twist. The ever-changing tasting menu, as many as 20 courses, can be paired with wine or juice.
Though Tel Aviv is awash in great restaurants, the drive to the countryside north of the Atsmon Mountain Reserve is part of the delight of visiting solar-powered eco-farm Goats with the Wind. Organic goat cheese is the star attraction of their prix fixe menu, which is driven by seasonal local ingredients straight from the farm’s vegetable garden. Eaten in their comfy al fresco dining room, the salads are as fresh as they are pretty, and the wine to wash it down with is, of course, made right on the property. Meat options available, too.
Unquestionably, Spain is an incubator for culinary trends. This is, after all, the turf of the groundbreaking chef/godfather of molecular gastronomy Ferran Adrià, who created El Bulli. In Madrid, Adrià disciples such as the Michelin-starred chef Sergi Arola, and his take on tapas at Vi Cool, carries the torch. But for a truly next-level experience, look no further than Adrià’s brother, Albert. elBarri is a concept of multiple dining venues dotted around the city, from Tickets, a Barcelona-inspired tapas resto that’s ranked 25 in the Top 50 Restaurants, to Enigma, a reservations-only, experiential spot where you don’t know what you’ll be eating until they’ve confirmed your table.