MICHELIN Guide Ceremony 4 minutes 27 October 2022

Kissa Tanto Team, MICHELIN Guide Vancouver 2022 Service Award

How Kissa Tanto's team works together to make dinner at one of Vancouver's hottest restaurants a breeze for themselves and a delight for guests.

Congratulations to the team at One MICHELIN Star Kissa Tanto, winners of the 2022 MICHELIN Guide Vancouver Service Award, presented in partnership with Air Canada! Among the team here, helmed by GM Justin Isidro, are Belinda Siu (wine director/assistant GM); Felix Maristany (chef de cuisine); Fraser Crawford (bar manager); and Joël Watanabe (owner/exec chef). Kissa Tanto is one of Vancouver's hottest tables, yet the service is impressively gracious and fine-tuned. As part of the inaugural MICHELIN Guide Vancouver launch, we chatted with the crew about what they're eating now (tomatoes, delicata squash) and staying calm amid the chaos. 

Kissa Tanto general manager Justin Isidro

© Hakan Burcuoglu/Kissa Tanto

What are you eating right now?
Justin Isidro:  I'm taking advantage of the continued tomato season. We're basically having a second summer with our growing season being exponentially pushed forward this year and having continued dry, warm weather through October. I love the variety of heirloom tomatoes available and the versatility they bring to a meal. 
Belinda Siu: I'm eating a lot of squash and Concord grapes.
Felix Maristany: Coho salmon, chicory (treviso being my favorite), and delicata squash!
Fraser Crawford: I’m deep into my rotation of favourite ramen and soup dumpling spots; I opt towards eating lots of chicory salads, squash, and Brussels sprout dishes. With the late start to the summer and the extension of that season, I also try to eat as many tomatoes and greens as possible. 
Joël Watanabe: I’ve been trying to eat as many tomatoes as I can in this very late season, maybe with tonnato and basil that’s growing right beside the tomatoes, on some grilled sourdough bread from Ubuntu. 


Kissa Tanto wine director Belinda Siu
© Hakan Burcuoglu/Kissa Tanto

What's a typical evening at the restaurant?
JI: We start the evening by greeting guests at the door. Servers [give] a thorough explanation of the menu’s nuances. You slowly start to hear the chatter build in the room as the first sips are savoured. Discussions of wine follows suit. You feel the intensity and energy increase throughout the night. 
BS: A bustling room where you'll find a healthy mixture of repeat and new guests. You'll hear jazz amid an atmosphere of cocktail-shaking and the bell ringing for a pick-up in the kitchen. The staff, from the back to the front of the house, are hustling, and working with great focus and passion.
FM: It feels like the rhythm of “Groovin’ High” by Charlie Parker and Dizzy Gillespie. The dining room glows from the look of excitement on guests’ faces.
FC: Lively, busy, and mysterious. The fast pace of service—with every table sharing and indulging in so many different dishes and beverages—centres the conversation on what exactly is happening on the table in front of them.
JW: Typical service starts with greeting the first customers at the door with Justin. Afterwards, running the pass and making sure the kitchen and food run smoothly.


Kissa Tanto chef de cuisine Felix Maristany
© Hakan Burcuoglu/Kissa Tanto

Justin and Belinda, you're also sommeliers. What's your favorite beverage at the restaurant?
JI: Luis Pato’s single vineyard Quinta do Moinho. It's from Bairrada in Portugal, a lesser-known region but one of my favourites. The wine itself is from the 2000 vintage and demonstrates it's not only wines from Italy or France that can age gracefully. The tannins are polished which comes down to its age and allows the wine to pair well with our magret duck breast that has recently joined our menu.
BS: Sohomare's Tokubetsu Junmai pairs beautifully with our tajarin. This Kimoto-style sake has a natural umami flavour and a delicate mushroom note. It makes for a very fun pairing with the roasted mushrooms and butter parmesan emulsion in the tajarin. 

Kissa Tanto bar manager Fraser Crawford

© Hakan Burcuoglu/Kissa Tanto

What does "really good service" mean to you?
JI: It's important to build comfort for everyone that sits in our dining room. We want to be personable with the guest and not just serve them. Listening to what guests have to say and being perceptive to each individual’s needs helps build the trust required to create an exceptional experience for them.
BS: Providing our guests with a warm and welcomed room, to be one step ahead of our guests' needs and to be knowledgeable about our refreshment and supper menu.
FC: A great rapport is built with all guests, our communication and efficiency as a team is high (“doing the dance”), and the carefully crafted cocktails are beautiful and timely. The most important thing is that every guest’s enthusiasm for their specific experience stays high for the duration of their time with us and hopefully long thereafter. When all of those things are happening, it’s easy to go home feeling positive, accomplished, and eager to do it again the next day.
FM: When we hear from guests that their experience with us was the most memorable meal of their lifetime.
JW: Connecting with guests and quickly understanding whether they want a lot of involvement or not. Knowledgeable service without seeming pretentious is key. We try to create a warm and welcoming environment to put people at ease.


Kissa Tanto owner and excecutive chef Joël Watanabe
© Mark Yammine/Kissa Tanto

A popular restaurant can be chaotic for staff. How do you and your team stay calm?
JI: The guest experience comes first. How and when we communicate during service can make or break us during hectic times. Everyone has a great understanding of what we want to achieve during service and how to prioritize during busy moments. There's a significant amount of communication between front and back of house, which is crucial to the dining room. We have one common goal: to provide a delicious meal with great service and everyone takes pride in that.
BS: Each person has a designated position. I do my best to assist them during those moments. It can be as simple as refilling waters, speaking to guests about wine or today's features and running food. If I can help to alleviate a pressure point, this will help the team to breathe and maintain a calm demeanor.
FM: This restaurant is comprised of people that love what they do; we trust each other and come together to make it all happen when things get chaotic.
FC: Humility, preparation, and confidence. Humility in a sense that for many of the guests coming to our restaurant, it is a very special occasion and they chose to come to Kissa Tanto. Remembering that is huge. Humility in being able to lean on our co-workers. There isn’t a single task in this restaurant that anybody is above, and if you ask for help you can be sure there will be hands ready to help. Preparation. Very simply, consistent preparation and communication in the process of. Knowing we have all the necessary tools, stock, and resources available and at the ready make most challenges that we face just lay ups. Then we have the time and bandwidth available to handle any curveballs that may and will come our way. Confidence in our own and co-workers’ abilities. We all pride ourselves in being ever-improving professionals in hospitality. Confidence in Kissa Tanto, what we do, what we offer and in the ownership/leadership that put it all together in the first place.
JW: The leadership structure maintaining poise greatly helps keep the calm. As well, working with people who have been in the company a long time creates a sense of competence and ease.

Presented in partnership with Air Canada
Presented in partnership with Air Canada

Hero image: Kissa Tanto team - Fraser Crawford, Felix Maristany, Belinda Siu, Joël Watanabe, and Justin Isidro
© Hakan Burcuoglu/Kissa Tanto

MICHELIN Guide Ceremony

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