AFTER BEING named our best new restaurant for 2017 and receiving an envy-inducing review in The New York Times, this enchanting Japanese-Italian supper club continues to earn accolades with glowing write-ups in Condé Nast Traveler, Bon Appétit and Germany’s B-EAT.
Hidden away in a second-storey loft on the gritty side of Chinatown, the atmospheric dining room (designed in “the colour palette of a David Lynch project,” Times critic Pete Wells aptly observed) transports you to a time when people dressed for dinner and a night on the town evoked a sense of occasion. Dreamed up by Tannis Ling, owner of the acclaimed Bao Bei, along with her longtime executive chef Joël Watanabe and sous chef Alain Chow, it’s a place where lovers can hold hands in dimly lit banquettes, while the broken-hearted search for solace in a dram of Japanese whisky, chased by a soulful jazz soundtrack at a shagadelic wood and brass bar.
An imaginative menu—“neither Japanese nor Italian but some third thing invented by Mr. Watanabe and Mr. Chow,” wrote Wells—conjures delicate sheets of handmade pasta layered with tender kasu-braised pork and miso besciamella, or spaghettini folded with a white ragu of thyme pork sausage, soy pickled garlic, almond parsley pesto and ginger crumb.
For nibbling, there are fried olives stuffed with shiso and sausage, quivering chawan mushi egg custard spiked with Parmesan, bagna cauda amplified with bonito and a signature flash-fried fish lightly battered in potato flour and diamond-scored so that the opalescent flesh puffs into golden-crisped nuggets for dipping into grated-daikon soy sauce. Right down to the last crumbs of tofu tiramisu soaked in plum wine, we remain captivated by the spell.