Imagine a Japanese grandmother, transplanted into your North American home, earnestly cooking you warm, homey, comfort food after returning to her from your long, hard-work filled day. There are no noodles or unsatisfying, pretentious slithers of tuna. No, she cooks you real food. Heartwarming dishes of panko-breaded pork cutlets, fried-rice omelettes, beef stews, and deep fried, creamy bread and butter pudding for dessert. She serves you a glass or two of tasty local wine, comforting beer or homemade schnapps, with warming cups of tea. You eat eagerly under dim-lighting, an orangey-brown-gold ambience akin to the dusk lighting you remember from those wooden cabins of your childhood. The homely vibes are overwhelming, the food nurturing, and, finally, relaxation takes over you, this is Dosanko.
This is Japanese food in Vancouver done differently. Erase the pretension, forget the fads. This is real, warming, comfort food, brought from Japan and dropped into your North American homeland. This is Dosanko – a family-run, intimate restaurant that straddles East and West, serving a style of Japanese food called Yoshoku, a native home-style cuisine that uses Western cooking techniques. Dosanko, opened two years ago, is a welcome newcomer bringing authenticity and heart to the Vancouver foodie scene.
Dosanko was founded by Nathan and Akiyo Lowey, a husband and wife (chefs, of course), who met over their love of this home-style Japanese-Western cooking. She, Akiyo, prepared for Nathan a dish of nikujaga: a hearty stew of meat, potatoes, and vegetables with sweetened soy sauce. This Japanese rendition of an otherwise North American ‘stew’ captured Nathan’s heart when the couple met 10 years ago, and sparked the inspiration for this yoshoku restaurant. He was previously chef at Campagnolo, whilst she managed front-of-house at Tojo’s. Excited to bring this Japanese home-style cooking to Vancouver, their premise is simple: simple ingredients, tasty combinations, and food that will fill you up.
The restaurant, Dosanko is a large, 3,000 square-foot restaurant with capacity for 55 guests. Woody inside, with lots of hanging lanterns and light displays, some exposed brick, and that delicious orange glow, the feel is intimate and warming, cabin-like yet contemporary. It is the sort of space one would expect filling food, comfort, and conversation.
And for this, the restaurant does not disappoint. The menu consists of more familiar items like tempra (seasonal vegetable tempura), tonkatsu (Panko crusted Heritage Old Spot pork), Sabo-Miso (Mackarael braised in sweet miso sauce). There are also more avant-garde dishes, like Omg-Rice, an interesting rice-egg dish of Japanese omelette, fried rice, and tomato sauce, topped with an optional Hayashi sauce (beef) or Curry sauce (pork). There is also a Beef Hamburg with Rice dish, an interesting hamburger style meal of Chopped beef with special demi sauce, and an optional egg. The dishes merge East and West flavours, bringing that Japanese soy element with its emphasis on rice and eggs, to the Western tradition of meaty stews, burgers, and sauces.
For drinks, there is of course an array of Japanese whiskies (Nikka from the Barrel, no less), Sakes, local beers, French wines (and an Orange wine, interestingly), and a home-made plum wine for dessert. The cocktail menu is impressive, corresponding to the East meets West theme of Dosanko, offering interesting Japanese renditions of North American favourites – Martinis, Daquiris and Mojitos, to name a few.
My guest and I arrived on a Thursday night, to the characterful downtown East Side, to be greeted by Akiyo who took us to our window-side seat. She started us off with two cocktails – a delicious Martini and Mojito – as we perused the menu. With welcome savoury and sour notes, neither was too sweet and proved a solid start to the meal. Mine was the Yuzu Margarita, made with Triple sec, tequila, yuzu, lemon, and koji salt rim, whilst my guest had the Shiso Mojito – a white rum, shiso, lime and soda concoction.
We followed Akiyo’s suggestion that she would bring out the best that they have to showcase, and put our menus down in trusting anticipation of what was to come. Our first dish was an aesthetically pleasing plate of Koji Cured Ham – Dosanko’s own proscitto style koji (fermented rice), with cured heritage old spot pork, poached quince and shiso. Much like a Japanese take on the age-old favourite of parma ham with melon, this was both familiar yet different, delicious in its intense sweet and saltiness. We also had the Goma-Ae, a dish of blanched vegetables with marinated sesame dressing, a seemingly familiar Japanese dish that similarly tasted fresh and interesting. The final starter of Tuna Tataki, a beautiful plate of local albacore tuna, hainnanese style ponzu, seasonal greens with radish, crispy harusame, and sea salt, was excellent: thick slices of fresh tuna, with a lovely fresh yet rich glaze that added that delicious Japanese tang.
To drink, we had a pairing of the Haywire Free Form White wine, 2017, an interesting Pinot Blanc Orange wine from the Okanagan. Technically a blend of Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay and Viognier, sourced from three different vineyards, this Orange wine achieves its culture by being left to ferment using native yeast. Its then aged for 8 months on the skins, before being pressed off and blended. Tart, acidic, and slightly tannic, this wine aptly cut through the richness of the tuna and prosciutto, creating a solid match.
For the main, we shared the Omg-Rice. This impressive dish (deceptively known as a rice omelette) came out as a giant omelette enclosing a bed of eggy rice with tomato sauce. A side dish of hot Hayashi sauce with beef, much like a French stew, was poured over the omelette once Akiyo had cut through it, parting the fluffy egg to reveal the oozing rice inside. This visually entertaining dish made for an unexpected show stopper for the meal (we both had to film it), before we tucked in. Creamy, rich, salty, and slightly sweet – again, that familiar Japanese tang – the rice was extremely moreish and comforting, whilst the fluffy egg omelette encasing it gave a pleasing hold over the ooziness inside. The beef stew that we poured over the rice, was rich and meaty, adding a depth to the otherwise simple and sweet rice. It comes as no wonder that this is the restaurant’s favourite dish, given the delightful combination of sweet and salty, solid and sticky, meat, egg, and rice.
Dessert was a similarly indulgent and moreish affair. We had the Japanese Whiskey Bread Pudding, Chef Nathan’s special bread pudding with Suntory Toki whiskey cream, whipped cream served on a sizzling hot plate. Redolent of a good old Bread and Butter Pudding, this version showed oozing mounds of cream atop a whiskey soaked, fried yet soft toast. Sweet, slightly salty, and invoking hints of alcohol, this very moreish dessert was very easy to polish off – despite being already full. It probably helped that Akiyo brought us two glasses of their home made plum sweet wine, called Ume-Shu. With a preserved plum inside the glass, this deliciously sweet nectar helped wash down the indulgent dessert, leaving us both a little tipsy and very satisfied at the meal’s end.
Dosanko was an experience we’d never had before. Excellent Japanese ingredients and recipes fused with Western cooking techniques and concepts makes for a very tasty and comforting combination. New to Yoshoku and keen to try more of it, we’re excited that Dosanko has brought this as-yet-undiscovered style of Japanese food to Vancouver and cannot recommend that you try it enough. Get involved, before it gets mainstream. You won’t regret it.
566 Powell St Unit #100
BC V6A 1G9