At Dosanko, Japanese comfort food finds an elegant home in Vancouver

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In the culinary world, it’s all about balance, whether it’s a matter of texture, colour, or flavour. Then there is the partnership between the front of the house and the back of the house, which have to work in perfect harmony for either space to thrive; nothing is mutually exclusive.

And then there are the restaurants that are run by the brave couples who are partners in life and in business, who try to grow a dream at work and sustain a family at home.

Dosanko japanese vancouver
Photo: Lindsay William-Ross/Vancouver Is Awesome

One of the latest duos to step up onto the restaurant industry tightrope in Vancouver is Akiyo Tani and Nathan Lowey. They have recently opened up Dosanko, which brings the world of Japanese homestyle cooking to the professional kitchen, and creates a unique space in the city where you can experience these hard-to-find eats in a space that manages to be family-friendly without being inelegant.

The couple met in Edmonton, but packed up and headed west to pursue opportunities in the food industry. Lowey worked for Vancouver’s legendary Robert Belcham at Refuel and Campagnolo, and while Tani has significant kitchen cred from her time in Alberta, she honed her front-of-house skills as a key player on the Campagnolo and Tojo’s teams.

In a marvelous almost full-circle turn of events, Lowey and Tani have set up Dosanko in Vancouver’s Japantown, in the space that was once the short-lived Belcham venture Fat Dragon, but was more recently a cafe.

Dosanko japanese vancouver
Photo: Aki’s Salad (Lindsay William-Ross/Vancouver Is Awesome)

The couple turned the space over expediently–one fortunate stroke was that the kitchen was top of the line and well-designed thanks to Belcham’s era–but made sure to include a small and unobtrusive seating area with a few toys where kids can go to be kids.

Among those kids are the two young Lowey children, who are learning from their parental role models the fine art of balancing work and family, and who are enthusiastic taste-testers of their parents’ food–including an egg salad sandwich on thickly sliced housemade milk bread you’ll find on the lunch menu.

When it comes to the food, balance is again the operative. Tani brings to the table her affinity for healthier, nutritionally-balanced fare that reflects her heritage and passion for health; to her credit the Dosanko menu includes things like the amazake, a traditional hot fermented rice beverage, and her eponymous salad, which includes a mixture of seasonal veggies, greens, and grains.

dosanko japanese vancouver
Photo: Udon and Tonkatsu (Lindsay William-Ross/Vancouver Is Awesome)

Lowey, on the other hand, is the one who is occasionally butchering to order in the back, marrying his longtime experience in fabricating meats and refined cooking, and creating robust dishes like juicy heritage pork that’s panko-breaded and fried (tonkotsu), beef tongue stew, or Hamburg (a Japanese-style meat patty that’s blanketed in a rich “demi” sauce).

While you can indeed get an array of the expected Japanese dishes here, like their soulful take on udon, their playful onigiri (rice balls), or rice bowls (don), it’s the dishes that tap into the heart of Japanese home cooking that make Dosanko such a special place.

dosanko japanese vancouver
Photo: Omu Rice, before it’s opened (Lindsay William-Ross/Vancouver Is Awesome)

The showstopper is their Omu Rice, a dish that immediately harkens comfort for those familiar with the egg dish. Dosanko’s version is a buttery yellow and quivering bundle nestled atop rice that is sliced tip to toe to reveal a creamy, eggy interior that gently collapses itself and then welcomes generous spoonfuls of sauce, like their housemade tomato or curry.

It seems silly to reduce something this tasty to a pop culture tagline, but this dish is for sure prime Boomerang fodder, and an immensely satisfying eat to boot. The hefty portion even tastes great warmed up as a leftover, as an aside.

dosanko japanese vancouver
Photo: Lindsay William-Ross/Vancouver Is Awesome

Their drinks program means you can enjoy anything from hot tea to wine, Japanese whiskey, sake, or beer with your food, and a selection of desserts–if you manage to save room–can round out your meal with a sweet note. Among their offerings is an on-trend Green Tea Mille Crepe, which is lightly sweet.

With what seems like a sushi spot on every corner, Vancouver is ready to further diversify its Japanese food scene, and Dosanko provides diners with a welcome balance. It’s cozy and laid-back, but still feels fresh and contemporary. Lowey’s talents meld nicely with the foods of Tani’s Japan, and Dosanko’s commitment to top-quality ingredients and techniques mean these more homey foods are truly elevated.

dosanko japanese vancouver
Photo: Fried Onigiri with cheese (Lindsay William-Ross/Vancouver Is Awesome)
dosanko japanese vancouver
Photo: Green tea mille crepe (Lindsay William-Ross/Vancouver Is Awesome)

Dosanko

Address: 566 Powell Street, Vancouver

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Lindsay is a Senior Writer at Vancouver Is Awesome. A fourth generation Vancouverite, she was previously the Food Editor of Daily Hive and Senior Editor of Vancity Buzz. Lindsay grew up in Vancouver and Toronto, then spent over 20 years in Los Angeles, where she was EIC of the city's top blog, earned her Masters in English, attended culinary school, and was an English professor. Lindsay's first published piece was December 1980 in The Province; it was her letter to Santa. E-mail: lindsay@vancouverisawesome.com