Akiyo and Nathan are the most laid-back couple you will ever meet.
Considering the fact that they run a restaurant, which is usually a high-stress vocation producing 'restauranteurs' who talk at a mile a minute.
It was a quiet afternoon after the lunch rush when we stopped by for our interview with Akiyo and Nathan. We felt instantly welcomed by the warm interior decor. The thin wooden panels lining the walls, bulb lights cozily strung criss-cross across the ceiling. Closely-spaced tables encourage intimate conversation (and sharing of the delicious dishes we hope!)
Intriguing art pieces line both sides of the restaurant, and upon closer examination, we realized these portraits were created in pencil. We asked Nathan where he had acquired such an exquisite collection, and he said that the community had supported the opening of their restaurant in many ways, one of which was the donation of this art collection by one of his friends. The left-handed artist creates in pencil, and for those who don't know, this is a notable feat, as there are no scrub marks as most people draw from left to right.
The personal touch of the artwork, hand-drawn chalkboard outlining how Dosanko makes their own 'koji', and most of all the homestyle 'Yoshoku' (Japanese western food) cuisine will make Dosanko your go-to whenever you feel cravings for Japanese comfort food. Nathan excitedly shared with us his idea to put cheese inside of traditional Onigiri (rice ball), and how we can expect more of this type of delicious magic between western and Japanese food from Dosanko.
Akiyo is from Sapporo, Hokkaido, and studied nutrition and dietetics in Edmonton. You can see Sapporo influences in both the food and even the name of the restaurant. The name 'Dosanko', is a type of work horse native to Hokkaido, symbolizing the hard work the duo is investing into Dosanko, forging a path in the restaurant industry.
Nathan has been in the food industry for over a decade, and it has always been his dream to open his own restaurant. When he met Akiyo, he was hooked on her food, 'they tasted like food from a Japanese grandmother that I never had." Nathan credits Akiyo's cooking to bringing it all together, as her Oyako Sandwich had gotten a lot of attention on social media, a great vote of confidence to encourage the duo to open their own restaurant.
They found the location for Dosanko, which was previously another restaurant, already equipped with a nice interior and kitchen setup, and quickly snatched up the spot. We are so glad they did, because their cooking has enriched the Vancouver food scene with their innovative menu and seasonal dishes, such as their Uni Udon and Sakura Onigiri.
I had previously lived in Japan for part of my university years, and dining at Dosanko brought back all the memories of when my landlord lady used to cook meals for me; everything is healthy, delicious and fresh. Akiyo and Nathan had prepared several of their signature dishes for us, and while it was late into the afternoon during the odd hours between lunch and dinner, it was hard for us to put down our chopsticks(!)
The SP Tomato Salad made with local tomatoes was sweet with fresh juices, with light ricotta cheese and shiso leaves creating a refreshing medley perfect for summer.
The Tonkatsu Rice is served the Japanese way, beautifully presented with accompanying side dishes and sauces for you to build the sauce to your liking. A cylinder wood block is used to gently crush sesame seeds, which can be added to the Tonkatsu sauce and served with the free range pork. The rice is moist and chewy, perfect to go with the crispy fried pork and for mixing with the sauce. We can't think of a better rainy day indulgence.
That is, until we saw the Jingisukan, which is Japanese Hokkaido-style barbecue lamb with seasonal vegetables and the special Jingisukan sauce passed on from Akiyo's aunt in Hokkaido. Served on a sizzling hot plate, the lamb is flavourful and the sauce is exceptional. Order an extra bowl of rice to make sure you savour every last drop!
Just when we thought we could not possibly eat anymore, Akiyo served up a Japanese classic - Omu-Rice. The Dosanko version is different in that it is served with the egg omelette on top of a bed of fried rice. The egg omelette's outer layer is well-done, while the inside retains the fluffiness and slightly liquid consistency. Aikyo gently slit open the omelette, revealing the steaming egg inside, and poured the sweet and tangy tomato sauce on top. We appreciate how each of the dishes embodies the traditions of Japanese cooking, with the use of local ingredients adding a western twist.
This visit reminded me of all the wonderful traditional dishes I had once enjoyed as an exchange student, and opened up my mind to the possibilities of how 'Yoshoku' can and will evolve with the Dosanko duo, quietly changing the game with their passion for cooking great food for their community.
Akiyo and Nathan created Dosanko with the vision to offer a place where everyone could come together to enjoy good food in an unpretentious environment. Their daughter plays in the children's area in the back, which the couple had set up to cater to families with young children, a great addition to allow parents an opportunity to enjoy their food as their children busy themselves playing in the children's corner. Dosanko is a place created and nurtured with heart, and upon meeting Akiyo and Nathan, you will feel the warmth of dining here that extends beyond the food.
566 Powell St Unit #100, Vancouver
Photos: Florence Leung