Starting and running a restaurant is tough business.
Viewed from the outside in, the bustling dining room, flowing drinks and tasty dishes may seem like a life one might desire, but that does not account for the early mornings, late evenings and year-round operations the owners must endure.
Knowing this from their extensive experience in the restaurant industry, co-owners Miki Ellis and Stephen Whiteside decided to start their own restaurant anyway, quietly opening the doors to Dachi on East Hastings last December.
The duo met while working at the Aburi Restaurants (Miku, Minami, Gyoza Bar), and ended up living out in Toronto together to open the Miku location there. Both come from a beverage background, and when they discovered that their envisioned go-to spot was extremely aligned, it felt natural to open up shop together.
DACHI - THE STORY BEHIND THE NAME
When it came to the name, the duo selected a name that represents their friendship. Miki shared that the incorporated business name is actually ‘Dachi and Mucker’, which means ‘pal’ in Japanese and ‘mate’ in Irish, combining the heritage of the co-owners and starting the business off on a lighthearted note. As to why the location was eventually named just ‘Dachi’, Miki asks, “The lighthearted feeling those words evoke was appealing, but you can't really go and name a restaurant "mucker"... can you?!'“
THE INTERIORS | Labour of Love
Walking past the sun-drenched patio and the sliding door into the space with clean white wall and shelving brimming with greenery and books, you would feel like you walked into someone’s cozy living room. The intimate dining space was designed by Miki and Stephen and their family and friends all came together to help with the buildout. As we sat chatting, Miki pointed up to the shelves above the entryway, where a ‘Maneki Neko’ (aka Fortune Cat) sat amongst piles of books, and shared that the space is modelled after her own bookshelves at home.
THE TEAM | Striking a Balance
Being a small team, Miki shares that it’s an ‘all hands on deck’ situation, where everyone leans into their strength and contributes wherever they can. Miki and Stephen also work hard to provide work-life balance for their kitchen staff, where they build more than average time off for their chefs. As for the owners, they attempt to get off work early on alternating evenings, so there is some private down time they could enjoy to themselves. The team also builds in fun field trips, like hopping on their bikes and going on a tour of the local breweries to sample the brands they carry. What a fun way to learn together in an off-site environment!
WORKING WITH THE COMMUNITY | Getting to Know Local Farmers and Suppliers
The menu changes depending on the fresh ingredients available from suppliers. The team works closely with local farmers and suppliers, getting to know them through team field trips and inviting suppliers to dine in at the restaurant. Miki shares that they work closest with the following farms: Cropthorne, Glorious, Hannah Brooke Farm, and Klippers. For wine and sake, Dachi works with small, family-owned producers that are organic, natural and biodynamic.
MUST-HAVE CHEDDAR BISCUITS
While the menu rotates as often as it needs to based on small-batch ingredients from farms and suppliers, the ‘must-have’ cheddar biscuits are a staple on the menu and Miki shares that it will likely continue to be a mainstay given its popularity. The 3-year aged cheddar buttermilk biscuits with apple butter are scrumptious and perfect with any beverage; although we picture consuming these warm biscuits with a creamy latte as a lovely midday snack.
This refreshing dish would be perfect to pair with one of the sake recommended by Miki. The juicy tomatoes are from klippers + glorious, served alongside lemon cucs, and charred and pickled red onion for acidity. This sits atop a Mediterranean chickpea socca (like a crispy crepe); the crepe usually comes in different thickness but the Dachi rendition is thinner.
SEARED PACIFIC OCTOPUS
A Pacific Northwest menu naturally features fresh catch from the area, and the seared pacific octopus dish features wild octopus from Fresh.Ideas.Start.Here, with a creamy yet spicy chorizo aioli, cheddar crumb, apple and kholrabi atop a bed of kale.
SUSTAINABLE LOIS LAKE SKIN-ON TROUT | Perfectly Crispy and Juicy
How many times have you attempted to order salmon at a restaurant and it came out on the dry side? Not this one. This one is done to perfection. What is perfection? In this case the skin is crispy on the top, releasing mouth-watering aromas even before it reaches your table. A thin line of fat beneath the skin provides a balance to the crispy skin that is a ‘texture’ match made in heaven. The fish is moist, tender and juicy, cuts with a fork, and melts in your mouth. We definitely loved the fish so much so there may have been a fighting match over the last bite, but the accompanying vegetables were also a highlight, with the sweet, braised hakurei turnips, sauteed dandelion leaves, fava beans, mustard cream, and pea tendrils. Needless to say, we cleaned the plate.
The recommended match for this dish is the Last Pampas cocktail - a twist on the Last Word representing the grasslands of Patagonia - using Trakal (a new spirit from Patagonia!), green chartreuse, lime juice, lillet, and egg white.
Though the menu features many must-try creations, we must not forget to explore the meticulously designed bar and cocktail program at Dachi, given the beverage background of the co-owners. Here you will find thoughtfully selected sake and wines to go with each course. If in doubt, remember to consult either Miki or Stephen for their expert opinion - we are sure they will be more than excited to assist you!
We cannot agree more with Miki and Stephen’s approach to running and growing Dachi. While we were supposed to visit for a one-hour booking, we ended up sitting and chatting for a good two-hours in the balmy summer afternoon weather. We will definitely return for the delicious and perfectly done salmon, but more importantly, to support the vision of the two passionate owners. You can feel the enthusiasm and joy the two share over the ability to share a great food and welcoming dining space with their surrounding community. We urge you to visit Dachi to enjoy their tasty menu, and to connect with the team, their supplier community, and the regulars who dine in.