Dachi’s Ellis & Whiteside’s Fave 5 Inspirational Restaurants in Canada
Miki Ellis, co-owner of Dachi, hates the phrase ‘silver lining’ but she and business partner Stephen Whiteside have clearly managed to scrape up any and all of the positive crumbs of the last year.
Opened December 2018 in Vancouver’s Hastings Sunrise neighbourhood, Dachi serves up local, seasonal, simply yet smartly prepared fare. It has expanded from restaurant to bottle shop, grocer and wine club hub. Having recently taken over the adjacent dry-cleaner, the duo transformed the parking lot into essential patio dining and is now busily constructing a yet-to-be-defined retail store.
They describe their process of deciding to open a restaurant as a game of chicken. Neither was sure that the other was serious – until they found themselves with a possible location. While there is a certain ‘flying by the seat of their pants’ aspect to their tale, nothing has been half-hearted or careless.
Whiteside and Ellis met while working together at Miku. He was the beverage director, and she oversaw the sake program. They butted heads. “Miki and I are very different but that is now considered our strength,” says Whiteside who is thoughtful, sincere and gracious with simmering drive. As for Ellis, she is spontaneous, charismatic and articulate with an unequivocal zest for life. Together they have created a thriving beacon on the corner of Hastings and Garden.
Below are some of their favourite places to dine in Vancouver along with inspiration from Toronto and Montréal. They chose to leave Ugly Dumpling off their list to avoid shameless self-promotion, but it’s worth a mention. Before they became partners with Darren Gee in November 2020, Ugly Dumpling was Whiteside and Ellis’ go-to on days off or to get something to eat after closing. “Darren is one of the most creative, interesting and intelligent chefs in the city,” Whiteside declares. They joined forces to survive the pandemic.
Motonobu Udon 3501 E Hastings Street, Vancouver BC
“It’s just down the street from Dachi. It’s my favourite Tuesday lunch place because nothing is open on Tuesdays. The noodles are handmade. Chef Shin is the only one to do it in the city. There is this chilled udon dish with umeboshi and wakame seaweed that is perfect for summer. We were having lunch there with Darren when the idea to work together came up.” – Ellis
Kissa Tanto 263 E Pender Street, Vancouver BC
“I have always loved the dining experience at Kissa Tanto. It’s not any one thing. The service, the room, the lights, the vibe – the whole experience transports you. But it isn’t necessarily nostalgic to anywhere in particular. They made it into a place that doesn’t exist. It’s its own thing and there is a romance to that.” – Ellis
“I put less attention on food than a lot of my peers. I am very much wine list and atmosphere over food to be totally honest. But Kissa Tanto ticks all those boxes. I remember going there for my birthday when we were first deciding to open our own place and there was a special aspect to that.” – Whiteside
Yuwa 2775 W. 16th Avenue, Vancouver BC
“Owner Iori Kataoka is spectacular. I worked for her at ShuRaku and she was such a big part of nurturing my passion for sake. I also worked with Chef Masahiro Omori and his food is incredible. It is wonderfully executed Japanese food.” – Ellis
“Besides the food, I think the wine list is so well-structured. It is nice to see a wine list that everyone can enjoy. There is something for the cool kids as well as all the classic wines. It has great balance.” – Whiteside
Grey Gardens 199 Augusta Ave, Toronto Ontario
“I love the layout – the big table in the front, which is something we had in the beginning at Dachi, and the long room with an open kitchen. It is very inclusive. But the service is what I really remember. When I walked in, the guy at the bar made one comment that seemed to say get out of the cold and into our warmth – you need to be in here. A lot of what owner Jenn Agg has done in Toronto resonates with me. She started with Black Hoof, then right next door she put Rhum Corner and across the street she opened Cocktail Bar. That idea of risking everything and putting it into a neighbourhood that doesn’t exist yet, then building the community around what you are doing is really lovely.” – Whiteside
Liverpool House 2501 Notre Dame Ouest, Montréal Quebec
“In Montréal, there are so many small rooms that feel almost like a living room – Tuck Shop, Loïc Wine Bar, Restaurant Lawrence, Maison Publique, Joe Beef… They are warm, inviting and have personality. The first one I went to was Liverpool House. I arrived at the backyard patio directly from the airport. There were six of my friends and two magnums on the table. I was like ‘yes!’. This didn’t exist in Vancouver as I knew it. It is the fun kind of dining that I love – playful, unpretentious with a neighbourhood feel. It may have imperfections, but in terms of knowledge, service and warmth, it’s dialed and makes you want to come back to share it with other people.” – Ellis