Husband and wife team Tony Marzo and Sachi Iwamoto are in the thick of their first year as owner/operators of a food shop & eatery in the East Village, a particularly vibrant pocket emerging within Hastings-Sunrise. Kessel&March (the name a reworking of his parents’ names) serves three meals a day, six days a week, the menu as mixed European as his heritage. The couple spent two years travelling together, and wanted to recreate the smaller dishes and longer meals they had enjoyed overseas. Sachi, an interior designer by day, joins chef Tony on evenings and weekends. They sustain their demanding schedule with the help of Sunday night dinners together “like civilized human beings”, pints of Asahi draft, and the encouragement of enthusiastic barside diners. Located on the ground floor of an artists’ live-work complex, they share a building with their wondrously multi-talented neighbours. Champions of the recent Vancouver Mac & Cheese Challenge, drop in to enjoy their comfort food, sample their baked goods on the go, or reserve your spot at their weekly Wednesday family-style supper.
Favourite item that you keep in stock or serve?
Tony: At this moment? That we stock or serve? I guess we kind of always say when people ask us for something on the menu that most represents what we do I always list the chicken liver pate, the farmhouse terrine and the sardines on toast. Then after that I’m always proud about the pork belly. And then actually all of our desserts I’m always pretty proud of, and it’s kind of picking up now, and it feels like everybody’s ordering a dessert. So those ones are kind of the fun ones I guess, that most represent what we’re trying to do, and kind of what we want to keep as the main staples as being on the menu almost all the time.
Friday night beverage of choice?
Sachi: (to Tony) I know what yours is, you like to drink the Asahi on tap.
Tony: (laughs) I’ll start with an Asahi while I’m cleaning… then I move on to – well it’s tricky, because around this area, there’s so many breweries, and we get pretty good support from them, and there’s a couple particular drinks that I do enjoy: the 311 from Coal Harbour, and then we’re always moving the Parallel 49s, so some of theirs…
Sachi: I also share the Asahi with Tony (laughs)
Tony: The Asahi is – we weren’t even going to have draft beer, because we didn’t really have the space for it, and then Asashi is the only one that has draft beer in this size (points to small keg), and it actually filters through and cools in the line, and Asahi’s one of my favorite beers, and to have it on draft is pretty fantastic.
What is on your current playlist?
Tony & Sachi: (laugh)
Tony: That’s funny. I’ve had like the same playlist playing in here since we opened (laughs)
Sachi: That’s almost 10 months now.
Tony: It’s like purgatory! This is what I say to everybody. It’s so funny, it’s almost comforting right now, because I know when I come in that it’s like a warm blanket. It’s just the same music all day, and I think it’s like about…
Sachi: 17 hours?
Tony: Yeah, it’s about 17 hours, so-
Sachi: It’s been the same for almost 10 months now.
Tony: Yeah, so every once in a while I’ll be here for a really long day and I start to hear the same stuff again and I’m like (despairingly) “I’ve already heard this today!”
Sachi: But it’s a very-
Tony: Eclectic playlist.
Tony: It’s got – I’m all over, from Black Keys, Radiohead, and then I have all of these Rolling Stones covers done in bossa nova, and then I have like even the Ramones in bossa nova, and then there’s Bonobo, there’s, you can go into lots of –
Sachi: There’s Frank Sinatra, James Dean, to…
Tony: Dean Martin, yeah, it’s all over the map. All very, uh, PG (laughs). Nothing just comes out of left field, although that’s what I would – if it was up to me – I’ve actually asked Sachi: “Do you think that Snoop Dogg would be alright if we played it in here?
Tony: I think I know what mine is; Sachi might have a different one. We have a couple of customers, and they enjoy sitting at the bar. And they’ll talk to me, they don’t overly talk to me, but every time they take a bite they tell me how good it is! [laughs]. And there’s one guy in particular, when he comes in honestly, my head just starts to like, swell. He’ll eat one dish and there’ll be three or four times he’ll just be like (dramatically) “Oh my God. Tony this is so good! Oh my God, oh my God. You can’t take this one off the menu. No matter what, this one’s staying on!” And if every customer just sat there, asked me a couple of questions, – didn’t annoy me, but just wanted to feed off of me and just compliment me for the whole night, that’d be great, that’s pretty much my go-to customer!
Sachi: I think it’s anyone who enjoys food. There’s usually a common thread there. People who sit at the bar are interested in food, and I’m always impressed at how knowledgeable they are, about cooking techniques or machinery and types of food. So it’s a lot of fun to be able to talk about food and travel, and what they’ve experienced, and get into conversations…
Tony: That’s funny, that’s what I thought you were going to say!
Favourite Vancouver hidden spot or little-known gem?
Sachi: Maybe the park?
Tony: I would say here.
Sachi: (laughs) Tony!
Tony: I think we’re a hidden gem. But I would say this area.
Sachi: Is pretty undiscovered, and lesser known I think, to the general public. What this area has to offer, and how it’s growing.
Tony: Yeah, I would say probably from this corner to New Brighton Beach, to New Brighton Park, I think is pretty amazing. And lots of people come in here, and they’ll start eating, and you end up striking up a conversation with them, and we always ask them: “Do you live around here?”, and they’ll be like “Oh yeah, I live really close!”. And it ends up about being almost 50% of our customers live around the corner from where we live, because we live on Wall Street,
Sachi: On the same street, yeah.
Tony: They’ll be like “Oh, I live on Wall Street”, and we’ll be like “Oh, where?”
Sachi: “Us too!”
Tony: It’s quite funny. So I’d say this area I feel is like a hidden gem, because even when we moved onto Wall Street – we live with Sachi’s parents – and when Sachi had taken me there for the first time, they had moved, and when I got to see this area for the first time, while we were driving I’m like “Where are you taking me? Where is this?”, and then when we got there I was like “Wow, this is really cool, it’s so nice”, all these little parks along the way, it’s just really nice. Yeah, I’d say it’s a hidden gem. Because that’s what we constantly hear: “Oh you’re such a hidden gem”.
Sachi: “We couldn’t find you!” (laughs)
Something you won’t budge on?
Sachi: I won’t compromise on the quality of the food no matter what. There’s just… if it doesn’t look right, I’d rather not serve it than for it to go out.
Tony: I won’t budge on whatever she tells me not to budge on! (laughs)
Describe your neighbourhood in three words.
Tony: In three words?
Sachi: I think it’s eclectic.
Tony: Changing? That’s a tough one. I didn’t want to say eclectic because the Vancouver Special girl said eclectic. (laughing).
Sachi: Oh really?
Tony: (to Sachi) Yeah, you said eclectic right away and I was like “Ohhh!”
Sachi: But it is! There’s all sorts of people. I think it’s….kind of creative. In this area.
Tony: Yeah I would say it’s a creative hub. I would say –
Sachi: A lot of things are happening. Even the breweries are doing their own thing. Each one is very unique and interesting, we’re surrounded by artists and artist studios.
Tony: I think that, yeah, you could be in Kits and if you talked to somebody and you would be like “What’s your job?” and they would be like “Oh, I work at another restaurant”, or “I work at Telus”, the range of what they do is… I used to live in that area, or South Granville, you could ask anybody anything, but I find that if you talk to anybody around here about what they did, it would actually be a list of things, of things that they do. Like to make a living off of puppeteering, graphic designing, organizing people’s spaces – and the list goes on. And that’s just one person. It’s just crazy.
Sachi: Yeah, but even the woodworking shops, the metal shops, there’s a glass shop, fabricator, people are always making things, creating things.
Tony: Yeah I guess, creative? Creative space.