Anyone familiar with Japan will know its kissaten, the country’s old-school coffee houses that predate World War II. This is the inspiration behind Wan, a Taiwanese-fusion restaurant in Meriton’s newly launched Unity dining precinct, within striking distance of Mascot train station.

Elvan Fan and Carol Xu, who also co-own beautiful Rosebery cafe Moon and Back, wanted to create a place where people could drop by for a snack and drink or stay for a longer meal.

“A lot of Mascot is fast food. There aren’t many places to sit and chat with a friend or catch up for a drink or meal,” Xu tells Broadsheet.

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“Cafes in Mascot close around 3pm, but kissaten in Japan are open all day. They have coffee, some drinks, some sweets, some savoury dishes. Everyone can find a reason to visit.”

Like Moon and Back, Wan has a decidedly cool artisan vibe, with a clay feature wall inspired by the wrought-iron window grilles typical of old Taiwanese homes. A sinuous tiled entry wall offers peekaboo views of the sky. There are plans to introduce handcrafted bowls (Fan is a designer) to tie in with the idea of “wan”, a word which means “bowl” in Mandarin. The main dining table is shaped like a bowl.

The tiny diner is a pleasant spot to linger over a drink and snacks or share plates which – in keeping with the concept – come served in bowls of all shapes and sizes.

“Food in Taiwan is influenced by Japanese culture a lot. We wanted the menu to reflect that, but also our personalities,” says Taiwan native Fan, nodding at Xu, who hails from mainland China.

The playful menu fuses Taiwanese, Japanese and mainland Chinese flavours. The signature Wagyu somen takes its cues from traditional Taiwanese beef noodle soup – but a Japanese influence comes through via somen rice noodles, which are thinner than those in the Taiwanese dish, and a 12-hour bone marrow chintan ramen broth.

The mapo tofu pairs agedashi tofu and pork with a decadently thick soy ponzu sauce – without the Sichuan fire. “We wanted it to be really mild, not hot,” says Xu.

“Hamburg” rice, a mainstay of Japan’s kissaten and the ultimate comfort food, sees a pork belly patty, oozy provolone, caramelised onion, miso butter and a runny egg yolk served on a bed of rice.

Snacks range from edamame and karaage to spicy pickled cucumber, cheesy spring rolls and fun sweetcorn ribs topped with aonori, a dried green seaweed, and “nacho” (dehydrated cheese) powder. Japan’s yakisoba pan, the carb-on-carb street food of yakisoba (stir-fried noodles) stuffed in a hotdog bun, is reinvented in a brioche bun with kimchi or avocado.

For drinks, there are teas, Japanese beers, cans of Taiwan Beer and fruity sake, best poured over ice.

When it comes to desserts, the coffee jelly is a time capsule of Japan’s kissaten, here served with a dollop of cream, sea salt and a sprinkle of shiso powder. There’s also a milk mochi. “It’s a street dessert in Taiwan,” says Xu, a pastry chef. “In Taipei they use peanut butter a lot, but we make it with black sugar syrup and kinako powder. It tastes really nice.”

G03/256 Coward Street, Mascot

Wed, Thu & Sun 5pm–9pm
Fri & Sat 5pm–10pm