Chopped Champ Chris Holland Serves Up a Unique Assortment of Street Food at Kantina
Chris Holland grew up the way many people born and raised in a melting pot like North Jersey do — surrounded by a bevy of cuisines and flavors from around the world.
It’s why Kantina, an Asian-inspired taqueria (or as they put it, “takoria”) and cocktail bar in downtown Sparkill, is a reflection of chef-owner Holland’s upbringing in Fort Lee, where Asian Americans make up more than 40% of the population.
“A lot of my friends were Asian, so I grew up eating dinner at their houses, and the food their parents, grandparents made,” Holland said.
Kantina opened last fall in the space formerly occupied by DVine Bar, where the self-taught, three-time Chopped champion had served as chef for a decade. Holland’s career in the culinary world began after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, when he said he decided to spend his remaining quality years doing something he loved. His first restaurant, Session Bistro, was located in Maywood, Bergen County.
Holland describes this restaurant as a cantina (hence the name) serving up affordable street food made with quality ingredients and techniques, adding that it’s a “fun and unique dining experience” typically found in New York City, only you won’t have to cross a bridge to enjoy.
The menu at Kantina offers cold and hot small plates including tiradito (Peruvian sashimi), General Tso’s chicken meatballs, broccoli bites, and mini spare ribs; three types of dumplings and a selection of Asian-style tacos (called “takos”), with unique flavors such as cornflake-crusted Korean hot chicken, sushi, eggplant katsu, chicken tikka masala, and Korean short rib.
Jensen Dibattista, general manager and resident mixologist at Kantina, said the cocktail selection keeps in theme with the Asian and Latin-American fusion menu, using ingredients like sake and agave spirits. The El Camino cocktail – one of the more popular cocktails – is served martini style with tequila, cilantro, lime, agave, hellfire bitters, and a tajin rim. The Jade(D) cocktail combines vodka, yuzu sake, ginger liqueur, pandan syrup, lemon, and absinthe spray.
Rounding out the menu are desserts including zeppole, s’mores waffles, and tahini buttercup.
This summer, Holland hopes to bring Kantina’s warm, unique atmosphere al fresco, opening up the space’s patio and picnic area. And for those days when the weather isn’t cooperating and you don’t want to leave home? Kantina now offers delivery and takeout, too. “This food travels as well as anything.”
4 Depot Square
Elyse Toribio has lived in North Jersey for nearly 20 years and is always looking for a new shop, restaurant, or spot in the area to recommend to friends and family.
Photos courtesy of Kantina