Restaurant: Hapa Izakaya
Last visited: September 29, 2010
Location: 3 locations in Vancouver, BC
Address: 1193 Hamilton Street, Vancouver BC (Yaletown/Downtown)
Price Range: $20-30
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
- Since 2003
- Creative Japanese fusion tapas
- Japanese chefs
- One of Vancouver’s 1st Izakaya restaurants
- Award winning “best casual Japanese”
- Local favourite
- Busy/Very popular to locals/tourists
- Casual, but trendy & posh
- Fresh sheets/Seasonal menu
- Omakase menu available
- Special Sushi Saturday menus
- Great for drinks & tapas
- Imported beer/wine
- Daily specials
- Heated patio
- Ocean Wise
- Open late
- Hapa Izakaya – Kitsilano
- Hapa Izakaya – Robson
- Hapa Umi
- Sun-Thurs. 5pm-12am
- Fri-Sat. 5pm-1am
- Yaletown location also open for lunch 12pm-2pm
**Recommendations: Fresh sheet items (limited time offer): Zucchini Gyoza, Crispy Gindara, Oyster Miso Ishi Regular menu: Aburi Mackerel, Kinoko Meshi (mixed mushroom hot stone bowl)
Hapa Izakaya is an ultra sexy and contemporary Japanese fusion tapas restaurant in downtown Vancouver, BC. It was one of the first restaurants to introduce the Japanese Izakaya scene to Vancouver. Since then they have become an award winning restaurant with three locations including the original one on Robson (see here), another in Kitsilano (see here), and the newest is this one in Yaletown. It’s a restaurant, lounge and bar and everything is served in small portions so it’s food that is meant to be shared.
I’ve dined at all 3 locations and overall I always enjoy the food here, although I just really love izakaya in general. Hapa Izakaya is a solid choice for Japanese fusion tapas with great presentation. In terms of food and value I find it better than Gyoza King, but not as good as Kingyo. Many of the dishes could be even better with more time spent on the recipes and attention to fine details. I also found a lot of things had a spicy note which got a bit repetitive, and I like spicy.
It’s an open kitchen and the atmosphere is very sleek. It’s almost the “Cactus Club” of Izakaya with attractive waitresses, trendy music, and a posh crowd. The atmosphere can trump the food at times and the prices are fair to slightly expensive. I actually really like the fact that they keep a small stack of small plates at every table so you can change them yourself. A slight thing that bothered me is that the staff kept trying to take away my food before I was finished. Mind you I had one bite left on the plate, but still, I was saving it for last.
The menu is extensive and changes very frequently and they offer daily specials so there’s always something new to try. The popular favorites will rotate more often though. The fresh sheet is more creative than the regular menu and it features fresh and seasonal ingredients so I usually stick to this. Upon request Hapa Izakaya also offers an Omakase menu where the chef determines your dinner with a selection of his own daily creations.
On the table:
- Octopus morsels marinated with wasabi & served with cucumber sticks $4.50
- This is a raw dish and popular with Japanese. It’s more of an acquired taste. I’ve had it at Kingyo, Gyo-O, Koto Izakaya Sushi & Robata and Gyoza King, but it was my first time trying it here.
- It had a very strong wasabi kick, similar to the one at Gyoza King where it was almost too much.
- The raw octopus is usually marinated in fresh wasabi with Japanese pickles and tobiko and I like that version the best. this one didn’t have either, but instead it had fresh kelp (seaweed). The kelp just enhanced the slimy texture of the overall dish and I prefer the crunch of tangy Japanese pickles over the crunch and fishy taste of kelp.
- I also like it when it’s served with seaweed like at Kingyo or Koto Izakaya Sushi & Robata.
- Albacore tuna, cucumber and micro wasabi tossed in special sesame sauce $5.25
- I love gomaae! It had a decent ratio of cucumber and tuna but the quality of the tuna was only okay with a prominent fishy taste. I would have loved to have cubes of avocado in here as well.
- I love the house made gomaae sauce though, although it’s a bit thin. It was almost like melted peanut butter, in a good way. It’s nuttier than most goammae sauces I’ve had with more of a peanut taste than a sesame taste.
- I could taste the texture of freshly grated wasabi, but not so much the flavour. It had a very gentle kick that you had to search for, but I still liked it.
- My favourite gomaae sauce is from Yoko Sushi in Coquitlam.
- Tempura wild Mexican white prawns served with spicy mayo sauce served with crispy shrimp chips $8.50
- The Ebi Mayo can vary because the type of prawn used changes so it’s also on their fresh sheet.
- I’m like ebi mayo, but I don’t have to have it, although I tend to order it quite often. The best one I’ve had is at Toratatsu but this is very good as well.
- Eat these right away or it gets soggy fast. The spicy mayo sauce is excellent, it’s equally savoury as it is spicy with a nice kick at the end and they give you a nice amount. The prawns are jumbo and tender with a marinated crispy tempura batter which was unexpected but made it even better.
- They served it with some greens rather than the crispy shrimp chips.
- Fresh ahi tuna, thinly sliced and served with a slightly spicy yuzu dressing $7.95
- I do love tuna carpaccio, but I like the innovative takes on it. This version was more like sashimi, and although it was found under the “sashimi” category, calling it “tuna carpaccio” was more exciting. I like the tuna carpaccio from Kingyo best.
- The tuna was presented 2 different ways, but they were both the same. It was topped with a little bit of yuzu dressing and some marinated lemon zest.
- The tuna itself was delicious! The quality of tuna was high, fresh and creamy.
- The dressing was too light and didn’t absorb into the tuna itself. It wasn’t really spicy at all and the yuzu tasted like a sweet soy vinaigrette.
- It was also served with a small dish of kelp (fresh seaweed), which isn’t really my thing.
- House made smoked duck, organic mix green, candy pecan, dry fruit, poached pear topped with passion fruit dressing $8
- A deconstructed duck salad. I did expect more from the salad although it was good and the combination worked. It was just a bit “bulk isle at the grocery store” with the toppings and I thought the dried fruit would be more than just raisins.
- The duck tasted just like prosciutto with a smoky flavour and a thin layer of very tender and soft fat.
- The passion fruit dressing was very strong in flavour except it was also spicy and I thought that took away from the passion fruit flavour itself. Passion fruit is so fragrant, sweet and tangy that it doesn’t need to be spicy.
- Sliced zucchini sandwiched with minced pork. Tempura Style! $6.80
- My favourite dish of the night. It’s creative and tastes better than it looks, and it looks excellent!
- It’s tender and soft gyoza meat stuffing sandwiched between tender slices of zucchini and deep fried in tempura. It was crispy, soft and juicy with aromatic flavours of ginger and garlic. It tastes very Chinese and it was a very innovative take on a traditional gyoza.
- It came with a chili, soy sauce vinaigrette that was tangy with a slight kick at the end.
- Baked local sable fish marinated in Miso with Parmesan bread crumbs, creamy mushroom sauce with seasonal veggies $10.25
- I really liked this, but I also just really like sable fish and cheesy baked gratin topping.
- The sable fish was juicy, tender and flavourful with a crispy baked Parmesan and panko crumb crust. It’s impossible to mess up sable fish so it should be good, however it had a few tiny bones in it and I expected it to be boneless.
- The sauce tastes like Cheese Whiz, cream, butter and maybe a little bit of real Cheddar melted into it. It has a very obvious tangy Cheese Whiz taste and a slightly powdery texture. Of course it would have been better if it was a Parmesan cheese sauce, but oddly enough it was still good. I loved the addition of mushrooms to it as well.
- The baby carrots and green beans made the dish look juvenile and they were undercooked, but other than that it was creamy cheesy goodness.
- Fanny Bay oysters, mushrooms, shiso, ginger, green onion with miso sauce & rice in a hot stone bowl $9.80
- I love their mixed mushroom stone bowl, but this time I tried their daily special stone bowl.
- This had tons of flavours! Each grain of rice was coated with a savoury miso sauce and some Japanese soy sauce to make it very savoury, but not too salty.
- It had 4 medium sized oysters that gave it a slight seafood taste and some nice juicy mushrooms to add some texture. I would have liked one more ingredient to make it more interesting though.
- It ended up quite pasty and mushy due to the Miso sauce, however they made it work again. I would just let it get extra crispy to break up the soft texture.