Restaurant: Hapa Izakaya
Last visited: October 27, 2010
Location: Vancouver, BC (Robson/West End/Downtown)
Address: 1479 Robson St
Price Range: $20-30
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
- Since 2003
- 3 locations in Vancouver
- Hapa Izakaya – Yaletown post
- Hapa Izakaya – Kitsilano post
- Hapa Umi post
- Creative Japanese fusion tapas
- Japanese chefs
- One of Vancouver’s 1st Izakaya restaurants
- Voted best 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
- Sun-Thurs. 5pm-12am
- Fri-Sat. 5pm-1am
**Recommendations: Crab Croquette, Pork Belly Lettuce Wrap, Daily Hasami-age (Gyoza)
Hapa Izakaya is one of the first restaurants to introduce Japanese Izakaya to Vancouver, BC. There are now 3 locations in Vancouver and each location has a different menu that changes very frequently. You have to hurry because the menu item could be gone the next day, although the popular stuff usually stays or reappears more often. I had just visited Hapa Izakaya in Yaletown about a month ago so it was good to have a recent memory of my experience for comparisons sake.
I have dined at the Robson one on a few occasions, but every time I’ve tried to come back it was for lunch and this location only serves dinner. Each Hapa Izakaya restaurant has a standard menu that is the same, and then a fresh sheet menu that varies for each location. A few of the dishes are similar even on the fresh sheet, but they’ll change 1-2 ingredients or do a slight variation on the sauces. Hapa Izakaya is really quite creative with their recipes and there’s always something new and different to try.
The inside is contemporary, sleek and sexy, but the new Yaletown location is even sleeker and sexier. This one is much larger though and they also have a private room for private parties. I can’t really say which location I liked better since I ordered different food at both. However I generally always enjoy the food and ambiance at Hapa Izakaya and that’s why I come back.
Hapa Izakaya’s Robson location is in downtown Vancouver’s “Korea town” and it’s closest competition would be Kingyo. Gyoza King and Guu are just across the street, but they’re more casual and affordable. Chau (also across the street) does contemporary tapas as well, however they specialize in Vietnamese fusion cuisine.
On the table:
- Baby turnip and spinach goma-ae $5.25
- It’s a Japanese version of veggies and dip and I almost always start off with some type of gomaae as an appy.
- I liked the albacore tuna wasabi gomaae at Hapa Izakaya in Yaletown better.
- This one was good and more like a traditional gomaae but with added steamed baby turnips. It tastes in between a watered down carrot and a non spicy radish.
- I love gomaae sauce which is very nutty and creamy and it almost tastes like peanut butter instead of sesame sauce.
- Seasoned octopus sashimi with cucumber and seaweed $3.80
- If you like tako wasabi, which I do, then you’ll really love the one here. It was better than the tako wasabi offered at Hapa Izakaya in Yaletown.
- I was expecting the same dish, but it was different. The one here is more balanced in flavour and the wasabi wasn’t as strong yet still apparent.
- The octopus was tender and crunchy, but not chewy and they actually served it with seaweed and cucumbers, the Yaletown location is only with cucumbers. You eat it like a taco with the seaweed. I also like it at Koto Izakaya Sushi & Robata.
- It’s a slimy dish, so it’s a bit aquired and it’s like the Japanese version of ceviche. It’s tangy with pickled Japanese carrots and has a kick from freshly grated wasabi. It’s a great accompaniment to beer.
- Deep fried squid cartilage with curry salt $5.30
- This is basically Hapa Izakaya’s version of the traditional Taiwanese deep fried chicken knees. I actually liked these ones better in terms of texture, but I like the Taiwanese onesb better in terms of flavour.
- It’s almost like crunchy popcorn chicken. The squid cartilage was crunchy, but the batter was not so I didn’t like that. The batter was powdery and soft, although it was well seasoned. It’s not overly salty and the curry taste was very mild. It’s not spicy, but I think it would be good if it was a little spicy, or I would have preferred it with a sweeter curry mayo dipping sauce.
- Minced pork sandwiched between eggplant slices. Tempura style! $6.90
- I really like the daily gyoza although this is only the second time I’ve had it. I liked the zucchini gyoza at Hapa Izakaya in Yaletown better than this eggplant version and I love both vegetables a lot.
- This eggplant version wasn’t executed as well as the zucchini version because the pieces of eggplant were too thin and they got too mushy and lost their flavour and texture in the process.
- They were very crunchy and best eaten immediately, however they were more battered than the ones in Yaletown so I almost lost the texture of the meat at well.
- I don’t know if you can tell, but this is the inside of the gyoza, so it wasn’t executed or presented as nicely as the zucchini gyoza. There wasn’t as much stuffing although the parts I tastes were juicy with a subtle hint of ginger. It tastes Chinese again. They’re really good with the tangy soy sauce vinaigrette and this version wasn’t spicy like the one at Hapa Izakaya Yaletown.
- Creamy dungeness crab meat croquette with mayo & Japanese bbq sauce $7
- I loved these! I do love croquettes and this one was perfectly crispy with a thin and crunchy Panko shell. They’re incredibly hot though!
- The inside is this fluffy creamy filling of what tastes like bechamel sauce. It’s rich and indulgent and so delicious! It was almost like a fluffy custard and there was only a few shreds of crab and maybe one kernel of corn and you couldn’t taste either. It didn’t matter though because it was really good as is. It reminded me of the Chinese deep fried milk appetizer.
- It could have used more sauce and there was so little it was almost used just for plating. It tastes like a sweet Thousand island dressing and I still wanted to try it with the croquette.
- Baked Sablefish with sake miso sauce $10
- Can’t go wrong cooking Sablefish… it’s too forgiving. This one was tender and decently juicy with a nice and crispy skin.
- The sauce was a thick and creamy miso gravy but you could still taste a little miso paste texture and it was overly salty. It was actually way too salty and it dried my lips up a bit, other than that the sauce would have been great.
- I would order this again if I knew the overly salty Miso was only on this occasion.
- See the Gindara at the Hapa Izakaya Kitsilano location here.
- Inspired by an Italian fish stew. Steamed yellow eye snapper, Manila clams in tomato sake broth $11.99
- The tomato sauce was almost like a thin tomato Sake soup and I couldn’t taste the Sake until the dish had cooled down almost completely.
- The clams were tender and so was the red snapper, but the dish was pretty basic and it came off as a mediocre Italian seafood dish.
- There was nice salty bites of black olives and capers, but it was almost something you could make at home with the ingredients listed.
- If this Italian inspired tomato sauce was served at an Italian restaurant I wouldn’t be impressed, but because it was a “Japanese fusion thing” I have to take it as is.
- Crispy pork belly, apple yuzu jam, pickled red onions & butter lettuce $7.95
- I thoroughly enjoyed this dish and I usually don’t order pork belly.
- This was a Japanese fusion take on Chinese lettuce wraps and they did an excellent job with it.
- It was savoury from the pork, and the extra crisps made it taste like bacon.
- The sweet and tangy yuzu jam was like a creamy sweet apple sauce puree with a hint of licorice. It went well with the savoury pork and tangy red onions that also had a slight licorice taste. The dish was quite simple, but it was innovative and had a ton of flavour and textures.
- The pork belly was tender, but not as tender as the pork belly I had from Chef Alex Tung at Tapenade Bistro. See here. Since trying that one, I have been more inclined to order pork belly at restaurants.
- This one was almost like very thick slices of bacon and it had nice pan-fried crispy edges. The pieces don’t melt in your mouth, but it’s still tender. I just know it can be more tender because I have that one from Tapenade Bistro to compare to.
- Crispy duck leg confit with shanghai bok choy, housemade duck Teriyaki sauce for $10.99
- Was it good? Yes. Was it duck confit? No, not really. It was a roasted duck in Teriyaki sauce.
- The duck was quite tender, but it wasn’t duck confit tender. It didn’t shred apart but the pieces came off the bone easily. The meat was quite salty, but not overly salty and then it had the sweet Teriyaki sauce to accompany it.
- There was nothing too special about the dish and I much rather have the traditional French version. They’re not exactly comparable, but I was expecting more creativity in the execution.
- The skin was chewy and not crispy so it really tastes like chewy duck fat that you wouldn’t eat.