Update! Restaurant is now Hapa Izakaya Coal Harbour and not Hapa Umi.
(Same owners/restaurant group, but more casual concept.)
Restaurant: Hapa Umi
Cuisine: Japanese/Sushi/Sashimi/Fine Dining/Eclectic/Fusion
Last visited: May 2, 2011
Location: Vancouver, BC (Downtown)
Address: 909 W Cordova St
Price Range: $30-50, $50+
1: Poor 2: OK 3: Good 4: Very good 5: Excellent 6: Tres Excellent!!
- From Hapa Izakaya Group
- Fine dining Japanese
- Open sushi/sashimi bar
- Modern fusion Japanese
- Seasonal menu
- Business lunch/Tourist crowd
- Lounge/bar area (TV screens)
- Great ocean view
- Ocean wise
- Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30-2pm
- Dinner Mon-Thur 4:30-10pm | Fri 4:30-11pm | Sat 5:30-11pm
- My dinner post for Hapa Umi
**Recommendations: I haven’t tried enough yet, but from what I did try I’d say the Award-winning Ocean Wise Chowder, Torched Hamachi… maybe the Bento Box w/Halibut. The Soy Glazed Chicken Breast was good, and desserts are well made in general. I liked the Yuzu Tart although Souffle Cheesecake and Mochi were delicious too.
Move over Hapa Izakaya! Actually no don’t, because you’re part of the same family! Hapa Izakaya introduces their fine dining Japanese restaurant Hapa Umi. It’s conveniently located downtown Vancouver, BC overlooking the gorgeous waterfront. Well it’s only convenient for those who work or live in the area, otherwise parking makes me want to cry.
Hapa Umi has gone through many heartaches since it first opened. If you haven’t heard the restaurant rumours, there’s been a recent change of Executive Chefs and the menu is pretty much completely new. I didn’t get to try it during round one, but I was very apprehensive to anyways since the word around town was not exactly positive. With comments of poor food that was overpriced it was something low on my priority list. With that being said, I was invited to the re-introduction of Hapa Umi. This means starting over with a fresh sheet, literally and figuratively.
Hapa Umi is separated into a restaurant, lounge, and bar and although it tries to distinguish itself as different from Hapa Izakaya, and not an izakaya restaurant, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I guess there’s no yelling, and it is classier than Hapa Izakaya, but very marginally since Hapa Izakaya is already quite nice. I found it to be Hapa Izakaya for grown ups… but with bigger wallets.
It still has that sexy and sophisticated atmosphere and I even found the food and ingredients somewhat similar. The staff is familiar, it’s still fusion, but it doesn’t focus on small plates, although it still offers them. It’s pricey as expected, however I just find it lacked that refinement, intricate details and extra pizazz that I’d expect for a restaurant of this caliber.
They also offer a private room, but from the looks of it, it caters to a business crowd.
Considering Hapa Izakaya is an award winning restaurant and expectations for anything they produce are high, I did want more from Hapa Umi. I wasn’t expecting Morimoto Napa action (my post here), although an incorporation of that polished style would be nice. The food generally tasted very good, but it’s not spectacular especially considering the prices. The dinner and dessert impressed me more than the lunch, and if anything I’d be curious to come back for dinner – see my dinner post here.
I saw more creativity in Hapa Izakaya and even some of their menu items overlapped. Although I don’t want to compare them, the lunch menu and style didn’t seem different enough to not draw comparisons. I just feel like they tried to toss out the Sapporro in exchange for a classy wine list, but the Sapporro is still on the menu anyways. I do love Hapa Izakaya, but for fine dining Japanese I prefer Miku Restaurant, which is their culinary competition just a few blocks down.
Hapa Umi is the fourth restaurant for the Hapa Izakaya Group. Their other restaurants include Hapa Izakaya Kitsilano, Hapa Izakaya Robson, and Hapa Izakaya Yaletown. Click each location to see my post for it.
On the table:
**Award Winning Ocean Wise Chowder – 5/6
- Fresh BC Halibut, scallop, bacon, dashi, cream $12
- I was at the Ocean Wise Chowder Chow Down when they won against 10 other seafood chowders – see here, and it was well deserved.
- I only had a small cup of it this time, so it’s not exactly representable, but I feel as though the recipe has changed.
- It now has big pieces of buttery tender carrots and it didn’t seem as creamy as I recall. Even comparing the photos it doesn’t look as creamy as it did in the competition.
- It had pieces of halibut and scallop and was topped with crispy bacon bits and some basic croutons.
- It was still a silky smooth delicious broth with smoky bacon and savoury seafood flavours, but not as rich as it once was.
- It was made with a dashi (traditional Japanese sea/soup stock) made with halibut, scallop, benito flakes and kelp.
- I think the dashi and Shiso oil combination makes it. The flavour is still undeniably excellent.
- If you like this, I highly recommend the Parsley Veloute with Candied Salmon at C Restaurant.
- Romaine lettuce, Caesar dressing, pork cheek crouton $12
- A normal Caesar salad with a normal Caesar dressing… yes perhaps, but the real star of the show was of course the pork cheek croutons! BOOYA!
- Amazing! They were extra crispy panko crusted deep fried cubes of juicy fatty pork cheek. It was a giant fresh bacon bit and crouton in one!
- Just like cracklings these were incredibly tender and delicious and full of juicy pork flavour.
- Some were so fatty and melt in your mouth creamy that I almost thought it was mochi fried in bacon fat.
- I counted my years away as I popped each one in my mouth. Guilty pleasure.
- Scrap the lettuce and I’d just get the crunchy croutons as a bar snack.
- I’d also expect shavings of Parmesan for a restaurant like this.
- I think the Caesar dressing with a mix of their ebi mayo dressing would be great too as I wanted more fusion flair.
- Another Japanese style Caesar salad I enjoyed was at Kimura Japanese – see here.
Daily Fish Tacos (Albacore Tuna) – 3/6
- Seasonal fish (Albacore tuna in my case) wrapped in a soft flour tortilla, guacamole, lettuce, cilantro, tomatoes, serrano tartar sauce, nori garnish, served with daily soup $14
- I found this a bit overrated and overpriced for $14. I could see it available at Hapa Izakaya and in fact I would order it there with a side of their Tuna Avo Salsa Dip.
They don’t have to make them all the same, but they should be consistent in preparation and even toasting of the shell.
- It was good and filled nicely, but I didn’t find anything particularly special about this.
- It was almost like a creamy tuna salad, but with fresh cubes of tuna and then just tossed in a tartar sauce that tasted like regular mayo.
- The guacamole was thin and I think mixed with mayo, so it was one dimensional. It was very simple with no chucks of avocado or any other ingredients.
- It was mildy spicy and I appreciated the fresh cherry tomatoes and the nori was fun, but other than that, it was quite basic and literal.
- Not really comparable, but I enjoy the Joey’s Ahi Tuna Tacos and even the Cactus Club Halibut Soft Tacos more.
- Dungeness crab, avocado, mayonnaise, egg crepe wrapping $12.50
- Yes, it was a very good California roll, but also as good as a California roll can get if you were to use fresh dungeness crab. So I did find it overpriced considering the rest of it was quite standard.
- The rice was well flavoured and the egg crepe was the original part, but it just tastes like the soy bean wrapper so it doesn’t add much flavour, although visually interesting.
- I could taste lots of juicy flaky crab with either little to no mayo, and they were generous with that ingredient which is the good part.
- Cucumber, kaiware (daikon sprouts) $8.50
- Again, I didn’t find the sushi here anything special considering the price. It was good, but for $8.50 I’d want it to be pretty freaking amazing and also perfectly presented.
- The spicy tuna sauce was their spicy serrano chili pepper mayo sauce, but it wasn’t that spicy. The cucumber gave it a nice balance, although there wasn’t as much spice to kill anyways.
- The rice was moist, sticky, and well flavoured, but the wrapping was loose.
- Yellowtail, yuzu-jalapeno jelly $16 (from dinner menu)
- A bit pricey, but delicious! For aburi sushi my favourite is Miku Restaurant, but this was very good, although very different.
- This was just sashimi, but I could have used the rice to absorbs some flavours.
- Usually aburi sushi is about the unique sauces, but in this case Hapa Umi tossed in a little molecular gastronomy with some yuzu jalapeno gelée.
- It was a buttery and meaty hamachi with a great smoky flavour and the gelée added a silkiness that made for smooth yet bold flavours.
- It was smoky with a orange citrus punch followed by a desired bitterness which was captivated by the crunch of spicy jalapeno on top.
- It was a world of flavours and the yuzu, ponzu and soy vinaigrette (?) made the dish come alive and the unique flavours of each component just popped.
- The hamachi was not overpowered and it was incredibly aromatic with a very strong yuzu orange flavour that was very well played. Bravo!
**Daily Lunch Bento Box (Beer Battered Halibut) – 5/6
- The Bento Box features a different seafood or meat selection daily $19
- Other elements of the Bento Box are always the same and include: Lemon marinated tomato, Soy Marinated Eggplant, Ground chicken stuffed zucchini, Salmon Roe stuffed prawn, Roasted duck wrapped green beans, Japanese -Style omelette “tamago”, Veggie “Summer” Roll, Sushi roll, steamed white rice, Miso soup and potato salad.
- It’s the highest priced lunch item on the menu.
- It’s not your ordinary Bento Box and they offer lots of variety which I do like. It was very good although pricey.
- I saw the value considering there are so many quality components, and you will be full, so at least there’s no need to order anymore since $19 is expensive for lunch.
- Beer Battered Halibut with Tartar Sauce – 5.5/6
- This was probably one of the best halibut fish and chips I’ve had.
- I don’t know what beer they’re using, but the flavour was great and the size of the halibut was meaty and thick.
- The halibut was just incredibly fresh, moist, juicy and flaky with a crispy tempura batter. I could taste the quality of the halibut and it was amazing!
- It was just executed perfectly and retained all its moisture and flavour.
- The tartar sauce was also nice and chunky with minced onions, cucumber, dill and parsley. It was refreshing and tangy especially with the added crunch from the cucumber. Marvelous!
I loved the variety and various components in this side dish. Everything was quite basic, but I love variety.
- Roasted Duck Wrapped Green Beans – 3.5/6
- The duck was tender, but the fat was gelatinous and chewy.
- It did have great flavour and it was well seasoned and balanced with a crunch of green bean to cut the richness, but the chewy fat did bother me.
- Salmon Roe Stuffed Prawn – 5/6
- This was simple, but delicious. I loved the presentation and I think they could make a whole appetizer with this.
- It was a crunchy prawn generously stuffed with salty sweet bursts of salmon roe which I love so much!
- It would be great if they filled the back with some sauce, herbs, or a little wasabi cream for extra detail.
- Soy Marinated Eggplant – 3/6
- It was thin slices of eggplant marinated in I think a soy ponzu vinaigrette because it was tangy and sweet.
- It was a bit oily, but incredibly juicy and tender.
- Tamago (Japanese style omelette) – 1.5/6
- The tamago (true test of a Japanese restaurant) was very disappointing.
- It didn’t seemed layered or well flavoured with dashi at all. It was spongy and slightly sweetened, but not traditional and a bit mass produced.
- The best I’ve had is at Aki Japanese – see here.
- Ground Chicken Stuffed Zucchini – 2.5/6
- It was a poached ground chicken that was well seasoned and it sat on a piece of tender zucchini. Quite literal and no surprises there.
- I could have had more detail and bolder flavour in this since it was a protein.
- Lemon Marinated Tomato – 6/6
- This tomato will pop your cherry! Eerr… I mean this cherry tomato will just pop… ?
- This chilled bulb of skinless cherry tomato was like a delicious candy!
- It was so plump it looked like it was about to explode!
- When you bite into it it’s an amazing burst of citrus fruity flavour and juicy tomato sweetness! Divine!
- Veggie “Summer” Roll – 4/6
- I actually really enjoyed these! They reminded me of Vietnamese fresh spring rolls with a spicy nutty sauce drizzled over top. Delicious!
- There were sweet roasted bell peppers on top and the rolls were stuffed with green beans, carrots, cucumbers, avocado and I think bell peppers.
- It was crunchy, fresh and flavourful and the sauce tasted like a creamy, nutty, tangy, spicy miso mayo or sesame sauce that was also a bit sweet. I loved it.
- Daily Sushi Roll – Salmon Roll & Tuna Sashimi – 3/6
- Again I don’t see anything particularly special about their sushi here. It lacks the clean presentation I’d expect from fine dining as well.
- The salmon roll was good though and made with wild salmon and avocado.
- The tuna sashimi was Albacore tuna sashimi which was also fresh and obviously good.
The Bento Box also comes with a Miso Soup, which was your standard Miso soup. It also comes with steamed white rice and potato salad, but I didn’t get to try those items.
Daily Lunch Bento Box – Chicken Karaage – 5/6
- For chicken karaage, this was excellent.
- It was boneless fillets of deep fried dark meat chicken thighs and there extra crunchy with an intense tempura batter. I wonder if they’re fried in peanut oil?
- It was incredibly juicy and moist chicken well marinated and tenderized in soy and perhaps sake (?). The meat and batter had tons of flavour and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were seasoned with a hint of 5 spice powder.
- Was it the best deep fried chicken? No, but was it one of the best Japanese chicken karaages I’ve had? It could be!
- If you like Asian style deep fried chicken try the Fried Chicken Nuggets from Pearl Castle, and of course I’ll give a shout out to Phnom Penh Chicken Wings (but both different from karaage).
Soy Glazed Chicken Breast – 4.5/6
- Maple Hills organic chicken, soy sake butter, fondant potatoes, sauteed wild mushrooms $23
- It’s a very generous portion!
- It was very good, but it just didn’t seem or taste Japanese enough. It was more French than anything.
- I loved the fresh local baby veggies in their natural state, but perhaps some edamame beans or Japanese vegetables would be nice.
- The fondant potatoes were buttery, creamy, fluffy Yukon Gold potatoes and they were really tender and smooth. However they didn’t have that desired brown crispy glaze fondant potatoes should have.
- The potatoes also didn’t have an intensity of infused garlic and lemon flavour and I missed that.
- The chicken was sous vide and incredibly, tender, juicy, and moist. I prefer a crispy seared skin, but since it’s sous vide that wasn’t going to be the case.
- The soy sake butter sauce was lick your plate clean good!
- It was sweet, silky, sticky and syrupy and incredibly well reduced like a demi glace with perhaps a hint of maple.
- It glazed the chicken with intense flavour and it was beautifully rich and thick and just perfect. It coated your lips like gloss and every bit was to be savoured.
- The chicken sat on a bed of juicy sweet wild mushrooms including oysters, trumpets, Yellow Foot chanterelles, shiitakes and morels, however the morels weren’t cleaned well and three pieces I had were sandy.
God knows I was waiting for this part! I heard good things about their desserts so I was really excited. The desserts were excellent, but a couple of them still not “fine dining” as I feel like I could find them at Hapa Izakaya too – see some of their desserts here.
The Japanese desserts at Miku Restaurant are still my favourite, followed by Hapa Umi, Hapa Izakaya, then Zest Japanese. There’s definitely nothing wrong with any of their desserts, and the ones I had were excellent, but I was just expecting more details. For sure I could see myself coming back even just for these desserts though.
As a side note, although in a different category, exquisite desserts and the level I was expecting can be seen here and here at The Apron.
- Strawberry shiso compote, crystallized Shiso leaf $9
- If you’ve had a Japanese cheesecake before, this might not impress you as much. Even if you have though, this one is a home made version and not the same kind you find at T&T Supermarket.
- I’m not huge on cheesecake, but if I eat one it’s going to light, fluffy and not very cheesy, which is exactly what a Japanese cheesecake is like.
- It’s a cross between a souffle, Chiffon cake and a cheesecake (as the name suggests), and it’s very airy, creamy, soft and crumbly and almost like a a very loose whipped sponge cake.
- It has an eggy custard like flavour with a subtle tang of cheese, but it’s incredibly light.
- My favourite part was the crystallized Shiso leaf which was crispy and sweet with sugar crystals and incredibly aromatic with a minty licorice herb flavour.
- The strawberry compote was easily sweetened with that Shiso leaf licorice quality and it was a great touch, although not refined.
- They offer this at Hapa Izakaya, but a more simple version, so it just wasn’t a fine dining Japanese dessert for me.
- Almond Sablée crust, candied zest, chantilly cream $9
- Out of what I tried, this was the only dessert that really spoke of fine dining Japanese to me. It wasn’t something I would expect to see at Hapa Izakaya, but only at Hapa Umi. Wonderful presentation.
- I wish the tart had more yuzu flavour because I thought it was lemon especially since there were bits of canided lemon zest throughout the custard.
- Yuzu has more or a lemon and orange flavour with a nice citrus peel intensity and I just tasted more lemon.
- The custard could have been creamier but it was still good and more sweet than tart without too much tang.
- The crust was a nutty, soft, rich, crumbly, almond Sablée cookie crust which was also nicely sweetened, but a higher custard ratio would be nicer.
- I loved the crystallized lemon slice which was like a fresh, real, chewy, lemon gummy candy for adults.
It was served with an icy smooth blackberry sorbet made with fresh blackberries which was the perfect complement to balance the sweet tart. I loved the fresh fruit garnishes.
Passionfruit Mochi Ice Cream – 4.5/6
- Vanilla bean ice cream wrapped in passionfruit mochi $8
- I adored this presentation.
- I really love mochi and this was a baseball size of it! Well slightly smaller.
- The passion fruit was incredibly strong and I could taste it right away without even knowing what flavour it was. It was the perfect balance of sweet and tangy.
- The mochi skin was thin, soft and chewy and then you’re hit with a ball of frozen creamy real vanilla bean ice cream inside.
- I like my mochi skins to be more squishy, but this texture was more than acceptable.
- It would be great to have some passion fruit gelee or compote in the centre of the ice cream or just another layer before the mochi skin. That’s how the authentic Japanese ones are – see here. For a fine dining dessert I think they could take more time and effort in the details.
- Again I appreciate the fresh fruit they serve with all their desserts.
The duck fat is chewy ‘cos it wasn’t cooked at a high temperature. The shrimp has not more room the back to put a sauce, how about a sauce to compliment it, drizzle over it…mebbe an infused citrus style oil ? Hapa seems to do deep fried well(beer battered halibut looks great). I think the poached chicken on raw zucchini is a deliberate counterpoint to the cherry tomato(and the shrimp w. the juicy ikura) perhaps if eaten after it, you know “yin and yang”(common in Asian cuisine). The plainess of the chicken coming after the richness of the other foods…just a thought. The soy chicken breast does look French, however in the ’70’s when nouvelle cuisine was being fully developed the influence of Japanese cooking(presentation, size of the portions, mininalism, etc.) came in the form of many Japanese student chefs(Kiyomi Mikuni w. Alain Chapel and the Trois Gros Bros, Mashiro Morishige at Taillevent) going to France to work in the best kitchens, bringing their food and culture. Plus the Japanese opened up to French cooking and encouraged it as fine dining. French chefs were deeply influenced by the japanese food they saw and ate. The heavy, oversauced foods of the previous eras were replaced by smaller portions, healthier food and better presentation. So food has come full circle. The French brought mayonaise and the japanese fell in love.
they really did change their menu it seems. I was there in April and I defnitely did not see a lot of the items you tried. When I first saw your review I was excited to see what you thought, but I was disappointed that you did not have a better experience. I thought the food the time I went was much better. Too bad. Guess it’s back to Miku:))
@Bow – Mmm I like your citrus oil idea for the shrimp! Yes! i definitely tried to find the balance with all the small one bite appetizers…. okay bow your comments are so good. I feel stupid. Your level of knowledge for food history is that of Alton Brown. Again.. honoured to have you as a reader.
@vivian – oh did you have a good experience when you went?! Before they changed chefs too hhu? Hmm well I’m going to try this place for dinner and see i there’s any difference. Did you feel like it was similar to hapa izakaya when you went? Nothing was bad, but nothing was that amazing either.
Before I came across your review on Hapa Umi, I saw other reviews and the Daily Bento Box with halibut convinced me to visit. After I ordered the bento box, I went on Twitter and saw a link to your review! How timely! Your 3.5 star rating made me think that it may have not been worthwhile to go, but I did see that you liked the bento box. The halibut was the highlight of my meal as it was fresh and the batter had very little grease. I really liked the tartar sauce too. The Daily Sushi Roll had a nice kick to it. The other items in the box were good, but they didn’t blow me away. The box was a good value though as it had a variety of good items in it. The Green Tea Opera Cake was my dessert. I would have liked more green tea/matcha in the cake, but I give it a thumbs up. The experience for me was positive, so I will try to go again.
It’s more fine dining than compared to Hapa Izakaya and not tapas style. I went there twice for dinner (the second time just two weeks ago) and I must say I was more impressed the first visit. My favorite dishes were the Tako Carpaccio, fanny bay tempura oysters scallop maki, and ebi mayo cone. I do agree with you that nothing really wowed me but food was still decent albeit a bit on the pricey side.
Just FYI..the chef is and always has been Tomoki..I believe you mean Sapporro..and there is no may in the spicy tuna roll.
@David – Great! Yes! Glad to hear we both enjoyed the Bento Box! I find it 3.5 for the food because it was as good as Hapa Izakaya, but in a way I expect it to be better especially for the price. I think Hapa Izkaya is a 5 if you consider the value. I REALLY want to try the green tea cake! Thanks for the tip!
@vivian – I totally agree with your last sentence! Although it is more fine dining and not izakaya I find a lot of the food style and options very similar to Hapa Izakaya. There’s a lot of carry over, but perhaps with just nicer presentation and a bigger price tag. The deep fried shrimp heads, to the ebi mayo and cheesecake souffle… those are all items I can find at Hapa Izakaya so I just didn’t see the value. I’m totally noting your suggestions though and I’ll give those a try 🙂 Thanks Viv!
@no comment – Welcome! Actually Chef Tomoki Yamasaki (former Blue Water Cafe chef) is no longer at Hapa Umi although he did start here. I had dinner here again tonight and he’s definitely not there anymore. Thank you for correcting my Sapporro! Yes that’s what I meant 🙂 Also, are you sure it’s not mayo? Looking at the photo it looks like some kind of spicy mayo in that tuna roll.
It should be known that Tomoki Yamasaki is and always has been the Executive Chef of Hapa Umi. The previous chef who was operating the sushi program of the menu has left as is no longer with Hapa Umi, he is the chef that was previously at Blue Water Cafe. Tomoki Yamasaki is the former Head Chef of Hapa Izakaya Robson.
@chris @no comment – No, sorry, my apologies. You guys are right. Thank you. I was confused with Chef Tetsuya Shimizu. I was reading bits of articles and hearing things from all directions. Do you guys know what roll Tetsuya Shimizu played when he was at Hapa Umi then? Thanks for helping me get the facts straight.
i’ve heard alot of mixed reviews about this place – some good, some bad but mostly that it was really different from what ppl thought – very upscale izakaya if you ask me but i guess given the ambiance they created with the space they chose, the concept makes sense.
everything looks so fresh and beautiful and wow, that tonkatsu caesar is definitely creative! i like a lot of variety when i’m eating japanese so i’d definitely get the bento box special – although the price is a tad high for lunch, the items here look delicious and the ratings you gave definitely fit that frame. too bad about the tamago though 🙁
my pet peeve is restaurants that lack consistency when making items! the taco definitely is an example.. not toasting one order and then toasting another is a BIG difference!
mmm the desserts here look promising! especially the mochi ice cream! mmmmmm! 🙂
@Linda – yeah I just found just like with most restaurants there are hits and misses, but for the price here you don’t want to risk ordering a miss 🙂