When Jenkins and I found out that Hapa Izakaya was going to open up at Shiru Bay’s old location in Yaletown, we were both quite happy. Finally, another tasty izakaya opening up in Yaletown and filling in the void left when Shiru Bay vacated. Even though it was a Friday night, Jenkins and I arrived relatively early at about 6:30PM so we were seated after a short 10 minute wait. I’m chalking it up to the fact that this location was new and they were probably still ironing out the kinks but it took quite a while before anyone even noticed us waiting at the door.
As per our usual strategy at any izakaya, Jenkins and I started by ordering a couple of dishes. We once made the mistake of ordering everything all at once and our table filled up too quickly! After learning our lesson, we now only order 2-3 dishes at a time when it’s just the two of us.
We first perused the fresh sheet for the day and decided to order the pork belly lettuce wraps. Thin slices of lightly grilled pork belly were accompanied with some fried wonton crisps, tartar sauce, and butter lettuce. We really liked the rich flavour of the pork belly and the way it contrasted with the crispy wonton skin. The tartar sauce was a good complement and seemed to have some mustard in it as well. I only wished that the lettuce pieces were a bit bigger because quite a few of my self-assembled wraps fell apart. However, it could have also been due to user error.
Before Jenkins and I wandered into Hapa, we were actually on our way to have sushi at Yamato Sushi on Davie. However, the lure of Hapa drew us in so we changed our minds on a whim. To compensate for this, we decided to order the assorted sushi platter, which also seemed to be a popular item for many other tables. The sushi platter had quite a few different types of nigiri sushi, including both fresh and salt water eel, chopped scallop, tuna, mackerel, tai (snapper), and two rectangular cubes of tamago (egg). I had actually expected the nigiri to have a unique izakaya spin on it so I was quite surprised to see that they looked like regular nigiri sushi except for some different shapes. I enjoyed the chopped scallop, mackeral, and unagi but found the tuna and tai a bit on the bland side.
Jenkins’ favourite dish at Hapa Izakaya is the Ishi-Yaki, which is rice made Korean-style in a stone bowl along with minced pork, garlic, egg, tomato, lettuce, and spicy miso. Not only is this a filler dish, which Jenkins enjoys, it is also very tasty. The ingredients are all mixed right at your table in the very hot stone bowl and after everything is mixed, you are advised to let it sit there for a bit. As a result, the edges of the rice which are closest to the bowl become crunchy while the other parts are creamy and yummy. The spicy miso complements the rice very well and provides a slight kick.
Our last dish before dessert was the negitoro with garlic toasts. This is another Hapa classic but it seemed to be prepared differently from what I was used to. The green onion and tuna was binded together with a slightly sweet sauce that had a hint of soy sauce and also seemed a bit spicy to me although Jenkins claimed that it was not spicy at all. In any case, I really enjoyed this dish and the toasts provided a nice contrast to the creamy negitoro spread.
For dessert, Jenkins and I shared the matcha creme brulee. The creme brulee was very creamy with just a hint of matcha flavouring. I thought the texture was just right but would have preferred a stronger matcha taste.
In terms of the food, both Jenkins and I enjoyed the dishes we tried at the Hapa Izakaya in Yaletown. We did notice some issues with service, such as when we first arrived and there was a slight mix-up with our dishes but since we went within the first couple of months of its opening, we’ll just chalk it up to the restaurant still trying to work out its kinks. I’m just glad that an izakaya is finally available again in Yaletown.
1193 Hamilton Street, Vancouver