Friday, February 18, 2011

Hapa Izakaya (Yaletown)

After seeing my friends pictures on facebook I have always wanted to go try the food at Hapa Izakaya; so B, being the thoughtful boyfriend that he is, took me to the Hapa in Yaletown as a surprise on Valentines day. Hapa Izakaya is a Japanese tapas style restaurant. According to our server, each menu item at the different Hapa locations varies a bit depending on the chef.

When we first walked into the restaurant, we were a bit confused. There was no hostess at or near the door and we were not greeted even though it wasn't busy. The bartender looked at us, as did a couple servers, but they just continued to do what they were doing. We didn't know if we were supposed to grab seats ourselves or wait to be seated. Feeling kind of dumb just standing there while everyone was hustling about, we picked an empty seat and sat down. Almost immediately after we took a seat, one of the girls working came up to us and asked if we had reservations or if we were just a walk-in - which we were - and made sure the table we chose was not reserved. A little later our server came and offered us a few warm towels and took down our drink orders: a Hello Kitty and a Harajuku Girl, and gave us a few more minutes to look at our menu. The drinks were fruity and sweet, with little to no alcohol taste - just the way I like it. When it came time for us to order we chose: Wild Salmon Sashimi, Ika Tempura, Ahi Tuna Tacos, Yaki-Udon, Aburi Shime Saba, and Caramel Pudding for dessert.

The Wild Salmon Sashimi was served over ice and came with two kinds of salmon: sockeye and spring. When I first took a bite of the lighter, fattier, slice of salmon, I was able to immediately tell the difference between AYCE/mediocre salmon sashimi and this. It was smooth and full of flavor; cold and fresh. Ika Tempura came next and it was flavourful as well as tender. The batter didn't stick to the squid very well, though. A whole piece of squid came out without the batter when I took a bite! The Ahi Tuna Tacos - cooked tuna, a simple tomato salsa and guacamole all wrapped up in a flour tortilla topped with shredded seaweed. In my opinion, there wasn't much flavor to this and the tuna was a bit dry. What flavor the Tuna Tacos lacked, the Yaki-Udon made up for it. The noodles were cooked just right, nice and chewy, and there was a good ratio of chicken and veggies compared to noodles. My favorite of the night was definitely the Aburi Shime Saba. I would say that dish is a must try. Our server explained that the Saba was already marinated in a way so it resembles pickling - meaning that the fish was already fully cooked and packed with flavor. She then took a torch and charred the tops a bit and suggested we use a little lemon juice to bring out flavor. The fish was so soft and delicate; almost a melt-in-your-mouth type of feeling but with a bit more bite. When she said pickled, I imagined the fish being sour, but it wasn't. It was salted to taste and had a smokey flavor due to it being charred. I loved this dish and I am drooling just thinking about it. The Caramel Pudding was equally as drool-worthy. Normally, I am not a big fan of pudding's, but this caramel pudding might have just changed that. The pudding was really creamy and smooth with just the right amount of sweetness. There was a hint of vanilla and when pared with a bit of the vanilla ice-cream - yum.

Our entire meal came to be about $70.00, including tips. Not bad in my opinion. Despite the bland Ahi Tuna Tacos and a bit of service-confusion in the beginning, everything else was of good quality (the Saba being amazing) and the service picked up. Our server was friendly and knowledgeable of the restaurant. Knowing that it was our first time at Hapa Izakaya, she took the time to explain a bit about the Hapa Izakaya restaurants and how each chef adds their own twists to the menu. I really enjoyed my experience at the Yaletown location and is looking forwards to trying the Robson and Kitslano locations. Hint Hint, B.

Hapa Izakaya (Yaletown) on Urbanspoon

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