Sherman's Food Adventures: Hapa Izakaya (Kitsilano)

Hapa Izakaya (Kitsilano)

Have you ever looked at your call display and have gotten an out-of-area call? First knee jerk reaction would be telemarketer - ignore call. Well, for once I answered it. Turns out it was my cousin, Cable Car Guy (from San Fran) who was unexpectedly in town. Apparently, his wife, AZee had planned a surprise trip for their anniversary. In order to get a better rate, she chose the flight that connected through Edmonton. The surprise was ruined when she had to check both of them in online. He got a confirmation email stating that his flight to Edmonton had been confirmed. His first reaction was, "Edmonton??? I have a flight to Edmonton, why am I going to Edmonton?!?!" Talk about a shock to the system. They were staying at the Sutton Place Hotel and the first thing I had to ask was, "Did you have a Japadog yet (since it's right in front)?" Not only did they love Japadog, they went to Kintaro Ramen as well. My cousin knows how to eat! Naturally, we decided to meet for dinner; but the question was where? Since they are from San Francisco, there was no point to take them anywhere that had Westcoast cuisine. I consulted with Whipping Girl and Donna Chang and we all agreed that Izakaya would be the best choice. Although San Francisco has remarkable cuisine, there is a lack of really good Asian food available. San Francisco is like a second home to me and I have always lamented the state of Asian cuisine there. Rather than fight with the downtown crowd, we opted to visit Hapa Izakaya in Kits. It turned out to be a good choice since we parked right across from the restaurant and had no problem getting a table. Originally, they were concerned that people would be staring at them taking pictures of their food. I assure them that wouldn't be a problem while dining with me! This time, the pictures turned out better since we sat outside. Most Izakayas are really dark and taking good pictures is really difficult.

After ordering a large Asahi, we ended up with 9 dishes to share. The first to arrive was the Duck and Daikon Salad. Although the pieces of duck were pale and unappealing, it was actually quite good. The meat was tender (confit) and lightly seasoned. Combined with the crunchy daikon, it was a pleasant salad with good texture contrasts. We also tried a brand new dish, Salmon Risotto Croquettes. I really enjoyed the crispy balls of rice and salmon. It was a very delicate dish in terms of texture and flavours. Too bad they don't have Salmon Yukke, since it's one of my favourite dishes. Therefore, I settled on the Salmon Carpaccio with pesto sauce. Beautifully presented as a rose, the salmon slices exhibited a "lox-type" flavour and texture. Mixed with the pesto, there were many flavours at work; yet it did not overwhelm the salmon. The next dish was not as successful. The Unagi Tofu was a bit boring and bland. I realized that it was intended to be delicate with the silky tofu, but even the Unagi didn't provide much in the way of flavour for the dish.

I always order Ebi Mayo when I visit an Izakaya and this one didn't disappoint. It was just like the one at the Robson Hapa, with a light coating of spicy mayo around the perfectly fried shrimp. We could hear the next dish sizzling as it arrived in its hot stone bowl. Before the server could mash the Ishi-Yaki into a mush, I made a point of it to take a picture first. I was not as quick last time at the Robson Hapa because it was mashed up before I could get to it. The Ishi-Yaki was decent, maybe a little soft; but the really hot stone bowl created a rice crust that is probably the best part of the dish. We were having a hard time deciding whether to go for the Hapa Hot Wings or the Hapa Kamikaze Wings; so we ordered both. Both order of wings were cooked just enough, resulting in some very juicy wings. The Kamikaze wings were generously coated with a Sriracha-type sauce that gave them a serious kick. By no means were they suicide wings; but they were not for the faint of heart either. The last dish we ordered was the Cho Wagyu, which is essentially Kobe beef. It was served with a hot rock that we used to cooked the raw beef. This dish satisfies the novelty quotient; yet it was very enjoyable to eat as well. The buttery Wagyu beef was accompanied by Ponzu and fried garlic chips.

I'm glad I had a chance to visit the Kits Hapa and overall the experience was good. In my opinion, the food was not as flavourful compared to the Robson location. With that being said, it wasn't like the food was terrible either. The one major difference that I noticed was probably the ambiance. I found that the vibe at the Kits location a bit more subdued and quiet. Probably has something to do with the neighbourhood. Service was generally pretty attentive except with a few gaps in between. The "scenery" was more or less the same as the Robson location. In relation to other Izakayas, I still prefer Gyoza King; but only in terms of the food. Hapa still gets style points on the ambiance and bigger dining space.

The Good:
- Trendy and comfortable (for an Izakaya)
- Good selection of items
- Generally solid eats

The Bad:
- Food maybe slightly better at the Robson location
- Doesn't have the same vibe as the Robson location

Hapa Izakaya (Kitsilano) on Urbanspoon

2 comments:

Catherine Jupista said...

Have you been to the New Hapa Izakaya in Yaletown??

Sherman said...

Yup, http://www.shermansfoodadventures.com/2010/02/hapa-izakaya-yaletown.html