Originally, I was meeting Kim and Karl for some eats at Bao Bei in Chinatown. Well, it turns out that it would only be Karl and myself since Kim wasn't feeling too well. Kim really must be sick! For him to turn down food is akin to Bill Clinton turning down cigars... I made my way down to Chinatown, found a parking spot and put in 2 hours of time on the meter. Karl did the same and to our dismay, there was a 45 minute wait at Bao Bei. Both of us really do not like waiting. Thus, we threw some ideas around and eventually decided on trying out Hapa Izakaya in Yaletown. We've both been to the Robson location before and I have tried the Kits location as well.
As I arrived, the bustling restaurant seems to fit like a glove in Yaletown. With it's hip decor, beautiful staff and unique food, it fills a void between the high-end dining and chain restaurants. We were lucky to get a table for 2 since the place was quite full. One problem though... The table is really small and if you order too much, there is no way it can fit. In retrospect, Gigi (Ho Yummy) suggested that next time we order as we go to avoid this problem.
We started with the Renkon "Gyoza" which is a loose interpretation of the original dumpling. It's the usual gyoza filling of minced pork and veggies sandwiched in between 2 slices of lotus root, then deep-fried tempura style. It was a bit of a miss for both of us. We thought the lotus root was sliced too thick; thus overwhelming the dish texturally. All we got was the hard crunch of lotus root and little else in the way of meat or crispy tempura. Although the Chicken Karaage was fried a nice crispy brown, it was quite bland. It's too bad since the chicken was quite juicy and tender.
Our server suggested we try the Fried Oysters. This was an interesting, if not poorly conceptualized dish. We liked the oyster, it was crunchy and as Karl put it, very little in the way of fishiness. However, the bed of brown rice congee was an extremely peculiar accompaniment. A bit watery and bland, we didn't get how it complimented the oyster. Something I didn't expect to see at an Izakaya was the Assorted Sushi. We were curious and decided to give it a go. Consisting of 2 pieces each of tamago, unagi, makeral, red tuna, scallop & tobiko and tai, it was visually appealing. However, the sushi rice was a bit hard and salty (?). We weren't sure if it was an illusion or something; but we swear it was salty. The tomago was way too sweet; however, everything else was actually quite good.
The duck arrived on a much larger dish than necessary, which helped fill up our table. It was tender with a touch of flavour from the skin (which was quite chewy). The pickled beets provided some punch; yet the duck itself was quite bland. The last dish, which is one of my favs, was the Ebi Mayo. It sure looked nice with big, juicy prawns dressed in mayo. However, one bite revealed a gummy batter. Unlike the one I had at the Robson location, this one was soggy. Flavourwise, it was mostly sweet. Funny thing, there are 3 Hapa locations and I've been to them all with varying results. Honestly, Hapa Yaletown is not bad per se, it just didn't stack up the Kits and Robson locations. Maybe it'll be different the next time I pay it a visit. From my past experiences, Hapa is usually a very predictable izakaya with good food, funky atmosphere and "nice" staff. This was mostly the case here.
- Great service
- Reasonable prices
- Cool atmosphere
- Small tables for 2
- Lacking flavour this time around