For those who know, I don't hide my love for Hapa Izakaya. Call it what you want, but for me, I think the combination of style, food, service and price makes it a reliable destination for small plates to go with your beverage. Sure, there are other worthy spots such as Guu, Kingyo/Suika and Gyoza King, which I like in different ways. But I seem to always come back to Hapa. And really, it is about the food, I swear! I've been to all 4 of their locations in the GVRD and it was about time I returned to where it all started - the original Robson store. Well and also the fact that Costanza had some expiring Groupons as well!
So we met up without the kiddies, which felt really strange. I had the urge to go clubbing after! No, not really, but it was nostalgic for sure. We started with the Beef Tataki which was neatly arranged around a mix of daikon, fried onions and green onions. The vibrant rare beef was moist and practically melted in our mouths. The sesame-chili sauce was conservatively drizzled on top which helped add some aromatic spice, yet did not overwhelm the delicate beef. Next up was the Negitoro served with toasted garlic bread. I've always liked the version here at Hapa because of the right mix of tuna belly, sesame oil and green onions smeared on crunchy garlicky toast. This was mostly the case here except the toast could've been more toasty this time around.
Despite my carnivorous tendencies, I love polenta. I really do! So I lobbied for us to try the Polenta Fries. These tempura battered beauties were dressed with a soy-balsamic reduction and arugula gel. The tempura batter was light, airy and crispy without being greasy. As for the polenta, it was soft with enough firmness to maintain its shape. The sauces had it all: sweetness, acidity, saltiness and a touch of bitterness from the gel. For Costanza and myself, we could not let a visit at Hapa go without an order of Ebi Mayo. In fact, we didn't want to share with the girls, so we got 2 orders. One for us and one for them. Now there are many good versions of Ebi Mayo in town, but for me, Hapa produces consistently one of the best. And it was no exception this time around with nicely fried ebi which exhibited a snap and meatiness. The natural ebi flavour was accented by just the right amount of chili mayo which had a nice balance of sweet, salty and a slight spice.
Another must-order item at Hapa is the Spicy Pork Ishi-Yaki, which is both good and a great filler item (to get you full, if that was your intention). The picture you see was after they mixed the rice and squished along the sides of the hot stone bowl (to create a rice crust). It consisted of rice, minced pork, garlic sprouts, egg, tomato, lettuce and spicy miso. Usually, the rice crust that forms on the sides is crispy and nutty. However, the rice was a bit more wet than usual this time, hence, the crust was pretty minimal. Despite this, it was still pleasant to eat since there was no absence of flavour including the salty miso and spice from the pork. Moving onto another fried item (thank goodness we had a large Asahi), we had the Chicken Karaage dressed in a soy ginger sauce. Each boneless piece of dark meat was fried just right with a crispy exterior yielding to a moist and tender interior. The soy ginger sauce had a nice balance between salty and sweet with a hit of ginger.
For no explicable reason, we ordered the Agedashi Tofu. Normally, I personally wouldn't choose this at an Izakaya, but we were trying to avoid raw items because Elaine doesn't really prefer it. So yes, we had fried tofu. Well, this was pretty decent with silky tofu fried lightly and dressed with the usual grated daikon and green onions in a dashi sauce. Lastly, we had the Hapa Hot Wings with a spicy serrano chili sauce. These were meaty and juicy wings with a decent kick. Again, really good with beer (much like the other items, it's an Izakaya!). Once again, Hapa met our expectations and it was good to reacquaint ourselves to some of our favourite dishes, even if we weren't going clubbing afterwards...
- Predictable and consistent
- Decent service
- This location needs a makeover
- Although predictable and consistent, menu might need some refreshing