Thanks to work, a few of us were treated to a nice lunch at Hapa Izakaya near the Convention Centre. Even though it’s always been part of the Hapa family, this location was formerly Hapa Umi which went for a more fine-dining direction, serving Japanese/fusion cuisine. A few months ago, it was converted back to be another izakaya, doing what Hapa does best.
There were five of us, so we each picked out 2 dishes to have 10 dishes to share. Well, we only had 9 dishes at the end because the last one never came. Here are the dishes in no particular order.
The Ebi Avocado Salad was quite refreshing. I like that it had a generous amount of shrimps, instead of giving you just a few as “garnish”. The citrus dressing was tasty, although nothing special about it. And I can really do without the sprinkle of green onions on top; it felt a bit out of place to mix green onions together with a green salad.
Ebi Mayo is my izakaya staple – something I order at every izakaya restaurant. Thankfully everyone at the table is also willing to give it a try so it made it on the list. This was really good. Decent-size prawns tossed in a spicy mayo sauce. The sauce wasn’t very heavy and thick, and not greasy by putting too much mayo in it. It was still crispy when I took a bite.
Ahi Tuna Taco was just OK. It has a bit of a kick in the tartar sauce, and the ingredients were fresh. But I wouldn’t call this a taco since it’s more like a wrap (I was expecting to see open-faced taco shells with tuna and toppings). I’m never a huge fan of cooked tuna so it’s difficult for me to fall in love with this one.
The Beef Tataki wasn’t as good as what Hapa Umi used to serve. I found this to have way too much sauce so you couldn’t really taste the meat. However, I did appreciate the fact that it’s thinly sliced, so the meat remained tender, and that they included pieces of crispy fried onions to add some texture to the dish.
Not only do I not like cooked tuna, I also don’t really like tuna sashimi. There is this strange after-taste in tuna that I don’t like. Having said that, boy, I could eat a lot of the Toro Sashimi. Toro is tuna belly – can you see the fattiness in the meat? It just melts in your mouth, and it doesn’t have that after-taste in tuna (or I’m just biased because I really like this!).
So obviously I didn’t dictate the food ordering because there were 3 tuna dishes. The Tuna Carpaccio turned out to be quite enjoyable as well. I, for some reason, like yuzu in Japanese food. It’s probably the sweet and sour, yet savoury, taste that gets to me. The yuzu dressing has heightened the flavours of this dish for me.
Ishi-Yaki is similar to Bibimbap, but with Japanese flavours. It has lots of ingredients, and super fragrant as you stir everything together. It was plenty of carbs for the five of us. Even though it didn’t use a peanut sauce, I swear that’s what I tasted.
Initially I was quite skeptical about ordering Ika. It’s easy to overcook squid and end up with this leathery, chewy texture. I was glad we did order it because I was blown away by how tender it was! It had a nice charred mark, well seasoned, and the meat was just so soft and tender. I’ve never had squid this size that is this good! We can skip the dollop of mayo in the corner of the plate. It didn’t do anything for me.
Lastly, BBQ Short Ribs were a nice finish to our lunch. This reminds me of Korean BBQ meat; it was a well-balanced seasoning with a bit of heat. I only wish there were a few more pieces in an order.
The key to get a table at lunch hour is to go early. Get there before 12pm and you should get a table. To be safe I would recommend you to make a reservation ahead of time. It was a Thursday afternoon and it was packed by about 12:30pm. We were there at around 11:45am so we got a head-start before most of the other customers.
Because the lunch service got busier, they have messed up a couple of things. First of all, as mentioned in the beginning, we had ordered 10 dishes, but we were only just told at the very end of our lunch, after we cleared 9 plates of food, that the 10th and final dish would not make it to the table because the chefs didn’t have enough time to prepare for it. What was it, you ask? Polenta Fries.
Then, they started bringing out second serving of some of our dishes. Well, stupid us for being honest and telling them that they’re making duplicates, but it’s really strange that they brought out second serving of not one, not two, but THREE of our dishes.
Even though I wasn’t blown away by every single dish we had, and there was some hiccup in their service, in general I had a very pleasant lunch. Of course, the company helps, but I thought the food was quite good and pricing was relatively reasonable given its location. Apparently they run this “Hapa Hour” between 3pm and 6pm, Monday-Friday, with $5 wine, $4 beer and half-price tapas. I can see myself return for some Hapa Hour fun.
Hapa Izakaya (Coal Harbour)
909 W Cordova Street, Vancouver