Since I’d already been to Glowbal the first night they were open and wasn’t into joining the crazy relaunch party last night, I decided to head over to the newly reopened Hapa Izakaya in Yaletown (on Hamilton at Davie by Cactus Club) with a girlfriend before going to my volleyball league later on in the evening. Since they also just opened their doors and we needed to have an early dinner, we ended up being their first official guests upon being open to the public (we even watched them do their team huddle from outside before they unlocked the doors). I’ve been to the Robson and Kits locations in the past, so was looking forward to seeing this place ever since I started hearing rumours of their third restaurant coming to the neighbourhood.
When walking through the doors, you could feel the excited energy throughout the room, and everyone was anxiously awaiting the start of the first dinner service and the influx of guests – “Irasshaimase” was yelled out boisterously from the staff. Being the first night, I noticed the faint smell of fresh paint still lingering from the renovations that must have recently been done.
Because we were the first ones through the door, we got to choose from all the seating, and went with the two-person booth tucked away near the front of the room and across from the first bar. I also noticed the two flatscreen televisions showing a hockey game that was on at the time, and thought to myself it would be a great little place to come and sit to watch the Canucks play in future as well.
Since I had to drive to volleyball and was on a long enough streak of alcoholism for the week, we settled on some Japanese oolong tea, and enjoyed having our first sips of the hot drink (perfect for the crazy windy rain happening outside) while looking over the menu. The daily fresh sheet had a few things that peaked our interest, so we started from there, and then made sure to order a few of the staple items as well.
First up? The Oshinko, or marinated and pickled vegetables. These are always a very colourful plate, so besides being good to eat, they’re also beautiful! I found that the carrots (at least that’s what they appeared to be) were too salty to eat more than one, but I really enjoyed the rest of them. The green ones were my favourite (Chinese cabbage?), with a nice after taste that reminded me of lavendar for some reason, and the yellow ones (daikon) were a bit more on the sweeter side. The purple ones (cucumber and eggplant, or shibazuke) were also a bit on the salty side, but we did manage to finish most of them off – I usually favour eating these with a side of rice, but wasn’t in the mood for getting full too early on before trying other dishes, so opted out this time around.
Following that, some fresh melt-in-your-mouth Ahi Tuna Carpaccio came to the table. The thin slices were served with a spicy soy-like sauce, and were absolutely delicious. After this dish came, I was starting to get more excited for the rest of the meal on its way – things were looking promising!
This was then followed by the Amaebi Sashimi (also from the fresh sheet). These are basically spotted prawns, and were a great deal for $9.80 for 5, including the deep-friend heads (they asked if I wanted them, to which I exclaimed “that’s my favourite part”)! Generally, I’ve found these for $3.50 and up per piece of nigiri at other restaurants that have quality amaebi. The only thing that I realized afterward that seemed missing was the lemon wedge that I generally squeeze over top; however, these were so good already as is and didn’t really even need it.
At this point, the Chicken Yakiudon noodles came – although these were also quite good, I did prefer the ones that I had at the new Guu Garden last week a bit better (although that was with beef). This dish had quite a bit of sauce, and as I’ve probably said before, I’m not huge on food that has too much sauce on it that it overwhelms the rest of the plate. The flavour was good – it was just a little much for my preference. With the noodles there were green onions, chopped up cabbage, and sprinkles of nori on top (a straight vegetarian version is also available upon request).
Last of all, a platter of mixed sushi came to the table, in what they called Antipasto. This had a variety of whatever was fresh: last night’s version included two pieces each of saba (mackerel – the oily fishy distinctive-tasting one), tamago (egg), unagi (BBQ eel), ahi tuna, and chopped scallop nigiri, all for under $11! There was also one more type, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what it’s called – can anyone help me out in the comments (the light coloured fish in a ball shape near the front) Update: it’s snapper 🙂 Everything was delicious, and I was a very happy camper while devouring down each and every morsel. My favourite of the bunch was the chopped scallop – I usually get this in a roll or nigiri format whenever I’m out for sushi.
Happily sated, we knew we still had some room left for dessert, and decided to try two of the options they had available for the day. I’m not sure if their after dinner treats change on a regular basis or not, but we did notice that they were on the fresh sheet portion of the menu.
I’m a huge lover of green tea ice cream, so I went for the Sake Poached Pear with Matcha Ice Cream. I should’ve thought about this a bit more carefully upon ordering, because the pear was the featured item in this – not the ice cream. I’ve never been a fan of canned fruit, even since I was a little girl picking home-made versions of them off of my basement shelves to eat when growing up. So, although I’m sure others may really enjoy this, I ended up eating more of the other dessert in the end.
It was actually my girlfriend that picked the other option that we had – the Matcha Brulee. Oh, and was it ever diviiiine! I have to give this one top marks for sure, and will make sure to go back and get it again and again. It was served with a gooseberry on top, and was so smooth and creamy that I’m surprised we didn’t lick the bowl before they took it away. I’ve had a matcha brulee elsewhere before (although I can’t remember where, exactly), andcan recall that the green tea was grainy within the custard, and thus didn’t think I’d ever order it again anywhere. I’m really glad that my friend had chosen this one – we almost went with two of my choice instead!
This meal was great and came to under $60 for the two of us, including all the food shown above (plus, the tea was even $2 each). I’d say that we did really well for the price, and the food was delicious! Also, the energy was lively and fun, the room was great, and I can see myself wandering over to this place for dinner on several occasions in future (it’s open from 5:30pm – late daily). Hope to see you all there sometime!