Hapa Izakaya Kitsilano – Dine Out Vancouver 2014

Continuing my Dine Out festivities, I went to Hapa Izakaya in Kits, which offered a four course menu for $18 (what a deal!).

hapa1

As we drove into the area, we were greeted by an awfully limited amount of street parking (though being that it was a Friday night, no surprises there). Fortunately, the nearby beaches offered a fairly vacant parking lot, which allowed us to park for the night for a relatively cheap $5. Those of you who have driven to Kits before, or downtown for that matter, know that parking is a pain in the butt, so my friends and I were glad we didn’t need to circle the area like sharks in search of the chum that was a free parking spot.
The exterior of the restaurant is pretty subtle and it’s entirely possible to walk right past it without noticing it. Apart from the backlit sign that indicates the restaurant’s name, there are not many other lights near the entrance, so be sure to pay attention! When in doubt, check Google Street View!

hapa2

The interior of the restaurant, on the other hand, is quite the different story. If I didn’t know better, I would not have thought this was a Japanese restaurant! There was more of a pub/ lounge vibe than anything else, with remixes of top 50 songs blasting and a number of TVs around the bar area showing TSN.

hapa3

Tada! The menu for the evening, which I was mentally prepared for this time. No desserts for this option but by the end of the meal I didn’t even want any (well…maybe I did, but my body wouldn’t have been able to handle it!

hapa4

There were a lot of interesting drink options but what really caught my eye were “The Kitties”, a series of Hello Kitty themed drinks! Why didn’t I order any? I was trying to be healthy…my apologies but a friend of mine did order the Oolong Kitty so there are pictures!

hapa5

Here is what the Oolong Kitty looks like. She did kindly offer me a sip for the review (I get to use that excuse a lot) and I found the taste very light. Almost watered down because the flavours were so subtle. All I initially tasted was tea and sweetness and the alcohol only hit me as an aftertaste. She tried the Hello Kitty before and said she preferred that one more.

hapa6

hapa7

My friend and I decided to order the two appetizers we were most interested in trying and shared them. The top is the sesame cucumber and the bottom is the gomaae. I thought that the cucumbers were very refreshing and were a wonderful way to start off the meal. If I had one criticism however, it would be that there was too much sesame oil, which overpowered the more subtle flavours of the other ingredients. As for the gomaae, I thought that the peanut dressing was very nice. It was not overly sweet, which is a huge plus in my books. Typically, gomaae is made with spinach but the Dine Out menu’s rendition had Chinese bok choi in it, along with spinach, which I found quite interesting. It gave the dish a crunchier texture so although I missed my traditional gomaae I also quite enjoyed this one.

hapa8

hapa9

Next up were our rolls (not in order of the menu but that’s ok) and we picked the Fish n’ Chips roll and the Spicy Tuna roll. In case you were wondering, the brown bits on top of both these rolls are strips of fried onion, which were quite tasty. I’m not entirely sure what type of fish was used, but I guess in the end it doesn’t really matter all that much. Although I liked the roll in general, I felt that the tartar sauce drizzle had too strong a flavour. The result was that I wasn’t really able to taste anything within the roll, aside from the sushi rice. In the end, I thought that the Fish n’ Chips roll was more of a novelty item and would not be worth a second order.
Moving on to the Spicy Tuna roll, I found this to be much better. This roll was drizzled with a spicy mayo sauce. It had a slight kick to it, but was not overly spicy by any means. Even the most amateur of spicy food eaters would be able to walk away from this unscathed. The tuna inside the roll was quite nice as well. The meat was very soft and seemed to melt in my mouth.

hapa10

Now, the chicken karaage and popcorn pork. The chicken was tender and quite juicy, but I felt the skin wasn’t as crispy as I wanted it to be. It was topped with greens and onion pieces which my friend polished off because he felt it was a nice counter balance from the fried meat.

hapa11

The popcorn pork was one of the highlights for me that night, because it had a stronger crunch to it than I expected. In bite size pieces it was easy to eat and the dish was paired nicely with a not too strong honey mustard-esque sauce. My other friends found that the batter was on the heavier side, but I liked the dough so much I didn’t mind. It was deep fried in panko which I can never say no to.

hapa12

Action shot of our last item: hot stone bowl rice! The server kindly mixed it up for us and informed us to let it sit for approximately 5 minutes, giving the rice, egg, and sauce enough time to crisp up from the residual heat of the stone bowl.

hapa13

hapa14

I got to try the chipotle beef curry ishiyaki and the spicy pork ishiyaki, and found myself loving both of them! The beef curry was savoury while the spicy pork had a sweet undertone. What I liked was that the spicy flavours were there but it wasn’t all that I tasted. My tongue wasn’t burning after two bites and I didn’t need to down glasses of water. The stone bowls kept the rice hot, flavourful, and delicious. In particular the beef curry had pieces of lettuce in it which made me think of a Korean lettuce beef wrap, mmmm!

Food: mini3andahalfforks
Although delicious, other than the rice bowl there wasn’t anything that really blew my mind. A lot of the dishes were still what I would consider fairly typical fusion Japanese food.

Service: mini5forks
The servers there made sure to grab all our names and call us when it was our dish! I really enjoyed that personal touch. Plus the place was packed but our food came relatively fast and they were tentative to our needs.

Value: mini4forks
For $18, this was a pretty filling and satisfying Dine Out menu option, I would recommend you try it out as well!

Ambiance: mini3forks
The vibe was chill and the décor was nice but sometimes the music was too loud and made conversation difficult.

Overall: 4forks
I had fun with friends and got to enjoy some pretty decent food. It was a good Dine Out experience and if I were around the neighbourhood again I would definitely come back!

Hapa Izakaya on Urbanspoon