Hapa Izakaya

Ah, Groupon. Some say that its heyday has passed and gone–but I find it’s still possible to find some worthwhile deals with some persistent page-scrolling. After said persistent page-scrolling, I ended up purchasing a deal for the Robson Street location of Hapa Izakaya–paying $15 for $60 worth of food for 4+ people. Not bad, huh? I had never been to Hapa before and wanted to try it, since I love izakayas. So Sam, Pickles, Dolph and I trekked down Robson Street on a warm July evening to make use of our coupon.

We carefully selected our dishes–pretty much one from each of their menu headings–and after informing our server of our Groupon deal, the food arrived shortly.

First, the Hapa Tofu, which we selected off their sheet of specials. The tofu was very cold–I realize that it is supposed to be that way, but it was a bit off-putting. The tofu itself though, was bland. I suppose this was made up for by the crispy wonton strips and the pieces of chicken, as well as the sauce, which was drizzled on in a minimal way. The sauce was a little tangy and a little spicy, but overall simply held the ingredients together.

Next, we had the Mentaiko Udon, stir-fried with chunks of tomato as well as cod roe. Overall, the four of us liked this dish, although the tomatoes felt a little overcooked and mushy, adding a somewhat undesirable grainy texture. The standard version of mentaiko udon in our minds is the version from Sushi Garden, with golden mushrooms and a somewhat cheesy sauce. We enjoyed this variation. The portion size was also enough for the four of us to share, with each of us getting a decent amount.

For our veggies, we ordered the Ebi Avocado Salad. Served with some kind of citrus soy dressing, we all thought this was an enjoyable salad, although we would have preferred to have more shrimp. (I think that there were only four included…) It would also have been nice for them to have served the salad with the avocado already mixed up, as it was a little difficult for us to do that ourselves. I realize that it was served that way for presentation’s sake, but it did compromise our overall enjoyment of the dish. Other than that, the greens were crisp and fresh, and the ingredients went well together.

And onto the carbs, we also ordered the Ishi Yaki, rice with minced pork and other ingredients mixed and served in a hot stone bowl. It looked a lot prettier before it was mixed but the server just dived right into mixing without giving me a chance to take a photo. Ah, well. I thought the bowl should have been a bit hotter, as the rice didn’t form that desirable crispy crunchy crust. Besides the pork, there were also some tomatoes, an egg, and garlic chips. The pork consisted of a good balance of some fatty portions and some lean portions. Overall, we enjoyed this and would probably order it again.

Now, if there’s Negitoro on a menu, I’m bound to order it. This wasn’t what we were expecting, though, as it was served with slices of toasted garlic bread. The negitoro here was more of a paste, and was distinctly spicy. The four of us didn’t really enjoy the texture, which was way too soft and mushy. Although the idea of serving this with bread was unique and somewhat creative, we found that it was rather random. I ended up eating the two components separately. On the plus side, the bread was nice and toasty. Also, I personally didn’t think that this was a sufficient amount of fish for $9. I mean, we had the coupon, but still.

Another cold tapa we shared was the Tuna Avocado Salsa Dip, which was served with plantain chips. We enjoyed the plantain chips, which were crunchy and subtly sweet. We didn’t feel that the dip was anything special, though, as it seemed to include some kind of citrus soy sauce. I began to feel that the food was a little repetitive–perhaps it was just the dishes we ordered, but I noticed that much of the food contained the same ingredients (the dressing, avocado, tomatoes, etc.).

Last but definitely not least was the Aburi Saba, or the seared marinated mackerel sashimi. Being Korean through and through, mackerel is my favourite fish to eat, and this was no disappointment. It was quite fishy, but that’s only to be expected from mackerel. I liked the spectacle of it–the server brought it to our table and torched it in front of us. Despite this, the fish remained firm and solid, and had a pleasing texture. Although this isn’t the type of dish I usually enjoy, I would definitely order it again here.

In general, I found the food a little unimaginative. They repeated the same ingredients in all the dishes–or maybe it was just the dishes we ordered? Compared to the other izakayas I’ve been to, there was no wow factor here. Nothing was inedible, but nothing made this visit memorable. I also thought that Hapa lacked the friendly and rustic service of other izakayas like Guu and Suika, and that it was also lacking in the authenticity area as well. Considering all the other izakayas in the area, I don’t think I would visit Hapa again–well, unless there’s another Groupon.

Hapa Izakaya
1479 Robson Street
Vancouver, BC

Hapa Izakaya on Urbanspoon

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