“Hapa” is that restaurant you go to for a good time. For me they are synonymous with clinking glasses, boisterous laugher, and delicious small plates. And this is no different during “Taste of Yaletown”, with their all-savoury, three course menus.
The Yaletown location is actually my favourite, given their proximity to the skytrain and me always leaving with a warm buzz and a grin; then climbing on to transit for an easy and safe ride home. Your experience begins as soon as you enter their threshold. As everyone takes the time to shout a greeting to you, making you feel welcomed, whist setting the tone. The tone that being loud and having fun is a part of what they are all about. The restaurant’s narrow space is kept dark by their all black bar stools and high tops. There really isn’t an decor to speak of. The most ornate feature of the room is their ceiling with criss crossing beams.
We grabbed a booth towards the back of the restaurant, giving us privacy and seclusion for our private party. Our group of media representatives were specifically invited to try their “Taste of Yaletown” menu. So below is everything we shared, giving us a taste of all three options across their three courses. Available for $25 per person from October 11th to the 27th.
As always, when it comes to a media tasting: plating and portion size may be gussied up and/or paired down, and the service will usually be top notch. Though I can at least paint you the most accurate image when it comes to the food and the setting, as how I interpret it. But as always, these are my opinions and you need not take them as fact. Unless you have my exact background, have lived my exact experiences, and we possess the same tongue; no one can truly taste and appreciate as you do.
Their menu does not include dessert, it is three rounds, with each one coming out, a larger portion than the last, also with a vegetarian option taken into consideration.
“Ichi” has you choosing between raw beef, raw fish, and cooked vegetables.
The “Beef tataki” is AAA beef in a soy barbecue sauce. This is the one I’d recommend in the first course, and I also advise not sharing. The tataki was deliciously tender, a slice thick enough that you were able to enjoy the chew. Lightly seared and flavoured like the crispy fried onions, fresh onion, and lemon that topped it. Although I would have preferred the sauce on the side to be able to dictate how much salt I wanted with my meat.
The “Ahi tuna” was the lighter choice. Tiny cubes of tuna tartare, topped with a raw quail’s egg. You mix one into the other before scooping it on to a sheet of seaweed, used as a base. The seaweed offered some pepperiness and a textural interest.
By comparison I found the “Agedashi vegetables” underwhelming. Although did appreciate that this wasn’t just tofu, but more interesting produce that I would lean towards: eggplant, daikon, and shishito peppers. The seasoning was a soy-mirin dashi broth, making this one actually vegan friendly.
“Nii” was a choice between chicken, shrimp, or more vegetables in the same vegan dashi broth.
“Chicken naban” was a fried chicken thigh cut into strips and served with their twist on tartare sauce, featuring daikon. I am more partial to dark meat so enjoyed the juicy pieces of chicken paired with the creamy and chunky dipping sauce. This is a solid and safe choice.
The “Crispy panko-fried scallops” had a similar taste and texture to the fried chicken above, except sweeter and more cake-like. A crunchy bite married with a creamy dip finish. The sauce was a jalapeño mango mayo, but I didn’t get enough of the fruit to be able to tell. I would have liked more zest from it overall, as seafood is great with a citrus accent. I did really enjoy the crispy lotus chips, wishing that there was more than five chips on the plate. I could have enjoyed a plate of these to myself, as is.
In both presentation and taste the “Foiled grilled tofu and mushrooms” felt more like a side than an option to hold a candle to the other two above. This too was vegan, it had the same dashi broth as the first course except with the addition of citrus with yuzu, that I wanted for the scallops above. It was tasty enough, but wasn’t very exciting for this omnivore.
The third course “San” was a tough choice between their sizzling hamburger steak or delicious aburi sushi. Sadly the vegetable option didn’t do it for me again.
The “Hambagu steak” is an AAA angus beef patty served sizzling on a hot plate. I am not a fan of eating beef as a patty, but at least the chunk was pink at its centre and tender. But what really made this dish was its topping, adding spice and crunch. Minced daikon, crispy garlic chips, and peppery shiso leaves; sitting in a pool of tangy dashi. I personally would have liked this all between a doughy bun, as I kept looking for a starch to round the patty out.
The “Aburi Saba sushi” is the one I recommend and the dish I liked the most after we had them all. It is torched mackerel pressed into a sushi block, with some sansho pepper. No complaints, just delicious.
The “Vegetable Poké bowl” utilized various vegetables for their textures and colours, giving the bowl a more dynamic appearance. Although when it came time to try, it I found it lacking. Not just some seafood, but a depth of flavour, more than just produce over rice. Something that could have been helped along with a thicker dressing, maybe some toasted seeds and nuts, and some more crispy fried onion and garlic chips for punch.
In short a great menu with great value at $25 for three courses. However if you are vegan or vegetarian I wouldn’t recommend this for you. Instead, order something off their regular menu to avoid comparisons with your omnivore friend, and the envy that will follow.
And of course a trip to Hapa is not complete without some drinks. Start with a shot to set the mood, like these “Red Dragons”. Followed by sake of course, because it is a staple here, and they come served in a bamboo pitcher with matching cups.
For those who like their drinks sweeter, I recommend their “Enter the Dragon” cocktail, a fruity and light drink that features the specked dragon fruit, because there aren’t many cocktails that do, or are there many places that will. Bacardi Oakheart, dragon fruit, agave syrup, lime, or ginger beer.
I enjoyed the “Hello Kitty” cocktail for its name. Light and pink like the cartoon character, which can also be made into a virgin soda. Although the original version has Absolut vodka, strawberry purée, Calpico, and soda
Would I come back? – Yes.
Would I line up for it? – Yes.
Would I recommend it? – Yes.
Would I suggest this to someone visiting from out of town? – No.
Fun food, better drinks, and a good time.
Don’t deny your cravings.