I often get asked how do I compare an award winning restaurant to a quick and dirty grab and go fast food joint? How to compare a corner store cafe to a downtown bistro? How do you rank a fine dining establishment to a casual dining chain? The answer is I don’t. I take each individual restaurant as its own; unless otherwise competing in the same geographical area, with the same customer base, and similar menu. And I consider what is the goal of their business? What are they providing for their clientele? And what is the community they serve? From there is where I discern if I will return to revisit, and if it is worth my recommending.
Today that restaurant is the latest evolution of Hachiro; offering North Vancouverites a great night out, with an extensive bar menu and small Japanese inspired plates to pair with each course. This isn’t where you go for traditional Japanese servings, or cocktails that require 10 ingredients and an hour’s worth of pay to sip. This is where you go when you want a great time, where the drinks are poured quick and strong, and you can get a little more rowdy with your friends within. There is nothing else like it in its surrounding neighbourhood, so already Hachiro is positioned to be a great hot spot.
We were invited to a closed event to sample much of the above and this is what we had, in the order we had it in: shared plates with its recommended drink pairings.
The night started with their show stopping Shinsen cocktail. A lighter offering to ease you into your night of drinking. Flavoured with lychee to start, transitioning to a subdued cocktail. With the melting of the butterfly pea flower ice cube it transforms i taste and presentation like caterpillar to cocoon.
With it, we munched on their bar snack offering of crispy, salted chickpeas and airy loot root chips. The two tided us over while the room waited for late comers to arrive and settle.
For heartier starters they have a lovely Edamame Hummus served with taro chips. The hummus is mashed chunky and finished with Sesame Seeds.
The Chicken Chicharron offered more savoury bites. Crispy and light, they were easy to pop into your mouth, as they weren’t the least bit greasy.
Hachiro also hosts sake on their drink menu, so naturally we had to try some of their award winning bottles. This is the Brewmaster’s Choice Honjozo Sake, its fragrance and subtleness went perfectly with the salad below.
The Niji Salad is one that you mix up at the table. Completely vegan, this assembly includes Cabbage, Carrot, Cucumber, and Corn; all dressed with their Housemade Miso Dressing. Our table found it a tad too naked, so ordered additional dressing to be able to make out the salt of the miso. Even then I didn’t feel like the salad was able to stand on its own. It would be better served as a side to an richer entree, providing a breath of freshness to the plate.
I preferred the Tuna Tataki if you are looking for a light starter. The only down side is that there wasn’t enough for sharing. This was Seared Tuna in a Ponzu Sauce with Pickled Cucumber and Scallions. A pretty classic interpretation, with a little more salt than the fresh fish needed.
For our next drink we went smokey and rich with the Lapsang float. This is definitely one for those who allow their drinks to breath. Haku Vodka, Ardbeg Scotch, Lapsang Tea, Vanilla & Clove Syrup, Lychee & Strawberry Juice with Miracle Bitters. Out of all the cocktails, this was the one that was most memorable for me. A fully developed beverage that had me going back for more sip after sip.
The heavier flavours of the cocktail boded well with the Grilled chashu. This was tender pork belly lovingly sous vided for 16 hours. Kept fatty and luscious, you can’t have too many pieces, but each one was great at cutting into the stronger drink above.
And to help cut into the density and grease of the above, the house made pickles offered a nice crunch and pause.
Our fourth round of drinks included a Caesar, a Canadian staple and great for pairing with most red meat mains. Sadly, as I do often mix my own over the top clam and tomato juice concoctions, I did find this rendition bland and flat. The cocktail lacked body and spice in both heat and flavour. The Shmiso Caesar is a mix of Chili Vodka, Jack Daniels, Lime Juice, and Togarashi. Topped with their house-made Shmiso Caesar mix; and Garnished with Dried Chashu Pork, Pickled Asaparagus & Nori Flakes.
It did transition well into bites of the Beef Tataki that I too found a little on the bland side. The Strip loin meat was tough, but the Ponzu did help to soften bites. And the Yuzu Kosho sauce offered spicy notes with horseradish. The scallions did well to finish this plate off with some freshness. But for the additional vegetable that this dish needed and had me in search of, I looked to my favourite dish of the night (and many others, based on the sounds of satisfaction).
This Brussels Sprouts and Broccoli dish features the restaurant’s own in house made Okonomiyaki Sauce, paired with the creaminess of Japanese Mayo, and the fishiness of Bonito Flakes. Crispy, light, and all around tasty; I could have eaten a serving all myself.
Next we went back to sake with the Saika Daiginjo, a sake that has won awards for its fragrance. This was the perfect in-between transitions from dinner to dim sum.
Not Japanese, but available for the late night dinners. Those still looking for a good time and wanting to pair their drinks with bites that satisfy, and maybe can be seen as something different. After all, where else can you get late night dim sum in North Vancouver?
These were old school style dim sum done by the books. Though the siu mai (pork dumplings) were a little flat. The meat simply lacked flavour and were easily remedied with a dip into soy and chilli provided to the table.
But the tried and true har gow (shrimp dumplings) met my bar-dim sum expectations. I like a chewier dumpling skin and these delivered on that for me.
And for the vegetarians, Steamed tofu skin rolls stuffed with julienned carrots and mushrooms hit the spot.
With our second round of dim sum we went back to cocktail pairings. The Kagawa Margarita was another visually stunning drink made dark and moody with activated charcoal. The charcoal only lent its colour and not its flavour to the mix. El Jimador Tequila, Shochu, Vanilla Syrup, Lime Juice, Togagrashi and Activated Charcoal. You can only faintly make out the tequila, and if taken from the Togagrashi rim, the cocktail has a lot more bite and drink reads a lot more savoury (which is how I preferred it and would suggest drinking it).
The Haiiro Martini was Nikka Coffee Gin, Lillet, Earl Grey Tea, Lychee Juice, Vanilla Syrup & Rosemary Oil. This cocktail was a lot more refined than the others. It drank delicate to match the essence of the tea that hits you first, then the rise of coffee gin to follow. Worth noting is that all their foam drinks are vegan, made possible by a Vegan Foam topper.
Also painted black, but with the help of black sesame; the Nerigoma Negroni was shaken with Bombay Gin, Vermouth, Campari, and Black Sesame Syrup. Despite its unique colouring, it drank very similar to a regular negroni, just a touch more salty.
Their XLB dumplings were lacking in the soup department. The flavour was good enough, but would have been better with a vinegar and ginger dip. Not the best rendition, but passable for bar-snack XLB.
I did like their steamed buns. The dough was moist and springy and the filling well prepared. The Bbq pork was sweet and meaty, tasting like how you’d expect it too. I just wish it had a closer meat to white bread ratio.
Same goes for the custard buns. The filling wasn’t sweet, just mild for easy eating.
For those looking to wind down the drinking with some greasier, sober up snacks: look to their spring rolls and the classic fries. Although we paired them with drinks that also doubled nicely as a digestif.
The Suzushi Spritz is Aperol, Empress Gin, with Strawberry & Lemon Juice; topped with Club Soda. The Spritz provides an enjoyable effervescent start that finishes with almost fruity after notes.
The Tokoyo Mule had Shochu, Campari, Clove Syrup, Strawberry & Lime Juice; topped with Ginger Beer. Ginger forward, this sweeter cocktail could be easily paired with our dessert below.
The spring rolls were on the oilier side. Too much shell and not enough filling. This could be easily remedied with a sweet and sour dipping sauce to glop over each bite, to give it a flavour more than grease.
The Hachiro Dirty Fries were much better. Who doesn’t like Fries after a night of drinking? These were made into a poutine of sorts with Okonomiyaki Sauce in place of gravy, dressed with Japanese Mayo, Cabbage, and Fried Chashu; that I would have liked to see a lot more of. More fries than topping, maybe it just needed a side dip to help give the serving new life mid way.
And to end the night on a sweet note we enjoyed some black sesame gelato (not made in house), interestingly paired with a caramel sauce. You wouldn’t think to bring these two together, but Hachiro did, and it works.
In conclusion, after drinking the entire cocktail list, and trying most of the menu (minus the ramen and rice bowls), I can discern that Hachiro is a good time. Go in planning to drink, and be sure to pair every glass with a small plate to be able go the distance. The staff are well versed and able to help you curate your night out. So sit back, enjoy, and relax with Hachiro.
140 16th St W, North Vancouver, BC V7M 1T4