Hapa Izakaya: West End

My girlfriends and I have been meaning to visit Hapa Izakaya during happy hour for a while now but the four of us are never all free during happy hour! School and work, work and school… Anyway, we managed to find some time during reading week but Angelica still couldn’t make it. So we went without her! Hapa Hour at the West End location runs everyday from 5:30-6:30 pm, offering half off selected tapas. Hapa Hours vary by location, so if you’re going to head out to one of the 4 Hapa locations in the Lower Mainland, check our their website first for happy hour times.

If you didn’t know about this place, you would never find it. It’s located on Robson, across the street from Cloud Nine, between Broughton and Nicola. Since it’s near the end of Robson, pay parking actually isn’t too bad around this area but it’s much more convenient (and environmental!) to take the 5 Robson bus.

The interior is dimly lit and the style, furniture, dish-ware  everything is exactly like their Kitsilano location, which I visited for their regular dinner menu here. I like the sleek, modern vibe Hapa Izakaya offers but I do think it takes away from the izakaya experience a little. It definitely feels very Westernized and is much less welcoming than the izakaya experience you’d get from a Guu location, a Kingyo Group location or a Gyoza King location. In fact, the service can be a little intimidating. The waitresses seem to be only friendly with select patrons. I don’t know- thats the vibe I got. Upscale izakaya is what it is. And it’s Westernized in the terms of prices as well.

You wouldn’t see restaurants like this in Japan! My mom and I had izakaya when we were in Tokyo last May and the entire restaurant felt like it was smaller than our living room! But I’m not bashing Hapa for authenticity. What do I know about authenticity? I’m just angry that they charge an unwarranted premium on their prices.

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Here are the selected tapas at half off. Between the three of us, we ordered seven dishes. Each Hapa location’s selected tapas actually vary. Some Hapa Hour menus seem more attractive than others.

This is the Midori Salad ($3.99, regular $7.99), Organic mixed greens, citrus-soy dressing. This was the biggest disappointment of the entire meal. I had the Sashimi Salad at the Kitsilano location on my last Hapa meal and it was honestly the best damned salad I had ever tasted! I figured that the Midori Salad is the exact same, minus the sashimi. Technically it is supposed to be, considering the descriptions. I was raving and overhyping this salad so much that it was the biggest bust ever when the salad arrived at our table and tasted disgusting! It was absolutely awful. It’s one thing to not taste like the wonderful salad I had previously tried but it’s another thing to taste so oily and heavy that it’s borderline inedible. Looking back, there must have been a missing ingredient in the dressing. It was just so awful. It was like dressed in oil, not the refreshing and flavourful citrus-soy I previously tried and loved. I haven’t given up on this salad yet. Maybe it was a fluke. Fiona and Nicole were not amused though. They wouldn’t even finish it. At least it was only $3.99!

Next is Beef Tataki ($4.99, regular $9.99)Lightly seared AAA beef, sesame-chili sauce. I found this dish average. But I really appreciated the generous portion for such a reasonable price! $4.99 is around the price that Matsuyama charges for their beef sashimi during late night and I don’t think I’d ever eat that there. However, the beef was kinda tough and the chili sauce was way too overpowering. I think it was straight up Sriracha sauce. It’s very uncreative and did not serve the beef positively in any way!

Negitoro ($4.49, regular $8.99)Chopped Albacore tuna belly, spring onions, toasted garlic bread. This seems to be the dish that every food blogger raves about! I was hesitant to try it because the garlic bread looked burnt but it actually was very crispy on the crust yet soft and chewy, as it should be. I could have eaten the garlic bread by itself! The concept of spreading negitoro on a garlic bread is definitely very interesting. It’s such an innovative creation that I actually don’t know what I think about this. The negitoro was a little bit cold and the portion is rather small. At $4.49, maybe I’ll let it slide because I really enjoyed the garlic bread but when it’s priced regularly at $8.99 and food bloggers are raving about it? I get the feeling that I’m missing something here!

The Agedashi Tofu ($2.99, regular $5.99)Deep-fried tofu, sweet soy broth was my favourite dish of the meal! It was actually probably the best agedashi tofu I’ve ever had. It was absolutely amazing. The 4 rectangular pieces of tofu were deep-fried with delicate care to crispy perfection and the inside was incredibly soft, as it should be. The batter was not heavy at all and it was very good with the sweet soy broth, which didn’t drown the tofu. We all wanted more tofu!

The Hanabi Roll ($4.49, regular $8.99)Spicy tuna, cucumber, wasabi tobiko, spicy miso was very creative. The server actually seared this with a blow torch at our table. She accidentally burnt the top piece as you can see if you look carefully by enlarging the photo. It’s burnt black! The wasabi tobiko were actually wasabi-coloured, dyed a very deep green- very cool. Actually, in retrospect, $4.50 for a sushi roll isn’t exactly cheap. You could get a much better roll at Jumbo Sushi for that price! The other sushi choice during Hapa Hour was limited to Spicy Dynamite Roll which sounded very, very mediocre at $4.50. The Hanabi roll tasted like an ordinary spicy tuna roll but with panko. And it was way spicy with Sriracha sauce- similar to the dressing on the Beef Tataki! Come on, you couldn’t make your own chili sauce?

Here we have the Mentaiko Udon ($4.49)Udon noodles, spicy cod roe sauce. This actually isn’t offered on the regular dinner menu. However, they do have a Yaki Udon which is priced at $9.99. I’ve had it before here and I actually prefer the Mentaiko udon! Although there was no meat in this dish, the rich and flavourful sauce made up for it! The buttery udon reminded me of Guu’s udon, which is cooked with butter. It was served lukewarm but I’m forgiving as it tasted quite good. Everyone liked the spicy cod roe sauce. However, I did find the tomatos a weird addition. It didn’t match. In fact, it would have been better without the tomatos! I also want to mention how thinly sliced the garnishes were. Not just on this dish, but all the dishes! I’ve recently began to learn how to cook and I’m completely blown away by the talent of the kitchen! Cooking your own food really makes you appreciate food more.

Lastly, we have the Spicy Pork Ishi-yaki ($4.99, regular $9.99)Rice, minced pork, garlic sprouts, egg, tomato, lettuce, spicy miso, served in a hot stone bowl. Can I just begin by saying this is such a good deal? This is so cheap! You are supposed to let it sit in the stone bowl for about 10 minutes before digging in so that the rice has a chance to “crisp”. It was quite enjoyable. The spicy miso makes it very favourable and gives it a heat kick! Next time I want to try Hapa’s other two ishi-yakis! However, the other two flavours are not offered during Hapa Hour.

The total after tax and tip came out to be around $13 per person and we were stuffed! It would have been even more inexpensive as we were charged for tea. Now that I know about the great deals during happy hour at Hapa Izakaya, I don’t think I’ll ever come back for lunch or dinner. It’s just so much cheaper during happy hour, which isn’t even at an unreasonable time for the West End location. 5:30-6:30 pm is very late for happy hour and we arrived a little past 6, a healthy time for dinner! I used to think the portions would be reduced to reflect the happy hour prices but nope! These tapas are served as they would come during lunch/dinner but at half the price! Can you say awesome?

Thanks for eating with me!

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