Hapa Izakaya is a reasonably priced, funky Japanese tapas restaurant on Robson Street.
My partner and I discovered this place way back when it first opened. We didn't know there was a restaurant inside until we were curious and peeked through a tiny glass window.
Our first experience was memorable because it was our first time having Jap Tapas. The owner and their staffs were very good looking and the atmosphere was unique. For the past few yrs, I order pretty much the same thing such as Saba fish where the server torch the fresh fish in front of you. I also enjoyed their stone bowl rice.
But lately, I realize that experience has changed. After they have expanded, they've changed their menu and the place became too packed for comfort. Their food is good but that's because it's salty. And their sushi rolls are small and tasteless. I think this place works well with groups of people who love to drink. Because after you drink, anything tastes good! And their food is salty so it goes well with beer. I want to comment on the service. I think the server have too much on their hands. My server had to take care of 5 tables, 2 large group and 3 couple. She was busy running around that she barely gave us any attention.
I decided to try this place out after hearing from others that it was a formidable opponent to other Japanese izakayas...
Food: I had tried several items including the lamb steak, ebi mayo, ishi-yaki, a duck dish fr the feature sheet, a seared white fish (I forget which) and a few others. Overall, the food was ok. Some of the dishes lacked balance - either too salty, too oily or just bland and others were good but I've had better elsewhere. The Hello Kitty drink was also quite good.
Service: Food came in timely manner but servers seemed lost or pre-occupied with other things like chatting at the bar or flirting with male-dominated tables. I don't mind if servers are chatting it up but when I want a cup of tea, I don't think I should have to set off emergency flares to get their attention after 15 minutes of trying to flag someone down politely.
Value: Expensive for what you get. I understand these are meant to be small portions but spending $24 for a 4oz piece of meat is ridiculous.
Ambiance: Great seating and lighting. This place would be suitable for groups gathering for sporting events, couples looking for a nice meal or just friends hanging out and looking for a light meal.
Overall, I probably won't return as the food and drinks just doesn't beat other izakayas in the area but perhaps its just my own prejudiced taste buds. I do recommend trying this place to see what you like more as others have liked this place better for one reason or another. Bon appetite!
This review is grossly tardy; about a group of 20 friends came here to celebrate my girlfriend's birthday last year. I had been meaning to come back to follow up but this'll have to do for now.
It was my first experience at an Izakaya. We were one of the first people to show up and were seated promptly to our reserved tables after a server finally showed up at the lobby area. Slowly the group shuffled in and we started running through their menus. We took on several pitchers of mohitos amidst various other mixed and non-alcoholic drinks. Ordering was left to the other dining guests - I believe we ordered a total of 13 different dishes, needing 3-4 of each dish to cover our flock. Creative ingredients with equally artistic plating masked smallish portions. Notables I enjoyed included the Noma Harumaki, a rice noodle roll with crab, mayo and avocado and the Kinoko Meshi, which was a rice dish cooked in a hot stone bowl tableside, cracked egg and all. The Yubi Spinach and Kabocha Salad were a refreshing palette cleanser. The more usual lineup of Ebi-mayo, the Ahi Tuna Sashimi, the udon and various other dishes supplemented us partygoers.
Service was clearly the sore point of the evening. We had 4 different servers for the night but couldn't be consistently counted on outside of them delivering our food and drinks. A few of us gave a couple of them ample time to bring extra napkins, plates, flatware and drink refills to no avail. Excellent disappearing acts. We ended up having a server waiting on a neighbouring table to see to us. Our servers were mildly friendly but lacked social skills.
Decor is modern, great vibe with the buzzing patrons, but the obnoxiously loud techno music in the background was a nuisance.
Their menu is inspiring and the dishes themselves deliver what they promise (at the time). On the whole, it was a great experience but the execution from the food, to the waitresses, to the loud, club type music screamed flamboyance. Had it not been for a birthday ocassion I would've nowhere near enjoyed my time here.
Great place for a large group, however I will digress. I've seen places like this with lofty expectations and an imposing menu disguised underneath a flashy, prententious shell. Service is already mediocre here and it only takes another blip before they're thrown into the large heap of other fallen eateries with all talk, and no walk.
Reminiscing, circa July 2007.
When I first tried Hapa a few years ago it was with a large group and we had a lot of fun. But I don't remember the food.
Last week I went to Hapa to meet an old friend for dinner. There wasn't a lot on the menu that "wowed" me but the bamboo sake was GREAT!
It is nice and cozy place for Japanese tapas and the decor is very cool. But still this time even a week later I don't have a memorable dish.
While Guu (the Thurlow one) is far louder and in a smaller space, I've enjoyed all my visits there. The food was waay yummier too.
I don't even mind the 20-30 min wait.
I heard the Hapa in Kits is a lot better. Maybe I'll give that a try soon. =)
Following my visit to two Guus in the immediate neighbourhood, the visit to Hapa Izakaya was perhaps a bit underwhelming, because the food was marginally not as tasty as that at the two Guus. However, no dish was ever less than good, and the classier decor here and the attentive service certainly made an impression on us. When we left, almost the entire staff yelled out thank you in Japanese. Wow! Do try this place if you haven't been here before.
I finally got a chance to go to Hapa last night. I'm actually glad we went on a weekday at a pretty late time. We probably got there close to 10pm, and although it was still really busy, we managed to get a seat at the bar right away.
Glowing with excitment, I opened up the menu and immediately couldn't decide what to order. Everything sounded excellent. We started with this whipped cream topped Japanese pumpkin dip served with Melba toasts. It was a cold and sweet dip which immediately threw me off thinking I should have saved this dish for dessert. It was just delicious - now I know why they served it with a spoon on the side when you can just scoop up with the toast. It's so you can scrape every last bit off into your mouth.
Next we ordered two tapas: the lotus root gyozas which is pork filling in between two thin slices of lotus root and then lightly battered and fried. It was a yummy change from the ordinary gyoza skins I was used it. The other tapas we ordered was the bacon wrapped enoki mushrooms. This was a yummy concoction also. I'm not a fan of bacon, but this combination really rocked my mouth, especially with the mayo dip. But be cautious if you're bringing a date here and ordering this. The enoki mushrooms just love to hide out between your teeth.
Lastly, we order this rice in a stone pot. This was my favorite item, but I was a little weirded out when the server brought it to us and started playing with it by mixing everything together with spoons for an odd amount of time. The stone pot made a nice crispy rice layer at the bottom.
Service was great. Our food was stellar and arrived quickly. A great place for a party, but a little on the pricey side for the amount of food you receive.
I would return for sure.
I ate here with my wife on a saturday night. We were attending a birthday and we had a large group of about 40-50 people. When the 2 of us arrived we sat at a 6 seater table that already had 4 people at it drinking sake. We asked to have our own separate tab to make things easy but they said no we had to have one tab for the entire table, weird..
For dinner we ordered..
SASHI MORI – MARKET PRICE
2 TUNA CARPACIO- 8.99 - Thinly sliced ahi tuna with yuzu dressing
2 BINTORO - 8.99 - Lightly seared albacore tuna belly sashimi with ponzu sauce
AGEDASHI TOFU – 5.49 - Deep-fried tofu in a sweet soy broth
HAPA CALI ROLL- 9.99 - Real crab meat, avocado, cilantro with a sour chili mayo
ANGUS STEAK BITES- 12.99 - Diced organic beef bavette, pan fried with Japanese pepper sauce
ALMONDT PANNA COTTA- 4.49
For drinks we ordered about 9 of the Hapa special cocktails. Our portion of the bill came to about $170 including the 18% added gratuity. The food was all good but the portions are small and you need to order lots to fill up so it gets pricy. The waitresses just dropped off plates at our table and walked away leaving us to figure out what was what and who was eating it. It was loud and busy so I guess that affected our service. The drinks were all tasty but for the amount that I consumed I didn't even really feel a buzz. People were mentioning that the drinks were weak and seemed watered down.
Overall it's a nice, fun place that seems good for groups. I wouldn't return unless there was another group event happening here and I would not return with just my wife because I would find it too loud and annoying.
Ambiance and Food - good
Service and Value - average
Went back recently for a late night meal and came out quite disappointed. The whole atmosphere is different as is the food and menu selection. I understand the seasonal changes but some old yr-round favourites disappeared and the flavours of those still around such as the mentaiko udon is lacking and the skill of preparation has declined. Even the dessert has suffered!
I like the old batch of servers better. There are fewer brilliant (real or faked) smiles and fewer eye candy on the floor. The kitchen is staffed with more females now and a couple of young guys who don't give off that feeling of imported hip & skilled straight from Japan--they could very well be, but maybe the more introverted variety, I dunno. I've decided to move on especially having been impressed by an old yaletown hip spot for izakaya I've only just recently gotten around to trying out and having left impressed both by the attitude of the chefs & the creations they've come up with.
I'll probably give the new Hapa location a test run (wasn't aware there was another until I just read it on here--haven't logged on for months! :().
We decided to go to Hapa Izakaya for an early birthday celebration on a Saturday evening.
We arrived a bit before 5:30pm and had to wait a bit for them to let customers in. Not surprisingly with no reservation, they were fully booked. Luckily they leave bar spaces available for those that drop in (around 8 seats).
When asked what we'd like to drink we just asked for tea, but they also brought us some ice water.
Looking at the menu, we picked out a few items that look interesting to us. The Salmon Press, Ebi Mayo, Pork and Spicy Miso rice bowl, and the Fish Tacos.
The Salmon Press was like a salmon avocado roll, but pressed in squares instead. The Ebi Mayo was fried perfectly, and the spicy mayo sauce was delicious. The Pork and Spice Miso rice bowl came in a hot clay bowl, and they mixed in the raw egg when they brought it to us. It was nice and warm, with a little bit of spice. The Fish Tacos were a bit odd, as they were fish wraps, not tacos, but the fish was fried very nicely, and the jalapeno sauce had quite a nice kick to it. Everything was quite tasty, and our tummies were quite satisfied with just the 4 items.
Service was quick and friendly. They had quite a lot of servers floating around all the time, and tea and water were refilled often. I have to comment the floor manager greeting guests and keeping track of the servers was amazing.
The decor of the place is modern, but I found it to be a bit dark. Walls, tables and chairs were dark brown, floors and ceilings were black. Even the servers wore all black.
Price wise, it was a bit on the higher side. Considering they're tapas sizes, most items were a bit over priced. The one thing we found a bit upsetting was they charged for tea ($2/person!) which few Japanese places ever charge for.
Overall we enjoyed the experience, the food, and the service, and probably will come back again.
Hapa is not on my usual roster for izakaya but it served us well for a very busy Saturday night in downtown. The wait at both Guu locations (Robson and Thurlows) were too long for, so we patronized Hapa out of desperation (can't let a group of girls go hungry). It's been years since I've been back and it's looking its usual sleek self. We were greeted by a young hostess wearing a black tank, shorts, and flip flops. Then I realized that this was all the serving staff' get up. I felt so bad for them...I don't think that attire is even Worksafe compliant.
Anyhoo, we were seated in the room by the bar and were surrounded by plenty of TV's and a lot of guys. I think we were one of few females diners....goes to say a lot of their marketing. Food was surprisingly not bad. I expected shoddy ingredients coupled with bad execution but was happy to see that the chefs didn't dumb the food down. Notable mentions were the grilled black code, very moist and creamy, silky smooth. Ika karaage was a large grilled octopus tentacle and sliced into rings. Very cool and tasty too. The cocktail drinks were fun and well priced, although a bit skimpy on the alcohol.
Service was solid. Server came by several times to clear away the plates and replaced drinks, water, etc. Our food came out in a timely manner and at the right temperature. Only minor quibble is how that automatically tack on the 18% service charge or tip, whatever you want to call it. Luckily, we didn't receive sub-par service.
Value is ok. Not an expensive meal, but then again we didn't eat a heck of a lot. The variety of smaller plates weren't offered, so if you're sharing a number of plates, you're kind of relegated to $9-15 plates. For appetizer sized dishes, the value per volume isn't there but at least the food isn't bad.
My overall evaluation: good for drinks, anight out with friends. Not a place where food is my primary consideration.
Wow what a drastic change! I haven't been here for 2 years, I remember this place used to be so good, we ordered a pan fried kimchi udon noodle, the noodles came out warm, not hot, there was no kimchi taste, the noodles were soggy and it was like eating baby food. The baked salmon was bland, nothing special to it, the salmon was overcooked. The chicken karrage was very greasy. Even the oolong tea tasted bad. The only thing that was decent was the amaebi (prawn sashimi) and the pork belly, which was very tasty and very nicely done with the steam bun on the side. We did not even want dessert after all the disappointment even though I always get dessert. Wow, this place definitely went downhill!
I am writing this review in lieu of the preview poor review of the service from the previous Dinehere.ca member. I was here a couple weeks ago with a group of 5 on a Friday Night, for an After-VIFF-Movie beverage and snack. Upon our arrival, we were greeted warmly by who I assume is Justin, the owner of this smooth looking izakaya. He assured us that the wait shouldn't be long and politely escorted us to the bar area for a more comfortable wait. I was very impressed with the overall design of the izakaya and from what I observed at the time, Hapa attracted a clientelle it was intended for - the young, hip, and good looking. The serving staff didn't make exception and interestingly enough, many of them are Eurasian - just like Justin himself (who is apparently half Japanese and half caucasian). The female servers brought more attention to their gifts of cleavage than any steaming pair of pork buns at your typical Dim Sum excursion. Honestly and truthfully though, I kept my keen attention on the mackerel when our kind female server delicately torched it.
Like the experience of the previous reviewer, however, we had a problem with one of the orders.
A girl in our group never got her yaki-udon dish and we were told to wait, wait, and wait. Quietly frustrated, she had a similar experience before at Hapa and finally got fed up and told our server to cancel the order completely when everyone else finished their food at our table. If this is the bucking trend, I'm going to tend to stay away from Hapa for large groups and I certainly wouldn't want to get in a bitch-fest when things go awry.
Anyhow, the food was good and the atmosphere a bit pretentious - but still sexy and sleek.
Finally made a visit after hearing alot about this place. It'd be pretty accurate to describe it as an upscale version of Guu. Ambiance is nice and dark inside; it's loud but not crazy loud like guu. Service is very prompt, friendly, and unobtrusive. Food was very good. Portions were noticibly bigger than most other Izakayas, but then so were the prices (not too much tho). Definitely worth checking out.
Same review but with a value rating.
Great drink selection
I dont understand why the hip really cool places like Hapa have to have iffy frou frou food. Ive started to notice a disturbing trend where people rate the food by the hipness of a place. People! its ok if you like the restaurant but remember your recommending people eat at these places. Hapa has a really enjoyable atmosphere id definitly take my friends there to get drunk. I had a melon soda that consisted of Sprite and melon liqoure which was very tasty. We started out with the shrimp and avacado salad and it was pretty good a bit above par. Then we had there gyozas which were very tasty but for 7$ you get like one big gyoza thats been cut up into like 5 pieces although i did enjoy the lotus root in the gyoza. The last thing we had was dissapointing. We orderd there three kinds of Sashimi for 13$. We got 2 shrimp heads (Yes just the heads) 2 raw shrimps and 2 tiny cubes of tuna and two tiny cubes of white fish. It came well presented but its just raw food well decorated... the fish wasnt even exotic, terrible value in my opinion. But the noodles i saw coming out of the kitchen looked like good value if your looking to get filled up. There salad was ok value but come to think of it how much do noodles and lettuce cost a restuarant?. I think the reason people flock to this place is because yes the ambience is amazing and the waitresses are very attractive but if your a foody you will be dissapointed overall id take my friends for the outstanding atmosphere but maybe just for drinks and then head over to the gyoza king which isnt as hip but the food is very tasty and better valued. Oh and for the above mentioned meal with sake it came to 65$ with tip. Not bad but thank god i wasnt hungry.
Ate here a couple times recently. Have to say quite disappointed both times. They've taken some of my favourites off the menu... can't understand why as those dishes were some of the most popular ones. We had the miso sablefish (blackcod) and that was good. Sockeye salmon sashimi was tasty and fresh. Other dishes aren't worth mentioning.
Service has gone a bit downhill ever since the Kits location opened. Servers don't have the same smiley, friendly attitude as when the owner's there, and he's usually at the new location on Fri/Sat. I would give the service a 2.5 if it was an option.
Ambiance still nice, but surprisingly not as busy on weekends as it used to be.
As mentioned the owner Justin has done a commendable job introducing and popularizing the Japanese Izakaya's to the city. This place does cater to the trendier 20 something set. the prices are reasonable. Partly due to the fact that it is tapa size protions. Which means a good spot to try different items to share with friends and partner. Also good if you are into drinking and eating. The bill always comes out reasonable. Which possibly why it is popular. Good value for your money. And always good for people watching. Been here about ten times have not been majorly dissapointed yet. Sometimes serviced is slow and inexperienced. And getting a table is a challenge.
Other Izakaya's to try Guu, Guu + Garlic, Kingyo's..
Busy joint and be prepared to wait if you're planning on going friday or satursday. Prime time hits around 7pm til 10pm. Great specials, great concept and more importantly great food and great service. I can see why this is one of the more happening places to be. Pretentious crowd and more of a late 20's hip crowd. Thumbs Up !
I've been there several times and had always been lucky enough to get a seat right away. The super chilled sake in bamboo is a definite must. Most of the items on the menu were both creative and tasty but some could leave a bad taste in your mouth, literally. For example, the sable fish lightly charred with a torch gun. It was so fishy that no one in our group of 25 wanted to touch it. At times, service could be absent, but overall, the food and ambiance were enjoyable.
Finally tried this after hearing all the hype from others, newspapers etc. The Sun seems to think this is one of only a handful of great Japanese restaurants and this was the only one on their list we had not eaten at. Anyway, after waiting for an eternity, we finally got to sit down. The restaurant is definitely a happenin' kinda place, which is sort of what we expected. obviously that part of downtown is more or less like a "campus" for all the Japanese, Korean etc ESL students so I am not surprised that this was super crowded and busy with mostly younger patrons with mommy and daddy's cash to burn. If your focus is a party atmosphere then this is the place for you. If you are simply interested in great food, service then this isn't worth all the aggravation. There are so many other restaurants to choose from. I am not sure why The Sun never mentions any of them.
I have been trying to find this particular restaurant (but obviously not looking that hard...) for about 3 weeks. Making my way up Georgia St to Denman, turning left, walking along, seeing several “--- Izakaya” restaurants, not one I passed by was the one I wanted. I was under strict instructions to find Hapa Izakaya.
Finally, I found it. Just near Broughton and Robson St, it’s hard to really notice it’s there. The facade is all black, exterior and interior, dim lights, and high posters on the windows facing the streets, so you would never see anyone dining on the inside while standing on the sidewalk.
It was a completely different atmosphere inside then we had originally expected. An open kitchen, servers dressed in all black, wearing black flip-flops, and yapping back and forth to one another in Japanese. You were immediately welcomed by a slew of staff, having your choice of seating arrangements - at the sushi bar on pillows or chairs, or at a table. Frankly, we like to be close to kitchen, it’s where all the action is for us.
This menu really showcases the kitchens’ flare for appetizers, or Japanese tapas as it is sometimes called. We ordered drinks, followed by a number different appetizers, all of which were amazing. Try the sablefish, the fried chicken and gyozas - they’re all really delicious.
The entrees on the other hand, not so amazing. We should’ve known, as no one else was ordering them! Both John and I had the Udon noodles, John’s with chicken and I had the noodles with vegetables and tofu. The tofu in my dish was crumbled and mixed into the sauce, which was just as unappetizing as it sounds.
I concluded that this was a great place for sharing tapas and meeting friends, but stick to page one of the menu, otherwise you’ll be ordering imperfect filler-food.