Hapa Izakaya is a reasonably priced, funky Japanese tapas restaurant on Robson Street.
I might be one of the lucky ones, because I have only had good experiences with the food and service here. In fact, a recent evening with a larger group afforded the opportunity to share a few dished I hadn't tried before. All were received with great pleasure.
For a place that is the Cactus Club of Japanese/Hawaiian, they rise above expectations. I think a lot of people that are not happy with Hapa are confused about what it is all about. I think they do what the do well and offer good value compared to other casual dining options. That might be why it is so busy in a city with so many Japanese restaurants.
Hapa could improve the way they convey their value proposition to customers. Hapa could be more clear about the experience they are trying to project so diners can adjust their expectations accordingly.
I like the half and half concept; and, think it would be fun to see a few more Hawaiian inspired items such as real Poke, or Chicken with two-scoops rice - among others.
A no ka' Oi!
Like many previous reviewers have mentioned, the one word that could sum up what this place is teeming with is "pretentiousness". Food aside, the service itself is pretending to be something that it is not. From the arrogant self claiming hot-shot owner to the pretty, totally dolled-up waitresses, (and even pretty good looking chedfs....) service was both awkward and uncomfortable from beginning to end. I came here with a friend with a semi-empty stomach and was attracted by the eclectic and energic atmosphere that could be seen and heard from the outside. Like all other izakayas in the lower mainland, they greet you with over-powering hollers and screams - i quite like it actually , and they don't over do-it here like at some other places.. (ie. they don't holler out every single order when taking your order...). The owner sat us at the bar, but we had so many bags and things on us that he had to move us to a bigger table. Great! We had our bags and things spread out amonst the empty chairs at our table and was seated comfortable, but before we could even pick up our menu, the owner comes and tells us NOT to leave our things on the chairs like that, because he might need to use them. Err!!?? So we ended up having to put all our stuff on the floor.. hm very sanitary! We then took one glance at the menu and realized everything was extremely over-priced, and there was no way we'd eat until we'd get full without blasting a hole in our wallet. We should have just left at this point since i'm sure the establishment wouldn't be making any money off us, but since we were here anyway i might as well try something. i settled on a sashimi appetizer that the waitress claimed was her favorite dish. It came some 25 minutes later, I ate the whole thing in one bite, paid, and left quite frankly, unimpressed. Definitely not a place to come on an empty or even semi-empty stomach. If you love to drink and party and have a fabulously loud time with a bunch of your friends while sharing a bunch of tapas-sized food, then this place will suit you to a T. Maybe I just came on the wrong night with the wrong type of company. I've always been a believer that customers are at least half responsible for creating their own atmosphere, so having fun with your friends wherever you are is key. I'll shall keep that in mind on my next visit here.
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 had read so many great reviews so I decided to go instead of Guu. The place is more spacious, quieter and more modernly decorated than Guu.
I found this place to be a bit too pretentious for my liking. The food was decent but was more expensive than Guu.
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.
I love Hapa Izakaya. I've been here over half-a-dozen times and I love it. I can understand that the Izakaya may not be everyone's cup of tea, but it's definately mine!
I agree with other reviewers:
Yes, it's youthful
Yes, the service is inconsistent (but my experience has been positive overall)
The place is modern and hip and just alot of fun.
The food is FANTASTIC - I love the cold tofu salad, and the Salmon Roe/Kimchi Udon is my favorite!!!! The deep fried prawns and the all their tuna sashimis was gobbled down with glee by all my friends on my last visit here. And everyone I've ever taken has found the food delicious and the place exciting. I haven't been disappointed by a single menu item I ever ordered here.
That said, I had some older family friends visit a week ago and I didn't take them here. Nor have I ever taken my 2 preschoolers here. I think that the very young and old set might find it a bit loud, dark, and overstimulating here. But this is an Izakaya, read up on wikipedia if you haven't been to one. And I think Hapa is the best one in town!
What the heck is izakaya?
Most uninitiated American East Coasters will have no clue. So when a Right Coast friend visited me recently, I had to show her the Japanese trend that's going to catch on in her neck of the woods in say, oh, five years or so.
Hapa Izakaya is a good introduction to the uninitiated. Japanese tapas, what a wonderful idea! Oilier than typical Japanese sushi, healthier than traditional Spanish tapas. The King Crab roll, toasted on the outside, was delectable under a sweetish sauce (was that hoisin?). The Ake ahi tuna though was over barbecued and too crispy. And tuna roll wrapped in prosciutto? It was just right that we didn't need the Kikkoman.
You add the dark, I'm-too-sexy-for-the-food atmosphere, and your out of town friends will be talking about this how wonderful and fun Vancouver dining is. If you're native Vancouverite, however, you may see Hapa as just expensive typical Japanese fare.
It's located near the bottom of Robson Street, where some of us aZns call Little Tokyo. I would suggest reservations as if you just walk in and try to get a table, you're guaranteed at least a 30-minute wait. None of the servers and cooks seem to be over the age of 35, and all of them attractive. It's good eye candy while you wait to be seated.
They yell out orders and seating arrangements in Japanese, which is refreshing. The atmosphere is relaxed, and there is a great mix of ethnicities in the customer populous.
The drinks are excellent and yummy, the food is gorgeous. I gouge myself everytime I go there. You just can't help it. They serve it up in "drinking" portions and before you know it, you're stuffed. The price is a little high, as is expected of any place on Robson Street, but well worth the experience!
I went to Hapa Izakaya on a Friday evening at 5:30 and lucky to get seated without a reservation. I know the place was popular but didn't know it was that popular!
I found both the food and the service to be excellant. The presentation of the food was incredble and everything tasted really, really good. The service was very attentive and considerate. It was a great dining experience and I look forward to returning (with a reservation).
Excellent tapas style japanese food. Excellent atmosphere. Chic place to hang out. More selection of wine. The food is decorated so beacutifully that we were reluctant to eat it!
Reservation highly recommended.
Very hard to notice is place because of the non chalant exterior. I was referred here by the conceirge at the place that I was living in to check it out. Thankfully they have a bar area so I didnt feel bad being a table for one.
They have an extensive drinks menu and the servers they hire are very attractive. Almost like Moxie's or Cactus, but in an asian establishment.
The food took a while and wasnt the most spectacular, but it is very good for what they are trying to do here. This place does get packed as it was very noisy on my way out.
If my friends come visit me here in Vancouver, I would definetely bring them here for a guys night out!!!
I wanted to re-iterate a complaint I delivered at your Yaletown location this afternoon. I've been to this location 5 times before with parties of 4 people. Today I convinced a larger party of 8 to visit your establishment. Upon receiving our individual bills I noticed that a 18% gratuity was automatically included, which for me is fine as I usually tip 20%. But I explained to the staff that you should note this on your lunch menu, which is a sheet of paper.
I was told that this information is on your website, as well as your dinner menu, as if this excused this information from being absent on your lunch menu. I don't find this to be an acceptable excuse as:
1. I've never visited your website, and shouldn't be expected to prior to eating at your establishment and
2. The dinner menu wasn't handed to us when we sat down, only a drink menu (of which the gratuity policy is also absent) and the paper lunch menu.
It is for this reason that I encourage you to include this policy on your lunch menu so your customers are informed, thus creating an atmosphere whereby the only thing which is a surprise is your great food.
This is standard in the food industry, and I hope you consider my suggestion, as I (and my co-workers) will not patronize your establishment again until your lunch menu is corrected to include this.
Hapa Izakaya is definitely one of my favorite Japanese izakayas. Every single time I visit, I always order the Juan Karaage, Ishiyaki, and Tuna Tataki. Firstly, Juan Karaage is Hapa's version of the standard chicken karaage - it is 'to die for'. I'm usually not the type to order common dishes like the chicken karaage, but Hapa's is definitely worth trying. It is always hot, fresh, juicy, and tasty. As a bonus, it's boneless chicken! Secondly, Ishiyaki is a mix of rice with a variety of meat, vegetables, and mildly spicy sauce. It is mixed in a hot, sizzling stone bowl; you can be sure it's fresh and tasty since it's basically cooked right in front of you. This is basically the order to make you feel 'filled'. Thirdly, Tuna Tataki is not vastly different from other tuna tatakis, but I just like Hapa's zesty sauce coupled with red and green onions. Another dish I recommend is the Saba, which is just regular Saba sashimi with a twist - they sear the sashimi at your table. It's just something a little unique to get your night started. The Kabocha, which seems more like a dessert to me, is also great. The Kabocha consists of biscuits with mashed yam and whipping cream toppings. It's a sweet appetizer to begin your stay at Hapa.
As much as I love Hapa's menu, here are a few that I suggest future visitors avoid: tuna/beef lettuce wrap and negitoro. The lettuce wrap was a little messy to eat, and there just wasn't anything special about it. The negitoro was extremely disappointing, considering that I order this dish everytime I go to a Japanese restaurant. However, Hapa's was a failure. The portion is extremely small, the taste ranges from spicy-to-sour-to-sweet (what kind of taste is that??), and the bread that comes with it is just hard and tasteless.
Another thing to keep in mind is that Hapa no longer accepts debit cards. I wish someone would have told me, so I'm telling all you future visitors now :)
We really love Hapa Izakaya. The food is delicious and always hot and creative.
Service can be a little bit slow, but it's worth it since the place is always packed.
Highly recommend anything off the grill, and of course the Hello Kitty drinks. Amazing. Also love the bacon wrapped asparagus and the sablefish...
Ambiance is very cool.
Hit Hapa last night after talking about it for years, literally, with the BF. Super fun time, relaxed atmosphere but exciting because of the style of the room and anticipation of new yummy food. Food lived up to our hopes (would give it 3.5 stars if I could) although we did have to eat quite a lot to get full as there isnt much in the way of starches on the menu. Nifty way of racking up the bill I suppose, but also dropping its value score.
Service was good, nothing crazy. Certainly friendly enough even if the odd detail was missed. Will go back, and hopefully with more people as it seems like that kind of place, good for sharing etc.
I have gone here a few times with friends. It's a fun place to hang out and have sake but the food is nothing extraordinary. They do present it nicely, but the flavors are bland and the portions are small. I find that no matter how much we order, it doesn't fill us up....and we're girls!! The ambiance is great, however. And the service is good. We'll go back for the sake, but not for the food.
After years of hearing about this place and patronizing Vancouver's other Izakaya haunts instead, I finally made it out to Hapa. Sadly, it was not the experience that I had hoped for. A few questions arise. Were all the glowing reviews for an entirely different restaurant? Do people have no taste buds? Has Hapa on Robson simply not aged well due to complacency and or laziness? Is having two other locations to blame for poor management?
For a Friday night about a week from the Olympics, one would expect a healthy, vibrant restaurant to be a full house. This was far from the case. There weren't tumbleweeds blowing through or crickets chirping, but the scene was depressingly similar. Nearby, there is a visible wait at both Gyoza King and Guu with Garlic. Surely Hapa management realizes that they are doing something wrong.
Anyhow, lets get to the food. Izakaya fare isn't what many would consider particularly fancy or complicated food yet somehow the Hapa people manage to get it wrong. The two biggest offenders at Hapa were the yaki-udon and the seared mackerel.
Their take on yaki-udon is an extremely westernized one. Think generic stir fried chow mein at a food court dining option called something like Wok N' Roll and you'll get the idea. This would be completely acceptable if I weren't paying double or more what I would at the aforementioned establishment.
The Saba was the dinner and show portion of the evening. I've seen this table-side blow torch display before (at a Yaletown Izakaya that closed down a while ago.. my memory fails me when it comes to the name) and its awkward and underwhelming every time. It could have been the description on the menu or my poor reading skills, but I was looking forward to mackerel that was more thoroughly cooked. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy my raw fish but Hapa's version of Saba was wholly unpleasant. The product wasn't outright rotten, but more cooking it with a less gimmicky a more robata/bbq method would have toned down the fishiness to an edible level.
I won't go into too much detail about the restaurant's appearance other than saying that its Cactus Club's Asian cousin in terms of the aesthetics of the space and staff. As for service, food came all at once quickly (which can be good or bad) and there were frequent water refills. Not outstanding and there's nothing to really complain about.
Lastly, not so many Asian people apart from the staff... Virtually no Japanese customers. You know where I'm going with this. It's OK for me to bring this up. I'm Asian.
Try this restaurant since my friends moved to downtown.
Food is nothing special but the price is higher than I expected.
Service is only thing that I don't really like. My server just take my order and she never come back to ask for a drinks. Although it's not very busy, she seems having a lot of things to do.
The same price of check that I have many other choices.
Too bad, this is our first time and last time to try this place.
Great food. Great Design. Great ambiance. HORRIFIC SERVICE.
Waitress walked away without taking half of our drink orders. Never ever came back to see if anyone wanted another drink or more food. HELLO. This is a tapas style restaurant.
Neither she nor her manager could provide meaningful assistance to deal with allergy issues. If owned this joint I would be in there cleaning house.
Sorry Mr. Manager a few complimentary desserts don't cut it.
My first visit to Hapa (Kitsilano) was not a good experience at all, however I was forced back for a second visit for a friend's birthday at the Robson location and it was waaaay better. The birthday girl, having spent 3 years in Japan teaching English, had recommended that we all order the Omakase as it would be a better value for our large group. I was very pleasantly surprised with the quality and the quantity of the food. The Omakase came with Edamame and one choice of salad, plus 9 entrees all for $30. My favorites were the sable fish, negitoro, and ebi may. Since I do not eat red meat, I was not able to eat all of the entrees (2 were red meat) but I was still quite full at the end. The Hello Kitty drink is a must try too.
I probably will never go back to the Kits location, but will definitely visit the Robson location again.