Japanese izakaya joints have sprouted all over Vancouver, and its fusion cooking is a welcome change from the sushi spots found every third block. Hapa Izakaya plays up its fusion identity; after all, hapa means “leaf” in Japanese and “half” in Hawaiian. After working up an appetite sun-soaking in Kits beach last week, I found myself enjoying Hapa’s casual atmosphere and diverse menu, which ranged from crunchy non-greasy gyozas to the cooled creaminess of the tuna belly negitoro. Here are the entrees that stood out to me:
The amaebi ($10.50) was a delightful surprise. The raw BC spot prawn meat itself was underwhelming, not quite as clear and firm as I’d like. But the accompanying deep fried shrimp heads made up for my disappointment, as they were so savoury and crisp. Out of everything I’ve had in Hapa Izakaya, the shrimp heads were probably my favourite — I didn’t even know I liked shrimp heads before I had them there.
Another one of my favourite entrees is the ika maruyaki ($7.20), which is grilled squid marinated in sake, soy sauce, and garlic. The squid was tender, nothing like the tough or gummy texture I dreaded. The marinade also provided an even, smoky taste. Since I’m certain I’ve never had squid like this before, I asked the kitchen staff about it, and all they could tell me is that it’s from Japan, and it’s a common streetfood or snack to go with beer.
The cho Wagyu is a novelty entree more than anything, but it was nevertheless a fun dish: well-marbled slices of Wagyu beef were accompanied by a hot stone slab for cooking. Grill a few minutes on the hot stone (don’t overdo it!), top with a couple slices of dried garlic chips, and the thin beef slices will dissolve like butter on your tongue.
Gindara saikyo yaki ($10.50) is baked sablefish marinated in sake and miso, and it has the distinction of being the signature dish of celebrity chef Nobu Matsuhisa. Sablefish (the fish formerly known as black cod) is succulent, and it’s really hard to go wrong with it. The miso enhances the mild-flavoured flakiness of sablefish. If you win the gift certificate, I really recommend trying out this dish.
To win the $50 gift certificate, just leave a comment on this post. Winner will be drawn next week on Tuesday, May 25, at 6 pm.
Last modified: May 20, 2010