Monday, December 12, 2005

EAT: Hapa Izakaya

I went to this really cool restaurant in downtown that I instantly fell in love with as soon as I walked in and sat at the table. I love the decor, which is mostly dark wood and gives it a sexy, smoky, and sophisticated ambience. The food is just as excellent as the interior design. The flavours are subtle but powerful. Hapa is all about Japanese "tapas." But there's also pan-Asian fusion going on with Korean and Thai cuisines. Here's a list of dishes we ordered but because I didn't have pen and paper with me I don't have the official names.

Mackarel: The fish, cut crosswise into delicate thin slices, is served on a green leaf and is torched right in front of you. I dabbed a slice with a bit of the spicy mustard paste it came with and popped into my mouth. I liked the combination of the raw and cooked.

Tuna carpaccio: The tuna is served raw with a spicy sauce and topped with some kind of green. This was probably my least favorite out of all the dishes. There was something about the flavour of the sauce that didn't appeal to me.

Negitoro on garlic toast: Now this was surprisingly good. It came with four peaces of garlic toast and the redbelly tuna was cut up and marinated in a sauce (I don't know what it was) that was very yummy. The combination of raw fish on toast was a delightful surprise. Who would have thought? It resembled bruschetta.

Grilled Vegetable salad: This was a bit disappointing because the grilled vegetables came in skewers. The reason I ordered the dish was because the miso dipping sauce sounded very interesting and it's the sauce that salvaged the dish.

Salad with avocado and shrimp: This was very good because of the salad dressing which had miso and sesame oil.

White fish broiled in creamy white sauce: It came garnished with green beans and bell peppers. The sauce kind of tasted cheesy. The fish was cooked just right. Tender and not tough or chewy.

Yellowtail sashimi: It was excellent. The fish was dense and melted in your mouth.

Rice in hot stone pot with mushroom and seaweed: This is a Korean dish. I think the mushrooms were oyster mushrooms. It tasted great, especially because of the sesame oil.

Sesame oil and miso are the prominent flavours at Hapa. Those two ingredients can make anything taste good but the trick is to put just the right amount and in balance with the other ingredients.

I definitely want to return to Hapa. Not only do you feel instantly cool as soon as you step in the joint, but you're in for gustatory delights that will leave you impressed and craving for more.

1479 Robson St.
Vancouver, BC V6G 1C1

::5 stars::