Hapa Izakaya (Cordova)
Hapa Izakaya first opened in 2003 and has since expanded to a number of outlets that serve Japanese-inspired tapas. Hapa, which apparently means “leaf” in Japanese according to the owner, also means “half” or “mixed” in Hawaiian. This latter translation properly holds more meaning as this restaurant is a bit of a twist on the original izakaya drinking establishments in Japan.
Make no mistake, I think this chain is devoted to their izakaya roots and even brings oshibori (hot towels) to the guests when they are seated.
I suppose, however, that I’ve come to the realization that we’re not “tapas people”. We’ve been to a few tapas places before and have never really enjoyed the experience (just take a look at our experience at Wild Rice).
Since izakayas are drinking establishments, we started out with some drinks… the Harajuku Girl ($8.00) was probably the best of the bunch but I don’t drink alcohol so I stuck with a simple virgin mojito. The other drinks were the Spiked Pear Lemondae ($8.00) and the Strawberry Sake Lemonade ($8.00) – the Strawberry Sake had some strange plum wine in it that wasn’t very enjoyable.
We wound up ordering nine dishes this night. Some of the prices weren’t too bad but I’d say that the majority of them are on the more expensive side based on the portion sizes. Our server seemed to think this was the perfect amount of food for our 4-person group (for some reason, most waiters always underestimates the amount of food that we can put away).
The first dish up was the Goma-ae ($4.99) – a simple serving of spinach that has been molded into a round circle.
We ordered some sushi rolls… the Umi Roll ($14.99) and the Hapa Roll ($12.99). I believe that this particular Hapa establishment used to be known as Hapa Umi until they changed to Hapa Izakaya. In fact, the credit card bill receipt still lists the place as Hapa Umi. In any case, the Hapa Roll has asparagus, cucumber, carrot, avocado and topped with salmon and salmon roe while the Umi Roll is made with dungeness crab, avocado, mayo, topped with ahi tuna and pickled onion vinaigrette (kind of like a pimped out California roll). I thought the rolls were pretty good and enjoyed the pickled onion on top of the umi roll.
The Sashimi Salad ($15.99 for the large bowl) was a little bit disappointing in terms of size. I shudder to think what the small bowl would look like. You could easily get a good sashimi salad at Sushi Oyama for half the price and with more sashimi. Next up was a dish that the waiter was pimping out… the Duck Confit Nachos ($9.49). Definitely not what I was expecting in terms of nachos… it was more like a shredded duck dip that came with thick tortilla chips. I actually found the duck itself to be pretty juicy and succulent (and I don’t usually like duck confit) but the pairing with melted cheese was a bit odd and it didn’t do anything for me. I probably would have enjoyed it more without the cheese and to just let the duck speak for itself.
I think by the time the Ebi Mayo ($8.99 for six pieces and a shrimp cracker) came to the table, we realized that they were waiting to bring our other dishes out until we completely finished the plates on our table. I can see how this would be good for them as it may encourage some patrons to drink more but I found it a little akin to being treated like a kid who didn’t finish the peas on his plate.
Getting back to the Ebi Mayo, it wasn’t exactly how I imagined it would be… That’s not to say it was bad – I actually quite enjoyed the flavours. But it is a small dish to share among 4 people. The Chicken Karaage ($8.99) was a reasonably priced tapas and came served with a mountain of onions.
Last to arrive were the Yaki Udon ($9.99) and Beef Short Ribs ($12.99). The udon noodles had a very pleasing texture and was both firm yet slightly chewy. Meanwhile, the short ribs seemed to be disjointed in execution and had a mix of bones with little or no meat while other pieces had much larger chunks of meat attached to them.
By our sixth dish, we could tell that we weren’t going to be full from our meal here and were actively looking out the windows to see what other places were around that we could satisfy our stomachs at. McDonalds and Tim Hortons both came up as options but we wound up going for the dessert buffet at Griffins instead.
Taking everything into consideration, most of the food items were prepared and tasted quite well and you can tell that the ingredients are of good quality. I personally didn’t find the value to be that worthwhile but if you like to drink and enjoy snacking on some quality food in a loud, bustling environment, you might enjoy Hapa Izakaya.
By the way, there was a really strong bleach-like smell right in front of the restaurant’s entryway. I’m hoping that it was just someone cleaning the foyer but the smell was still permeating the air after we left.
909 West Cordova Street