July 02, 2009 | Tips from Travellers >
Find more information about Vancouver - Dining
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It was the last night of my brother and families vacation and we were trying to decide where to take them for their last meal. Metro Vancouver residents are spoiled with so many amazing restaurants, not just from the freshness and quality of the food but also from the variety of styles. I would make suggestion after suggestion to my wife but it wasn't until I mentioned Hapa Izakaya that her face lit up with excitement. It seemed that we had chosen somewhere to go.
Hapa is not just another Asian restaurant, the food is spectacular, the staff are a great balance of professional and friendly and the atmosphere is open but private at the same time. We visited the Robson Street location where the interior is dark, dimly light and has a mixture of seating arrangements, from a traditional round table where you remove your shoes to more western style seating.
Traditionally Izakaya bars are where business men gather after work in Japan. They are never advertised and people are invited by another to join them. The bars themselves are not located on high streets, but are 'hidden' down a street alley, down a flight of stairs and through an unmarked door. Offering up a balance of food, music, and a space to bond with your guests.
When the owner of Hapa Justin Ault and wife decided to bring the concept of the Izakaya to Vancouver they were faced with an interesting challenge of promoting the concept of the Izakaya in a Western landscape. Firstly, you will notice that the sign outside of the restaurant is minimal. Secondly, on opening night of the
restaurant friends and influencers in the city were invited to enjoy the food and experience Hapa. After the guests were informed that their meal was 'on the house' they were asked if they enjoyed their experience that evening, that if they recommended Hapa to a friend then for the next two weeks they would also be offered a complimentary meal. In summary, they spent their marketing dollars offering food rather than more traditional advertising methods that would be expected in Western culture. It is brilliant marketing method. Obviously, word spread like wild fire throughout the city and Hapa has been busy ever since.
Everyone I talk to who has eaten at Hapa seem to have their favourites. Only a certain amount of the menu is permanent the rest changes year round, often depending which fish has been freshly caught that day. My favourite is the Ebi Mayo, deep fried shrimp, tossed in a spicy mayonnaise sauce (to die for), it is rare that we don't order more than one serving.
Not really a place where you take the kids, more of a setting for a romantic dinner with a loved one, or a gathering for friends who enjoy Japanese food but want something a little more special than a 'sushi' restaurant.
Visit the restaurant at 1479 Robson Street or in Kitsilano 1516 Yew Street (right next to the beach).