Name: Hapa Izakaya.
Chefs: Koichi Fujioka and Takayuki Sato.
Signature: Japanese pub food, small sharing plates of raw fish and deep-fried goodness.
Price of plates: $4.99–$15.99.
Open for: Dinner and drinks till midnight, seven days a week.
Assessment: While this newly opened Little Italy outpost of one of Vancouver’s most loved restaurants is not as in-your-face boisterous as some of the city’s other izakayas, Hapa is every bit as good as its competition, possessing a comprehensive food menu and an extensive drink list with beers, wines, shochu, and sake. In this loud, darkly lit room that’s heavy in natural wood décor, the friendly and attentive wait staff work the individual and communal tables, bringing diners pitchers of beer and small, deep-fried bar snacks. Excellent dishes include The Ebi Mayo (an izakaya institution, $9.69), a half-dozen battered and fried shrimp on a bed of spicy mayo, and the pork belly lettuce wraps ($8.99), with pickled onions and apple-yuzu jam. The real showstoppers, however, are the big stone bowls filled with piping-hot rice, like the fusion-y chipotle beef curry ishi-yaki, a spicy, warming dish with rich, slow-braised beef and a creamy chipotle sauce.
- The room is fun and lively without being obnoxiously loud.
- You don’t have to flip through a novella of pictures when you look at the menu.
- Maybe it’s the location, or maybe it’s just that Toronto is no longer a one-izakaya town, but Hapa is busy (full on a weeknight) without causing lineups out the door.
- The kitchen still needs to hit its stride with a few dishes, like the karaage deep-fried chicken, which were overly fatty and could have been crispier.
Bottom Line: A welcome addition to the city’s growing izakaya family. If Hapa is any indication of what other Toronto outposts of Vancouver restaurants will be like, let them come in droves.
602 College St., 647-748-4272, hapaizakaya.com.