There is a new kind of dining experience happening in
Vancouver…. upscale Japanese bistro dining. While
Japanese bistros have been around for awhile, making homestyle Japanese
cooking available for the rising numbers of Japanese English
language students – the upscale trend started a number of years ago
with restaurants such as Raku, which was later renamed Guu.
I was first introduced to sushi on Vancouver's Robson Street in the
early 1980's – many years before it was trendy. Today, you can
walk down Robson Street and see many of the young Japanese students
hanging out with their friends while studying in Vancouver, one of the
most popular global cities for learning English.
Vancouver's multicultural environment, and large Asian population,
makes it a natural desired destination for Asian students from around
the world. And now many former students are returning to
Vancouver to live and work. Many are involved in computers,
programming and are part of a new rising affluent demographic.
Vancouver also boasts a happening film industry. Famous actors
are often seen in many of the restaurants along Robson Street like Cin
Cin. Now… they can also be seen at Hapa Izakaya too!
Hapa Izakaya at 1479 Robson Street,
is a beautiful smooth lounge-type restaurant in minimalist black.
You step in, and you know that movement flows like water. Music
dances trance-like through the speakers. The chefs stand behind
the counters and shout out greetings, like many other Japanese
restaurants – but something's different here. It's the food.
The food mixes traditional Japanese homestyle dishes with inventive
cultural fusion – just like it's owner Justin Ault. Ault is “hapa“-
the Hawaiian word for “half” which has also come to mean half
white/half Asian. Read about Jason Ault in a 2003 Vancouver
Magazine article Diner: Beyond Sushi.
Last Wednesday night, we went to Hapa Izakaya with the Save Kogawa House
committee, as one of our members is Ellen Crowe-Swords whose nephew is
Justin Ault, the owner of Hapa Izakaya. Justin grew up on
Vancouver Island, the descendant of Japanese Canadians who had been
interened at Slocan, during World War 2. Justin was born in Port
Alberni, and spent some time in Tokyo where he met his wife, who is
Ellen ordered food for our table, and explained about the dishes.
All were very delicious. But I can't remember everything we
ate… The first thing I tasted was the very delicious Japanese
pumpkin puree with a whipped cream, spread on melba toast. Next,
I ate the spinach salad – very fresh and tasty, served with something
on the side – wish I could remember.
Tuna belly chopped with spring onions, mixed with slices of red and
yellow peppers, and spread over garlic toast. ummmm…. I love
good tuna! There was a tempura prawn dish…. bacon wrapped
I love rice… There was a crispy rice hot pot with pork, tomato sauce
and kimchi, served in a Korean hot stone bowl. Be careful not to
touch the bowl. It reminded me of my own mother's “Spanish Rice”
dish that her father used to make for her. I offered my
girlfriend some of the crispy rice, from the sides of the bowl.
This was a great dining experience – perfect for hanging with friends. The Kogawa House committee is now planning a fundraiser event at the restaurant to help raise funds to save Kogawa House. Look for a our event before the end of April.
Japanese style with your shoes off, bar seating for those who are
fascinated by the chaos of activity in a restaurant kitchen and regular
“The food at Hapa is polished, down home Japanese cooking plus
more grownup touches like martinis and cool cocktails like Cassis with
Grapefruit (my personal favourite $4.50). And sake served in tall
bamboo tumblers is also a popular choice.
“Go with a group that doesn't mind sharing and go crazy. In the
unlikely event you pick something that you ALL don't like, it won't
matter since most everything is under $10. We paid about $60 after tax
but before tip for a filling dinner for three people consisting of
three drinks and five or six sharing plates on each of our two visits.
I bet you'll like almost everything you try! Highly Recommended!”
Tucked into the bar at this newly opened Robson dining lounge, the
Hired Belly pondered the possibilities of Saba “lightly seared at your
table.” Saba-or rather “aburi shime saba,” as it is here-is lightly
pickled mackerel. It has a bright silver skin and looks very tempting
to a fish lover-assuming you know what to do with it…
“Even in a town known for its reasonable
eating, it's pretty hard to find such quality and inventiveness for
this kind of cost. My four small plates came to just over $20 before
GST (no drinks). And if this is the new look of “lower” Robson, there's
increasingly plenty to like, as the street shows signs of regaining its
once celebrated multiplicity.”
Check out these other reviews from web