Hapa Izakaya, 602 College St West, Toronto 647-748-4272
If you’ve been to Toronto or are an adoring resident of the city, then you’ll know that one of it’s traits is the celebration of culture; this is made more evident by the city boroughs that have been named to match a specific culture or country. College St. West, for example, is known as little Italy, and for the longest time, the restaurants there were in the same vein as the neighbourhoods cultural attachment. Now, however, all of that has changed, as we see more and more nouveau restaurants grace the neighbourhood streets, such as Woodlot Restaurant & Bakery. With this emergence of newly added good eats College St., we couldn’t help but make our way to the neighbourhoods latest addition, a Japanese restaurant called Hapa Izakaya.
Hapa Izakaya comes to us from Vancouver, where, there, they’ve got four locations, with the original being in existence for almost 10 years. Traditionally, they’ve been known for their affordably priced Japanese style tapas, premium sake’s and creative cocktails, and the same is true for its Toronto location. Much of the restaurants continuity, with its west coast sisters, can probably be largely attributed the number of staff (including the head chef) that came from Hapa Izakaya locations in Vancouver. The Toronto edition of the Japanese resto lives in the old Coco Lezzone location, at the main streets of College and Clinton and while much of the restaurants structure remains the same, Hapa Izakaya have made phenomenal modern design changes that fit the air of the cuisine, inside and out.
Our Dining Experience
As usual, once at Hapa Izakaya, we choose to sit at the sake bar, looking for that interaction with the mixologist in charge that evening. We had the pleasure of being served by Mackenzie, a direct import from Hapa Izakaya Vancouver, who wowed us not only on his knowledge of sake’s offered by the restaurant, but also his understanding of what it takes to make your customer feel welcomed. Given the sake knowledge of Mackenzie, we choose to bypass wine that evening and go the sake route, which we later commented was a fine choice, as it enhanced our Hapa Izakaya experience. To start, we had the Yoshi No Gawa, and then drank a bottle of Tama no Hikari (Golden Omachi) with our dinner – a fantastically smooth, yet full bodied premium sake. One thing worth pointing out to our wine readers is that the online wine list, at this point, houses west coast wines plus some worldly additions, meaning, no Ontario wines. As you an probably guess, this was something I planned to discuss with the manager as soon as I got there. However, I was happily quieted after we got the chance to peruse their menu live. It was clear that the folks at Hapa Izakaya did a their homework and added a sizable amount of Ontario wines to their menu, notably Angels Gate wines.
To get a true feel of the cuisine and cooking style of Hapa Izakaya, we had the Hapa Chicken Salad ($10.99), Ebi Mayo ($8.99), Tuna Avocado Salsa Dip ($9.49), Beef Tataki ($9.99), Tuna Carpacio ($9.99), Halibut Taco (7.49), Pork Belly Lettuce Wrap ($9.49), and a rice dish called Kinoko Ishi Yaki ($9.99). Notables for the evening were the Tuna Avocado Salsa, Tuna Carpaccio, Halibut Taco and the Kinoko Ishi Yaki; all fall into the ‘must try’ bucket at Hapa Izakaya.
Albeit that Torontonian you talk to will have their special choice of sushi restaurant, mine being Blowfish, Hapa Izakaya is well set to give any ‘fav’ sushi spot a run for their money. Their grade of sashimi, as well as their appealing, complimentary dish choices makes for a feeling of dining wonderment. Hapa Izakaya is a superb place for groups of all sizes, or even a night made for two.
Although the menu at Hapa Izakaya makes it clear that they are happy to be in Toronto, this Torontonian thinks the feeling is mutual. They are a more than welcomed addition, not just to College St. West, but also to our cities Japanese resto options.