Hapa Izakaya

If you are following me on Instagram (if not follow me! @darekultura!) you may know that I recently graduated university. One of my fellow graduates and lovely friend decided to throw a get together at Hapa Izakaya to celebrate our milestone. Getting to the restaurant was as long and tiresome as the last few years we spent in university. A portion of College Street was closed for the Taste of Little Italy. The streets were filled with people from all ages and the festival had multiple live stage performances. After bulldozing my hungry self through the crowds I finally made it at Hapa Izakaya.

Hapa Izakaya has a pretty impressive wrap sheet from being voted in the “Top Five Izakayas in North America” by Bon Appetite Magazine to winning other prestigious awards. I totally understand why. Hapa Izakaya Toronto is one of the chain restaurants part of the Hapap Izakaya chain starting at Vancouver, B.C. in 2012. They offered various selections of cold and hot tapas, pressed sushi, omakase (prix fixed menu for 2 or 4-16 people). I decided to try their Scallop Tar Tar, Japanese Arancini and Matcha Crème Brûlée.

IMG_4950I thought that the scallop tar tar paired nicely with the crispy wonton chips. I used the wonton chips as a vehicle to carry the scallops into my mouth. The chips added texture and salt to the dish that wasn’t too overpowering. While the karashi mustard mayo packed quite a punch, especially at your first bite and the bacon was a little too hard for me. Overall it was an okay dish, there were definitely better selections like their fish tacos (everyone in our table ordered them!).

The Japanese Arancinis were my favourite! I loved the flavour combinations in the dish. The halibut risotto was deliciously paried with the dill aioli BC trout carpaccio and capers. The dish was very well seasoned and the different components had great taste and texture. Overall I thought that it was a balanced well-composed dish with subtle yet distinct flavours from each component, well done!

Last but definitely not the least, I had the Matcha Crème Brûlée for dessert. It was a fun concept and a delicious one too! I’m sitting here repeatedly trying to describe how good it was but I’m just lost for words. I loved that the matcha crème was light and creamy, yet the brûléed sugar gave a really stark textural contrast. The matcha flavour reminded me of a matcha green tea latte, light not bitter. Overall it was a creative dessert.

On the downside, our group was seated right next to the restaurant speakers, which made talking to each other difficult. Also, the restaurant was packed and our food took quite a long time to get to our table. The wait staff was polite and accommodating but I guess with a full house and festival happening at your doorstep it’s understandable why service was slow. The food was innovative and tasted great so I would come back again to see if the service is the same on a regular day.

Check out Hapa Izakaya and let me know what you think by commenting below! 🙂

Always,

K

How to get the most of your Summerlicious 2015 experience

It’s that time of the year again! No, I’m not talking about Christmas but it might as well be!  Summerlicious 2015 is happening from July 3rd-26th! I’m sure my fellow food lovers are just itching to start. Here are a few tips from my Winterlicious/Summerlicious adventures:

1. Know when you can make reservations. Summerlicious has sent posted details, including when to make early reservations, restaurant list and events/activities. They fill up fast, so make sure that you know which dates and times you can make reservations for and which event/activity you want to do.

2. Consider if you have or don’t have a budget. When my friends and I were still students, we picked restaurants according to how much we are willing to spend for the meal as well as which restaurants were giving the best deals. For instance, it’s a good opportunity to dine in some high-end restaurants during this period if you’re down on paying $45 for dinner. It’s a good price considering how much it will cost originally. However, if you don’t want to spend as much, there are other excellent options. Both of the meals I went to with my friends were under $30!

3. Do your RESEARCH! There were 200+ restaurants from the list they provided online and they were organized and presented well. You could view the different restaurants alphabetically, by cuisine or by neighborhood. I recommend using the categorization through cuisine. It gives you a good idea of what they have and allows for you to pick what you’re more comfortable with or more daring to try. Once you’ve decided on which cuisine you may want to explore, don’t be scared to GOOGLE them. There are many websites dedicated for online restaurant reviews or even apps you can download on your phone. Make use of them! However, I do understand that different people have different palates and opinions about their experiences. So I would also recommend to ask any of your friends who may or may not have eaten at the restaurant. Don’t just ask about the food too. Service is a huge aspect when dining. You can have an awesome meal but if the service is bad it does ruin a pretty big chunk of your experience, and that’s big factor that helps determine whether you want to be a repeat patron or give good recommendations.

4. FORGET about your diet and INDULGE yourself even for a little while. When you’re dining in, there’s time in between courses for your stomach to digest the food and so you may even feel full sooner. I’ve read somewhere that it takes about 15 minutes before it registers in your brain that you’re full. So use the time between courses to chat with your friends or even eating slowly so you can A. savour the flavours B. enjoy your meal and C. enjoy your friends/family/significant other’s company! Besides, being on diets is overrated. It’s a lifestyle change that needs to take place not just your eating habits.

Enjoy your culinary expedition at Summerlicious 2015 and let me know which restaurants you went to!

For more photos and restaurant reviews check out my Reviews page! 🙂

Always,

K