Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Hapa Izakaya in Vancouver

In this photo, from left to right, we have a sashimi plate, a teriyaki-glazed calamari, funkily-wrapped gyozas and a lovely beef tataki in a red sauce. Yes, we went to yet another trendy Japanese restaurant in Vancouver (gotta love this city). DW took us to Hapa Izakaya for some modern Japanese tapas (thanks D!). The ambiance here is great - everything is sleek, there's a lot of black in the decor and there are thick hardwood tables everywhere. It was also packed full with young, hip customers and a really hot wait staff.

But on to the food ... the menu here is really innovative. I think that Japanese food is hard to improve on, but there were some great dishes here and the menu was smart enough to leave most of those alone that are already perfect. Agedashi tofu (not pictured here) and beef tataki are always my litmus tests for a good Japanese restaurant - I'm happy to report that Hapa Izakaya passed on these two little appies.

The gyoza (second from the right in the back) were served in a crustless-sandwich-style wrap instead of the traditional dumpling. I thought they were good, but S wasn't keen on them. We also tried a paella-style rice dish that was very spicy and tasted good at first, but then I found it hard to finish as there were many intense flavours vying for centre-stage. It also took us a while to get the bill, but it was a busy night. All said, I would definately come back here because the ambiance was nice, the food was really good, and I love the tapas style of eating.

Hapa Izakaya
1479 Robson St.
Vancouver, B.C.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Quattro in Vancouver

Oh my godfathers! In Vancouver, we went to one of the best Italian restaurants I have ever been to. It's called Quattro, and I have to thank S's friends BJ and WL for recommending it. You can see the pasta that I shared with my friend AG in the photo. Five different kinds! It was called Pasta Pazza a Pezzi and cost $20.95 per person, for a minimum of two people. It was a combination of five pastas: Spaghetti Primavera, Fettuccine Ghiottone, Fusilli Arrabiata, Linguine Pesto and Rotolo Farcito. Both S and DW had the Ravioli Piemontesi for $23.95. It's a ravioli filled with wild mushrooms, mascarpone cheese and tons of white truffle oil, in a light porcini cream. You only get seven raviolis, but they are very very rich.

Quattro seemed expensive when we first walked in because it is a very elegant place, but the bill came to about $40 each between the four of us, so that wasn't bad in the end. Anyways, it was worth it! I must give this restaurant a good review for service, too. I think the waiter knew that we weren't big spenders, and yet he still took the time to talk with us, tell us about the history of certain foods and drinks, and share a great sense of humour. I recommend Quattro to anyone who loves Italian and has the good fortune to visit Vancouver!

2611 West Fourth Ave.
Vancouver, B.C.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


S's mom cooked this great Japanese dish called sukiyaki for us last week. It's cooked at the table top in a big cast iron pot with butane as the fuel. You get all the ingredients ready and simmer them in a particular order, and then add them to a bowl that contains a stirred raw egg. You eat them with this egg coating on their own or over rice. Then at the end, you drink the remaining broth in the cooking pot as a soup at the end of the meal. We cooked three batches. It was so delicious! As you can see it requires special equipment.

serves 4

bolgogi beef or small boneless rib roast, thinly sliced
shiitake mushrooms, dried and fresh
onion, sliced
spring onion, sliced into 3 cm pieces
suey choy (napa cabbage)
enoki mushrooms
harusame noodles
soft tofu, sliced
soy sauce

Before cooking:

  • Boil four dried shiitake mushrooms in water in a small saucepan for about 10 minutes or until soft. Separate and save both the broth and the shrooms.

  • Put the rice on.

  • Prepare the meat. S's mom can buy pre-sliced beef that's sliced at the right thickness and sold for bulgogi (a Korean dish) in an Asian grocery store in Calgary called T and T here. But she told me you can also buy a small, marbled, boneless rib roast, and freeze it for an hour or so until stiff but not completely frozen. Then you slice it in this partially frozen state as thinly as you can.

  • Finish the broth and pour it in a jug to bring to the table. To 1 C of the mushroom broth, add 5-6 Tbsp sugar and about 1/2 C soy sauce. Top up with water to give at least 2 C total of the sauce. You should notice a bit of sweet but not too much. Same with the salty flavour. They should be balanced.

  • Slice the veggies and put them on a plate. Slice the cooked shiitake and about 8 fresh ones. Use other veggies, too, like enoki mushrooms, and slice onion, spring onions, carrots, suey choy or napa cabbage, thinly as in the photo below. Don't use brocolli or peppers in this dish. The veggies you use need to keep their shape but should also not be too strong a flavour for the broth.

  • Prepare the harusame noodles. Soak them in hot water until they sink down. We used a diameter of noodles that roughly equalled the size of two quarters for 4 people.

  • Slice the soft tofu.

  • Put a chunk of butter in the tabletop cooker and start the butane.

At the table:

  • Each person gets two bowls - one is filled with rice and the other has a stirred raw egg.
    Add the broth and the meat to the tabletop cooker first. Cook a few seconds and then take out and add to your bowl with the stirred egg. Coat the meat and eat it first or put it on top of your rice.

  • Add the rest of the veggies to the tabletop cooker and cook a few seconds.

  • Dig in with your chopsticks and fish out the things you like best!

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