[Summerlicious] Hapa Izakaya

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Hapa Izakaya.

Hapa Izakaya
602 College St.

We`re in the full brunt of summer, and that means Summerlicious.

This year, Toronto’s premier prix fixe food event, Summerlicious, took place between July 8 to 24th at over 220 restaurants in the city. It’s a great chance to try out new quirky or high-end places. As all participating restaurants serve three-course meals at a fixed price, there’s no chance of being surprised with a huge bill at the end of the night!

On a rainy evening, my friends and I head downtown to Hapa Izakaya, a Japanese grill place that serves small plates and cocktails.

The restaurant has a semi-patio-feel where the entire front wall opens out onto the road, but we sat further inside where things resemble a more typical restaurant setting. There are two separate bar areas, an open kitchen, and some Japanese style-paintings and decorations.

Looking through a menu at a new restaurant is always exciting. There are some interesting cocktails with cute names like Hello Kitty. Shame I don’t drink — I would’ve loved to try that!

Sashimi Salad. Mixed greens, onion-citrus soy sauce dressing with assorted fresh sashimi.

I’m in the mood for something fresh and light, so for the appetizer, I select the Sashimi Salad.

Unfortunately, I don’t taste much citrus in the onion-citrus soy sauce. It tastes exactly as it looks — like sashimi tossed on top of greens and onion with soy sauce drizzled on top.

But the greens are fresh, as is the sashimi, and it definitely satisfies my craving. A good portion for an appetizer as well!

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Chicken Karaage.

Chicken Karaage – Deep-fried Japanese-style boneless chicken, dressed with soy vinegar and onions.

My other tablemates order the Chicken Karaage. It’s sufficiently crispy, save for the slightly soggy bits where the sauce has drenched it.

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Teriyaki Sirloin Steak.

Teriyaki Sirloin Steak – Medium rare top sirloin with fried Yukon potato, teriyaki sauce.

The main dish is served. The meat is already sliced and ready to eat. Not a huge dish, but a fair portion for the price.

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Teriyaki Sirloin Steak – a closer look.

The meat is cooked to medium rare, meaning it’s very juicy but can be slightly chewy. I find the level of cooking perfect for my taste, but those that are not used to seeing a lot of pink in their meats may want to ask for medium.

The meat is chewy, but not tough. As stated above, it’s extremely juicy and is balanced out nicely with the yukon potatoes.

I’m noticing a trend. The chef’s focus seems to be on enhancing the taste of the ingredients themselves rather than drowning everything in sauces. There’s a hint of teriyaki taste in the runny sauce and potatoes seem to be seasoned with salt.

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Tempura Fish & Chips.

Tempura Fish & Chips – Cured BC steelhead trout, beer-battered tempura, with Japanese potato salad.

My tablemate orders the fish and chips and I get to sample some. Perhaps it’s the beer-batter, but this seems closer to a regular fish and chips dish with less Japanese influence. The creamy potato salad is a nice touch, but the portion is quite small.

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Black Sesame Cheesecake.

Black Sesame Cheesecake – Lightly smoked maple nuts, red wine reduction, mixed berries.

Here comes the dessert! This is the part of the meal I look forward to the most. Unfortunately, this cheesecake ends up being the choice that makes me scratch my head.

The sesame is an interesting new attempt at the average cheesecake, but it’s strong and the scent imposes itself over the whole dessert, which is not sweet enough to balance out the slightly bitter taste. I think I would enjoy it more if the sesame part was just a part of the layer and not the whole cake.

The texture is nice and creamy, however, and the berries are very enjoyable! I do end up finishing most of it.

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Matcha Creme Brulee.

Matcha Crème Brûlée – Green tea crème brûlée.

It’s no secret that I love Crème Brûlée. This is no exception. Quite a bit less sweet than I’m used to, but it works for me. The bitter matcha and sweet fruits are a good balance. I also love the crunchy top layer. If given the choice, I would definitely reorder this!

 

Traveller’s Tips: It’s a bit of a walk from the nearest TTC station. The weather is nice enough, so we decided to take a stroll on our way in, but it rains on our way back home and we have to catch a ride home. There is, I believe, a streetcar or bus that stops closer to the restaurant that people should take advantage of!

 

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