Located on the second floor inside the Westin Grand Hotel in Downtown Vancouver, Hidden Tasting Bar & Social Lounge is not the most obvious restaurant choice when it comes to stumbling upon a new restaurant in Vancouver. I’m hoping by writing about this wonderful, neighbourhood gem, Hidden will get the exposure and recognition it deserves for its unique menu pairings, excellent service and reasonable prices.
When it comes to “concept dining”, my favourite way of eating food is definitely tapas style. Located in Blood Alley in Gastown, adjacent to Salt Tasting Room, Judas Goat Taberna is a 28-seat tapas bar which serves small plates influenced by Spain, Italy and France. Despite the foreign food pairings, the environment of Judas Goat reminds of me a family grocery store. A viewable food preparation station and high countertops close enough to make small talk with the patrons sitting beside you. Square yellow stools huddle around small tables.
Similar to its sister restaurant, The Salt Tasting Room, Judas Goat combines a variety of flavours and textures and teases the pallet with its small portions. I love the option of nibbling on a variety of food and sharing dishes. Between the two of us, we ordered 7 items, which included two “hot” dishes, two “pressed, potted, or cured” dishes and a salad. Agreeing with everyone I have spoken with, what you pay for the portions is not really worth the price; but then again, “concept dining” is about the experience of “trying something new”, right??
Hapa Izakaya Yaletown’s (1193 Hamilton) patio is now open and the restaurant is serving lunch, Monday through Friday, from 12 pm straight through until dinner at 4pm. Plus Hapa Yaletown will open for dinner on Saturdays and Sundays at 4:00 pm all summer long. Hapa Izakaya Yaletown is the newest of the three Hapa Izakaya restaurants. For reservations, please contact Hapa Yaletown at 604.681.4272.
I went to Hapa Izakaya (1479 Robson St) in downtown on Friday night. The location of the restaurant is quite hidden – although located on Robson between Nicola and Broughton Street (those names don’t mean anything to me – just know it’s closer towards Denman Street), the outside of the restaurant is quite dark. The first time I walked in, I was amazed to see such a small opening expand into a fairly spacious cavern of a restaurant.
Hapa Izakaya is known for its Japanese-style tapas. We were a group of 6 and didn’t make reservations (couldn’t until 8pm) and we ended up waiting almost an hour for our table. While we were waiting, we were seated around a small table and we had the option of ordering drinks and looking at the menu. Prices range from about $3 for edamame beans or octopus sashimi to about $7 for “ebi mayo” prawn tempura (highly recommended) to $10+ for featured appetizers consisting of seafood and meats. These dishes are meant to be shared but if you want to get an individual portion of something filling, try the “ishi-yaki”, a Korean rice bowl with egg. We watched the servers madly beating the raw egg into the rice and watched it cook against the inside of the hot stone bowl it was served in.
So go see for yourself – check out Hapa Izakaya. There is also a location in Kitsilano.