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Japanese izakaya

Shrimp or Japanese Izakaya from Hapa Izakaya in Vancouver.

What: Japans casual, hip izakaya bars combine lively drinking with tasty Japanese small platesa phenomenon embraced by the city of Vancouver.

Where: Hapa Izakaya (multiple locations including 1516 Yew St. in Kitsilano, map), a stylish, lively, unpretentious restaurant with friendly staff. The Kitsilano location is right across the street from the park-beach, which has spectacular views of the city and North Shore mountains beyond. There are branches downtown (1479 Robson St., map) and in Yaletown (1193 Hamilton St., map) as well.

When: Sun-Thurs, 5:30pm-midnight; Fri & Sat, 5:30pm-1am

Order: Ebi mayo (pictured: tempura whole prawns, tails and all, deep-fried and tossed in spicy mayo; market price); bintoro (seared albacore tuna sashimi, drizzled with citrusy ponzu sauce; $7.95); aburi shime saba (marinated mackerel sashimi, seared tableside; $6.80); king crab sushi roll with avocado and asparagus ($11.95). Though these dishes are recommended, you can’t go wrong with most of the well-priced hot and cold Japanese tapas here. Even the salads—like the “21st-century,” made with 21 different veggies, on the menu during our visit—are winners.

Good to know: The restaurant claims to use ocean-friendly seafood as recommended by the Vancouver Aquarium.

Alternatively: Another popular izakaya choice in the city is the Kitanoya Guu franchise, with multiple, menu-varying locations including downtown at 838 Thurlow St. (map); 1698 Robson St. (a.k.a. “Guu With Garlic,” map) in the West End; and in Gastown at 105-375 Water St. (“Guu Otokomae,” map).


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