(Phone photo dump).
Decided to try out a new place for dinner tonight. Braving the cold and the warnings of snow, we went out and trekked all the way to the waterfront area of downtown for Japanese food at Hapa Umi. (Insert Ming's rolling eyes here when I said "braving", as I'm the only one out of us two who's scared of snowy driving conditions).
We were half an hour late for our resos, (yes again, me being tardy and not being able to find the restaurant), so we lost our table and ended up sitting in the lounge area. All the same, 'cept maybe the dining side had more of a window view.
So, it was a belated birthday celebration dinner for Ming. Okay, to be honest, I was a bit hesitant at calling it his birthday dinner. There was twice before where I've dragged him across town, raving about some Japanese restaurant he has to try, and both times they didn't deliver. (One was Aoki on West Broadway, and the other was Zipang on Main St - and trust me, I've had really good food there before, but just not the times I went with Ming). This time though, I've never been to Hapa Umi - maybe third time's a charm? Reading Urbanspoon with a 62% rating didn't help it either. I even looked up the menu and said there wasn't much all too interesting. So why were we going there??
LivingSocial coupon. Yes, using a coupon on a birthday. That's ok. We like our deals.
"Menu doesn't look all that interesting."
"Don't say that. Then you won't look forward to it."
At least someone has the optimism of sunshine and rainbows. Leave it to me to be the bleaker (yes, I made that word up). I wasn't trying to be bleak... with the low expectations of the restaurant and the worry-wart of the snow... but I was subconsciously playing it down in case this restaurant sucks too.
Anyhow, upon being seated, we were handed lightly-scented hot towels for our hands. Felt so nice after walking in from the cold. We were then handed menus, which without much thought, Ming said right away, "tuna tataki and negitoro roll". The thing with Ming (sorry, that rhymes...), he loves to stick with his tried, tested and true. We always get those no matter where we go. We also ordered the Hapa Roll (which had cucumber, avacado, asparagus, carrot, mayonnaise, salmon and salmon roe), their yuzu and miso glazed sablefish, and a stone bowl of a bunch of things that included bacon and kimchi.
The tuna tataki came first. Although the sauce looked like wasabi, it wasn't. All we caught was the tail-end of their description, which had some sort of seven spice. The sauce was a bit spicy. Mmm... it was really good. Tuna was nicely seared and super fresh. The slices were also a fair thickness.
Then came the Hapa Roll with the negitoro roll. Hapa Roll was pretty good too. The mayonnaise was also spiced and seasoned. The veggies inside made it refreshing. This was the funny part. Ming popped a negitoro roll into his mouth first. "Oh, the negitoro roll is good!". I gave him a look of disbelief. How good could it be? Negitoro roll is always good. What's different this time?
So I popped one in my mouth. And I had to laugh... It was really THAT good. Usually, when you bite into a negitoro roll, there is more rice than fish. But this one, the tuna exploded out of the roll into my mouth. There was more tuna than rice. And the tuna was so fresh, the flesh was soft and super tasty. That's the best I could describe it. We had a good laugh at how a negitoro roll, something that we always order, could get such a reaction out of both of us. Mmm... I'm wanting it now as I type this.
Next up was the sablefish. Ming has never had sablefish before. I love sablefish. What's not to like with a super fatty fish. It was cooked nicely. It was also very fresh, with the meat flaking off so smoothly. Totally melt in your mouth.
By this time, we were already super satisfied. Lastly, was the stone bowl. We both agreed that it was also good, but not compared to all the dishes we had previous. We were stuffed.
Overall, I don't know why Hapa Umi gets a 62% rating on Urbanspoon. Perhaps the price. Or perhaps the innovation of their food compared to their sister restaurant, Hapa Izayaka (a not-as-fancy version) is not that far off. Regardless, I would go back to Hapa Umi. I thought everything was super fresh, which is more so important in Japanese food when a lot of things are raw. Yummy dinner. Thank goodness!
We were still talking about that negitoro roll on the way home.
You really are sometimes that punch in the stomach, that bothering cramp in the side, that annoying bee buzzing by your ear, that irritating pest, that pain in the -.... but today, I wish you a very very very Happy Birthday! :)