Best Izakaya Restaurant in Vancouver? You make the call!

Photo credit: Raul P | Flickr

Vancouver is justly famous for its great sushi.  But another Japanese culinary import has been making waves for years: the izakaya.

If you’re not familiar, izakayas are Japanese-style pubs.  They generally serve some sushi and sashimi, but they also offer a variety of other tapas-style dishes, including deep-fried chicken (karaage), deep-fried tofu (agedashi tofu) and rice dishes served in blazing hot stone bowls.

But what really sets izakayas apart is the atmosphere.  Unlike sedate sushi joints, izakayas are generally boisterous, lively places.  You’re greeted with a cry of irasshaimase (welcome) by the wait staff when you enter.  Inside, drinkers are downing pitchers of Asahi and Sapporo beer.  Conversations are loud and – as in most pubs – everyone seems to be having a good time.

Izakayas first began showing up in Vancouver in the late 1990s and there are now dozens throughout the city.  Some hew closely to tradition and others offer a Western take on the concept.  In fact, the choices these days can be a little overwhelming.  Maybe you can help:

Do you have a favourite izakaya in Vancouver?  Let us know below. 

I’ll start things off with one of my favourites: Hapa Izakaya in Yaletown.

Hapa is among the original izakayas to set up shop in the city and is perhaps the best known.  There are currently four locations: Coal Harbour, Kitsilano, West End and Yaletown.  What I like about the Yaletown location is that it’s not so over the top: Instead of a boisterous pub, it kind of feels like a sleek club – with low lighting and good music – where you can also get incredible Japanese food.

Photo credit: scout.magazine | Flickr

The interior is dark and inviting and, in izakaya tradition, the servers are exceedingly friendly.  Highlights of the menu include the bintoro, a lightly seared albacore tuna sashimi served with ponzu dressing, as well as the classic karaage, savoury deep-fried chicken with soy ginger sauce.  It’s also hard to go wrong with the ishi-yaki – a rice bowl with minced pork, egg, tomato and spicy miso served piping hot.

Price is another perk.  Dishes are generally in the $7-$10 range, so you can try out a bunch if you’re with a group of friends.  Plus, the tapas section of the menu is half-priced from 4 p.m.-6 p.m. everyday.

Any other izakaya fans out there?  Which is your favourite? 

Want more updates on Vancouver and beyond?  Follow me on Twitter @RemyScalza

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12 Responses to Best Izakaya Restaurant in Vancouver? You make the call!

  1. Alex

    The best izakaya in Vancouver and also where I take my friends from out of town is Kingyo on Denman. Excellent food and friendly prompt service.

    • Col

      I second this.

      Also, why is there a photo of a bibimbap used in this post? Izakaya is a Japanese concept, but bibimbap is Korean….

  2. Jessica

    All Hapa locations. Hands down. Delicious food. Amazing service. Never disappoints.

  3. Jake

    Best izakaya is actually Chungdahm Ahn. It’s Korean, not Japanese but embodies everything good you mention above.

  4. Sheryl

    Guu Gastown a gastronomical feast for the eats and the atmosphere.

  5. hailey

    Rice dishes served in blazing hot stone bowls is Bibimbap.
    It’s a kind of Korean traditional food, not Japanese.

    • Cindy

      Col & Hailey you’re right on about BiBimBap photo being “off” for this article. Would be great if the author would correct it and put something Japanese there.
      Hapa & Guu – yes – no matter how often one eats Japanese, what does that have to do with anything? We like what we like, no need to get haughty :)

  6. Justin

    I guess Hapa’s okay if you don’t eat Japanese food often…

  7. Alex

    I think that the picture is misleading and makes this article becomes less credible. The picture is bibimbap which is Korean while this article is trying to convince us the best Izakaya-which is Japanese concept-in the town

    • Thanks, Alex. The photo is actually from Guu Izakaya in Gastown. This stone pot (which is quite similar to bibimbap) is one of the dishes on their menu. Many izakayas in Vancouver incorporate cuisines and influences from countries like Korea and China, as well as Japan. You should try Guu some time to experience the Vancouver izakaya scene! Thanks again for sharing your comment.

  8. JJ

    All izakayas mentioned above are all good with excellent dining experience overall. But one thing is common amongst those places. They’re all in DT! It’s definitely a hassle for people living out here in Coquitlam to beat the traffic just to enjoy one meal. I’ve recently tried out a new place called Chom Chom Fusion on North Road, Coquitlam and they have the best chicken & skewers. Try it out, people!

  9. I.S.

    Suika Snack Bar