September 2, 2014
Oct 29, 2013
05:20 PM

First Look: Hapa Izakaya at The Ritz-Carlton

Hapa at The Ritz (Images: Ben Johnson)

As part of the Japanese restaurant takeover that’s been hitting Toronto, Hapa Izakaya has been enjoying brisk business on College Street since last September (though that location has been temporarily shut down due to Toronto’s recent storm troubles).

Now the team behind Hapa Izakaya — Justin and Lea Ault, Toby Tseung and Maaji Isobe — has expanded Toronto operations by opening an offshoot of the business at the bar of Toronto’s Ritz-Carlton.

For anyone who may have found Hapa’s upscale vibe too sharp a departure from the tavern-like atmosphere of traditional Japanese izakayas, the new location won’t live up to your raucous expectations (this is The Ritz, after all). Instead, what you’ll find is the same Japanese fare that has made Hapa a hit.

Chef Koichi Fujioka is serving up Ocean Wise-certified sushi and sashimi, in addition to upscale snacks such as edamame ($6) or thin-sliced ahi tuna carpaccio ($14) served with yuzu dressing, green onion and soy sauce. Also on the menu is a torched barbecue roll ($15) with seared beef, crispy fried onion, asparagus, cucumber and a slice of raw jalapeno as a garnish.

Sadly, the extensive sake selection that’s available at the College Street location hasn’t migrated to The Ritz-Carlton, but The Ritz does have a few sakes on hand, including Tokubetsu Honjozo from the Murai Family ($89). That doesn’t mean you can’t pair the sushi with one of Ritz’s cocktails, like the old fashioned ($18), made with Jim Beam Devil’s Cut and mescal.

For those looking to eat a full dinner, there are some robust options available. The eponymous Hapa Roll ($15), featuring torched salmon sashimi with avocado, cucumber, carrot, asparagus, spicy mayonnaise and salmon roe, would certainly sate more ambitious appetites, as would the unique-to-this-location Ritz Bar Roll ($15), made with torched yellowtail tuna, miso mayonnaise, asparagus, onion and yuzu rind.

Hapa Izakaya at The Ritz has enjoyed a good reception since it quietly opened just before TIFF, but as word gets out, you can expect an increase in demand — especially once patrons of DEQ, The Ritz-Carlton’s outdoor cocktail space, migrate inside for the winter.

Hapa Izakaya at The Ritz-Carlton, 181 Wellington St. W., 416-585-2500