QUAN HAPA, CINCINNATI OH

 

I don’t ask much from a restaurant or its menu. The food must look good, taste good, preferable using in season ingredients, and showcase the skills of the chefs. Drinks menu should boast good beer or good wine (can a restaurant really do both?) and the cocktail list- if there even is one- should be short and sweet and compliment the cuisine. Decor can be whatever, and service should be swift and polite, but interactions should be kept to a minimum (I can only tell a server the food is good so many times before I fear they’re not even paying attention). Is that asking too much? Probably.

Thankfully, Quan Hapa got all of the above spot on. I mean absolutely spot on. Our food was obviously created by chefs that really know Asian Street food and how to spin it to be cool and pander the American palette, the beer selection was seriously well thought out, as was the sake menu. The 5 piece cocktail menu had something for the sweet-tooth as well as the bitter lover, and the Shrub 75 went perfectly with my Tuna Poke Bowl. A delightful mix of gin, St Germain and Champagne wasn’t too sweet (elder-flower does have a tendency to overpower every other flavour), and on a day where the humidity levels were hitting 80%+, it really hit the spot.

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(In a break from our usual “outside, if available” preference, we sat at the bar. While perched up devouring our meals, two guys came in just for beers. The bar staff were great with them, talking through the options and choices, recommending alternatives to the usual PBRs and Bud Lights. The raport struck between staff and guest was lovely- not too intimate or too pushy, but the two guys next to us left the bar with a knowledge of new beers, new hops, and as new fans of Bulliet Bourbon- on the house. The knowledge and customer experience shown by the one bar tender obviously left and impression…I overheard guy 1 say to guy 2 that he’d be back for the Happy Hour!)

We kept things simple on our visit- on a blisteringly hot day and no room on the tiny sliver of patio outside, we could only face one course. I got to have my first Tuna Poke Bowl, and J opted for the Short Rib Grilled Cheese Sandwich. Both looked the real deal. Street food, from anywhere in the world, isn’t about bells and whistles, and to some degree the presentation is not important- on the street you don’t care for jus and fine herbs, you want good food fast. At Quan Hapa that is what you get- expertly developed cuisine that skillfully combines American classics (grilled cheese) with Asian flavours. The addition of kimchi, Korean BBQ and shiitakes throw the American childhood stable into another realm, and the beautiful short rib is matched well with the Swiss cheese and mornay.

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As it’s been on my “foodie wishlist” for a while now- I’m a sucker for food trends, I’m sorry- I was so excited to finally try poke. Having had the world’s most disappointing tuna dish at Cincinnati’s Spoon + Cellar last month, I’ll admit to being reluctant to order a tuna dish at first. But when in Rome…The bowl was an absolute delight. The fresh apple, cucumber and avocado played nicely with the earthy cashew aoili, but the real star was always going to be the tuna. Pink, tender, so obviously fresh- it was marinated superbly and was melt-in-the-mouth soft.

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Quan Hapa is the epitome of cool- but it is effortlessly cool. Anime playing on TVs dotted around the bar, playful neon chalk signs, HUGE fish oil jars peppered around the place, craft beers by the bucket load, and of course right in the heart of OTR. For quick, flavoursome eats and a kickass beer menu- look no further than on the corner of Vine and W 14th Street.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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