I have complained for years about the lack of good Asian food downtown. I guess someone listened, considering Quan Hapa and Kaze opened within weeks of each other, and nearly across the street from one another. Though they are both Asian, they couldn’t be more different. Kaze’s a little more grand, a little more over the top, a little more Japanese. Quan Hapa is a little more casual, a little more street, with more Vietnamese influence.
Quan Hapa is the second enterprise from the folks who brought you Pho Lang Thang. They bring a certain sensibility to their restaurants: though the food is solid, there’s a certain air of eating food that maybe someone’s grandma has made for you. I consider that a good thing.
I’ve eaten at Quan Hapa a handful of times, and there are a few things that stick out. For lunch, I am a huge fan of their short rib bun salad: noodles, a soy-laced vinaigrette, tender short rib and two dumplings. I’ve often shared a bowl of those noodles and an order of salad rolls (they’re all good, I couldn’t pick just one kind as a favorite) with a friend for a very filling lunch.
Some of the best things on the menu are snacks: shrimp chips, which are spicy, saucer-shaped puffs of shrimp that look sort of like styrofoam but taste fantastic; pig ears, cut into strips, braised, deep-fried until crispy and coated in salt and spice, or okonomiyaki, a Japanese egg pancake with bacon and fried egg. It’s also the only place in town I can think of that you can get balut: fertilized duck egg. That item carries a warning: eat at your own risk. It’s not something I’ve tried; even I have my limits (sorry, guys!).
You can also sample various craft beers and shochu, a Japanese spirit that is made into a variety of cocktails. They have a happy hour from 4-6 (a rarity in Over-the-Rhine these days) where you can get selected drinks and appetizers for a reduced price.
Seating is communal: I prefer the bar as I am not into getting onto a bench in a skirt. They also do take-out and take reservations (another rarity in Over-the-Rhine). Service is attentive and friendly, and if there’s a wait– as there often is on Friday or Saturday nights– you can receive a text message notifying you when your table is ready.