Over the Rhine
1335 Vine Street
Kitchen: 5:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Bar: 5:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m.
Small Plates: $4-$12 + one is MP
Steamed Bun Sliders: $10
It’s no secret that we love Asian food and ever since Quan Hapa was announced we’ve been hanging by every post eagerly awaiting the announcement that they were open. The time has finally come.
Quan Hapa, pronounced “Wan Ha pa,” is the latest project by the amazing trio of David Le and brothers Bao and Duy Nguyen plus Chef Matt Cranert. Many may recognize the trio by their first restaurant Pho Lang Thang in Findlay Market. Pho Lang Thang has enjoyed continued popularity and success as not only one of everyone’s favorite places in Findlay Market but also as the best Vietnamese in the Cincinnati area. Quan Hapa, the latest project, is an Asian gastro pub focusing on serving their take on Asian street food.
Situated on the corner of Vine and 14th, Quan Hapa has a decidedly modern decor with its custom built wooden communal tables, bare floor and wood and steel accents. One wall has steel trimmed garage doors that open up to a sectioned-off part of the sidewalk opening the place up come summertime. The wall above the kitchen is beautiful dark stained wood lined with jars of kimchi and punctuated by a couple TVs, which were playing the original Godzilla with English subtitles. There’s also a small bar at one end that specializes in Asian beers and liquors which are displayed on shelves over top the Quan Hapa turtle logo.
The communal tables that make up the majority of the seating are ingenious for a few reasons. Not only do they maximize dining space but they also encourage diners to socialize, share conversation and food. You can discover new foods and learn about them with your neighbors and even ask them their thoughts on the items they’re having – perhaps they’ll even let you have a sample. The intimacy is aided by the small space Quan Hapa occupies making it reminiscent of many restaurants and food stalls in Japan, China, South Korea and Vietnam where owners and cooks have direct interaction with the diners – and diners with each other.
While I’ve always loved food for the art and taste, I also love the social aspect to it. Nothing can bring together people of all backgrounds quite like food can. Nothing is quite like sharing a meal with others. Leave your worries at the door, relax and partake in a unique experience and some of the best food in Ohio.
While the official menu is much larger, the menu we got to sample was fairly constrained. The full menu features a variety of dishes, from rolls and noodles to sliders and poké. We were sad to not see the Korean Tacos we’ve fawned over in the past, but there were so many other interesting things to distract us. We chose to have the Okonomiyaki, Fried Pig Ears, and Bo Chien Bo with Chum Churum to drink.
Okonomiyaki (お好み焼き) is a savory Japanese pancake most often sold by restaurants that specialize in it. Okonomi means “what you like/want” and the yaki is “grilled” (think yakitori – “grilled chicken/bird”) which is why this dish is a bit difficult to describe – it has dozens of variations. Quan Hapa’s Okonomiyaki features Japanese mayo, Okonomiyaki sauce, bacon and green onion and is topped with a fried egg. I took my first bite of it and then immediately set it down and looked at Adam. “This. Is. Amazing!!” We nearly fought over who got to eat it. The pancake itself was fluffy and moist, and had the sauces both inside and on top. The bacon bits and green onion just made it even more amazing. Thankfully it was also pre-cut into chopstick-friendly portions.
On the more unusual end is the Crispy Fried Pig Ears which are first braised then fried in duck fat. At first the entire ear was crispy like eating a chip dipped in fried batter – it was also very peppery and salty. Although at the thicker part of the ear the fat was jelled thanks to the heat from frying.
The Bo Chien Bo is a particularly interesting take on Vietnamese food – it’s similar to a light Vietnamese style spring roll but is sliced like rolled sushi. Made to order, this roll is a crisp, light roll that encases marinated beef seared in butter and paired with cold noodles and cucumber. Alongside it was a pineapple anchovy sauce. When plain the rolls were crisp, light and refreshing. The sauce though added an amazingly addictive pop that opened up the flavors in the roll.
The list of alcohols is huge and features liquors, beers and wines from all over the world – though mostly from Asia. It was difficult to choose, but we went with the Chum Churum because not only do we love Soju, but up until now we’d only ever had one brand of it – Jinro Chamisul.
Soju (소주 lit. burned liquor) is a distilled liquor from Korea that is fairly similar to gin or vodka, although often much less alcoholic. It has a clean taste that I once heard described as being similar to a “cucumber salad.” I’m not sure that that’s the best descriptor, but it may help give some an idea of what it’s like. The Chum Churum was very similar to the kind we’re most familiar with – that same clean, cucumber-y flavor – although it had a finish much more reminiscent of sake. I’d highly recommend having this with the pork ears as it provides a perfect contrast of flavors.
In a nutshell, Quan Hapa serves mind-blowingly delicious food and drinks in a unique communal setting encouraging interaction with strangers. We’re not 100% sure on their open schedule yet but we will post updates here and on our Facebook Page as we get more details from them. If you want, you can check them out tonight at their soft opening: Friday, December 21 from 5:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. Forget that let down of a Mayan Apocalypse and have the best meal ever.
We love Quan Hapa and we can’t hide it. But who are the people behind Quan Hapa? How did this amazing restaurant come to be? What was the inspiration for the daring menu? These are just a few of the questions on our minds – and we hope yours too – which we hope to find answers to in our upcoming exclusive interview to be posted early next year.
Have you had the opportunity to sample Quan Hapa’s food yet? What did you think? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below! We’ve also got a bunch of pictures available only on our Facebook Quan Hapa Photo Album. While you’re there, be sure to Like us too!
[UPDATE] Quan Hapa will also be open on Saturday, December 22 from 5:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. (kitchen closes at 11:00 p.m.) but will be closed from Sunday, December 23 through Tuesday, December 25.
[UPDATE2] It appears that Quan Hapa’s open schedule is from 5:00 p.m. – 2:00 a.m. however the kitchen closes at 11:00 p.m.
Verdict: Unicorns Dancing in Your Mouth
Quan Hapa is a new Asian gastro pub on Vine by the Pho Lang Thang owners and Chef Matt Cranert featuring their spin on Asian street food. The dishes are inspired by the ubiquitous mom-and-pop restaurants, stalls and carts around Asia serving simple, delicious food. They also feature a myriad of beers, wine and liquor from around the world (although mostly Asia) to pair with the dishes and with company – some of which may be unexpected.
The restaurant is small and getting to know your neighbors is encouraged through the use of communal tables. There’s also a bar and seating lined up in front of the open kitchen that overlooks the restaurant. The chef and cooks can see everyone, and everyone can see them.
Many of the items on the menu are fantastic – although we specifically can recommend the Crispy Pig Ears and the Okonomiyaki – which we saw a fan of Quan Hapa’s describe as “A unicorn dancing in your mouth.” That’s probably the simplest, best description ever and is all that really needs to be said.
We’re not sure what their open schedule is so check back here or on our Facebook page for updates.