The first thing you might notice when you approach Hakacha is the large parking lot offering lots of free, off-street parking in the Third Street lot that also serves the motor vehicle bureau and several other businesses. The next thing you might notice is that the lot, in addition to being large, is often nearly full; however, there always seems to be space for a few more cars.
The restaurant itself is long and narrow and is decorated with festive ceiling string lights and a black-and-white checked floor. The booths, tables and chairs were formerly used by Istanbul, the restaurant that preceded it. Several tree branches on the wall add a bit of a rustic interest. Music, usually guitar and piano jazz, plays unobtrusively in the background. The restaurant itself is relatively small, with a capacity of about 30.
Like many restaurants in the greater Ithaca area, this is one of several incarnations that previously served customers on the same site: Istanbul, Mira, and Dijon immediately come to mind. For Hakacha, this is just the beginning. They opened their doors to the public in May and have been making several changes as they learn more about their immediate area. For example, during the first week in June, I went there for dinner and ordered from the dinner menu. Two days later I arrived for lunch and expected to order from the lunch menu but was informed there was no lunch menu. Instead of depending on their previous flexible policy of telling customers that they could order lunch entrées at dinner or dinner entrées at lunch, they simply combined both menus into one. This turns out to be a big advantage for the customer. Another change upcoming will be their receipt of a liquor license, which will hopefully be in the next few months.
Hakacha is open from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. every day except Tuesday, and stays open throughout the day and evening. This means the prices remain constant and don’t rise at dinner time.
Hakacha, which is named for the owner’s grandchildren, specializes in Asian food with pasta. I understand that noodles go way back in the history of Asian cuisine, but the pasta here is usually cooked in a tomato sauce, which I have always associated with Italian cuisine. Only one pasta form is offered, so hopefully you like spaghetti.
I’ve ordered an appetizer of fried chicken ($3.99) and received a plate of six pieces of rather heavily-breaded tenders. They were flavorful already, but the server also brought salt and pepper shakers (there aren’t any on the tables) and a tasty dipping sauce.
I’ve tried several entrées from the pasta section. Seafood pasta ($17.99) included three scallops, three shrimp and three clams in their shells mixed in with the spaghetti and tomato sauce. It was fine, except I would have liked the clams to have been cooked longer. Another entrée was mushroom soy sauce butter pasta ($13.99). The mixture of shiitake mushrooms with the spaghetti was most enjoyable. Among the half-dozen pasta entrées is a vegetarian pasta with eggplant, carrots and tomatoes.
There are three desserts, all homemade. I had the black tea cheesecake. It was dense and on the heavy side. Next time, I believe I’ll opt for the crème brulee or the caramel custard.
Service is attentive and polite. Everyone seems intent on helping diners to a favorable experience. One problem: When I ordered an appetizer and an entrée, the server brought one in one hand and one in the other. I like to enjoy my appetizer first and am not wild about having so many dishes on the table at the same time.
They don’t expect to have a liquor license for “five or six months” and when one is received management will not be offering cocktails or mixed drinks, only wine and beer. In the meantime, I have purchased bottles from the Red Feet wine store just a short walk from the restaurant. Red Feet has a well-stocked refrigerator with chilled white wines as well as an excellent selection of reds.
About glasses: Water is served from a pitcher on the table and ceramic mugs, not glasses. The only other place I’ve encountered this is in restaurants in Japan. Since they aren’t serving wine yet, the only glass they can offer, at least at the moment, is a narrow champagne flute for either the white or red wine you bring yourself. It is expected that management will be able to offer more appropriate glasses when the license is received.