The Fying Tiger & Habit

November 6th, 2006 · 2 Comments

Flying Tiger ExteriorHabit Lounge
Address: 2610 Main St (map)
hours available on their homepage

** (of four stars)

The Flying Tiger
Address: 2958 West 4th Ave (map)
hours available on their homepage

** and 1/2 (of four stars)

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By Jason Chin

Statisticians describe mediation as what occurs when one variable explains the relationship between two others, who without this third variable would have a merely specious relationship. One might interpret the relationship between The Flying Tiger and Habit in the same way: one is Asian-themed, the other has few Asian inspirations; one is full of Kitsilano yuppies, the other is Main Street hippies; one is brightly-lit and very modern, the other is like the inside of a Pandora’s box. Long story short, they don’t have a lot in common unless you analyze the situation a certain way. Both menus feature items that are perfect for sharing.

Oh yeah, and they’re both really good, too.

Habit proves a tough one to break, serving food with a quality that defies its lounge status. After sampling most of the menu with friends over a couple of evenings, I’d say that this is one place that might actually do its vegetarian offerings better than the omnivore friendly ones. But perhaps that’s not surprising given its Main Street location. The carrot and brie pirogies ($10) prove both sweet and sumptuous, a dish that is always fought over. The stuffed portabellas ($11) hold an inspired combination of golden beet, pesto and chevre and are another dish that is hotly contested. Chicken wings ($10), unfortunately, prove Habit’s Sudetenland, the overly sweet orange-chili glaze is cloying and these guys are conceded quite easily. The antipasti platter ($16) is also a tough sell, usually only two meats and a couple of uninteresting cheeses. The same dish at Salt is a much better deal. The great variety of olives, including one very large and bright variety, however, is top notch. Enjoy the above offerings with a nice Crannóg organic ale, which Habit has on tap and oftentimes on special for about $4 per pint.

The atmosphere at Habit is fun, its very contemporary, with a dangerous looking metallic wall on one side. I find it somewhat uninviting and cold, but I appreciate the daring. The staff, as well, could use a little work. Even on slow nights they can be quite hard to find, and when you set an antipasti platter down, I’d like you to tell me what the various meats and cheeses are, as it’s sometimes difficult to tell.

I find The Flying Tiger to be a bit more inviting, with the darker colors and candle-lit walls making it feel as if I’d stepped into an opium den. But, you know, one where I’m not going to get killed. Or smoke opium. That’s not to say I don’t wish the benches weren’t so uncomfortably proportioned (maybe add a few pillows?) and the tables too wobbly. The staff, however, are very attentive and knowledge of the menu. As “Canucklehead” on eGullet said recently, it’s really surprising to see a menu that’s a cross-section of Asia’s street food that turns out to be really good. That chef Tina Fineza manages to accurately recreate these traditional favorites, but with her own spin on them, is no small feat. The dishes she puts out turn out to be not so easy to share.

Split into small and large offerings, the menu cuts a swath across Asia at economy class prices. I’m a fan of the BBQ chicken, which is actually Malaysian style Cornish hen ($15) served with a balanced coconut curry cut with fiery sambal olek (chili sauce). Don’t fret, the accompanying fried rice will soak up the heat. The crispy Thai squid ($9) is also winner, cooked just right so that it’s tender but not chewy and served with a tangy lemon and garlic dipping sauce. The squid is a bit overbreaded, but isn’t lost and the garlic will linger for the rest of the night, yet this still a tough to miss dish. The Filipino spring rolls are also good, but oddly served with pickled ginger, which doesn’t do much for the dish. I had always thought that pickled ginger was intended to be used a palate cleanser between different bites of sushi, but since all of the spring rolls are the same, I can’t see its purpose. Don’t miss the Togarashi tuna ($15) wherein lies tuna and soba noodles being brought to new heights by the poignancy of crystallized ginger and a bright vinaigrette. On the small side, the signature samosas are exactly as they should be, steaming cumin laced potato and peas hiding beneath a crunchy exterior ($6). Szechuan-style green beans are cooked to a nice crunch and are a steal at $5. Wash this all down with a selection from an interesting cocktail list (but avoid the “Britney Wong,” whose watermelon dominates the mint and lime) or the fairly-priced wine list.

Mediation takes a very non-statistical meaning at Habit Lounge and The Flying Tiger. These restaurants act as a mediator between friends, family and loved ones, who come here to share an interesting dining experience over creatively prepared food and drink.

Flying Tiger in Vancouver

Habit on Urbanspoon

Tags: Chinese · Indian · Japanese · Modern Canadian · Thai · Vegetarian/Vegetarian Friendly

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 TJ // Dec 16, 2007 at 6:01 pm

    I liked both of those places as well.

    The lamb and Israeli cous-cous was terrific at Habit, though the lamb was a bit overcooked (which some people like). Still, their flavour profile was quite creative and bold (sumac! yay!) You don’t really see a lot of Israeli cous-cous so I really enjoyed that. Good portobellos too.

    As for the flying tiger, the place has a good atmosphere for a date for two but the way in which they cram as many seats as conceivably possible into a small space does detract from the atmosphere. There were a few 4-5 person groups who were in the most uncomfortable looking seating arrangement, and its hard to walk around in there. In any case, the fried squid was OK, I found the dipping sauce to too salty, and it was overbreaded though I appreciated the tenderness of the squid. Exceptional mussels.

    We got the Hawker street noodles, which I do not recommend at all. While it did bring back some fond memories of cheap American Lo Mein, it was expensive for about 30 cents worth of ingredients soaked in oil and soy sauce.

  • 2 Jason // Dec 17, 2007 at 3:12 am

    thanks for the insights tj. i’ve never been in the tiger when it’s crowded, but now that i’ve thought about it i can definitely see it getting super crowded.

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