The Flying Tiger - Vancouver
This is my first ever play-by-play style recount of a dining experience here in Vancouver, having just moved out here just a few months back and still getting up to speed on the food scene. It certainly was not at one of the more oft-mentioned restaurants on this board, nor one of the more famous, but thought it would provide me with a simple opportunity to work on these kinds of posts that I see from time to time on this site and give it a try myself. Would appreciate any feedback you may have…
With a craving for something really flavorful, some variety (e.g. not really sure what kind of cuisine I actually wanted) and not wanting a really filling meal, a drive along west fourth avenue brought me to a spot I had heard a little bit about and had an interest in checking out. Dubbing itself as “modern Asian street food” or as my server called it, “Asian small plate dining with a twist”, The Flying Tiger was a rather dark but energetic narrow-shaped place on a busy Friday night. It was about 7pm as I entered the door and the place was packed as far as I could see, with a good noise level coming from both the chatty patrons and the background music that was pumping out some John Legend tracks; which I thought was unique given its supposed Asian angle on the food side. Off to the immediate left as you enter the main entranceway, was a mid-sized counter bar, and I glanced at it briefly as we were led away by our server down the gauntlet that makes up the only pathway through the slim restaurant to a table near the far end of the alley and across from the open kitchen. In that very far corner was a U-shaped cubicle that could probably seat six people, and seemed to be the only “non-table and chairs” setup in the house for larger parties. From what I could tell, the clientele ranged from older (>40’s groupings of friends), some business-types who were there for an after work drink, to a few pairs of younger 20-something couples just out for a bit to eat and/or possibly on a date. A few more pairs turned up right after us and were turned away, so its probably best (if this Friday is an indication) that reservations be made if you truly want to get a seat (on busier nights only perhaps?). This hodgepodge of diners I thought was all the more fitting once I opened up the four-face, fold up rectangular menu to see what was in store – a jumble of Asian-influenced dishes that included items such as Filipino-style chicken wings, poori fry bread served with chaat masala and “hawker” street noodles.
After deciding to tame my hunger with a cold Tiger beer, my dining partner and I opted to share a few plates (the server suggested serving size-wise that three would be good to start and to go from there if we were still hungry). The food menu items were all numbered, there must have been about twenty-five to thirty listed in total. As well, they were separated under headings of “smaller” and “larger” in I would say equal numbers. We opted to go with something lighter to start, with a mix set of steamed Hong Kong-style dumplings (shrimp, pork and shrimp) and some deep fried pork ones as well. In total, there were three of each kind, and the price was $10. Surely nothing too exciting and flavors were just so-so, but then again picking something like this in a fusion-themed Canadian restaurant isn’t the wisest choice. <SMILE> I think I must have had a longing for the fantastic dim sum I had at the Teahouse (a Chinese eatery located in China Square, Chinatown, Singapore) when I was there two months back. This was followed by a heartier plate of sweet and spicy “Thai” back ribs. The “Thai” part of the mix was probably referring to the hot chilies and star anise spice flavorings that were the major flavor component of this dish. It hit the spot when it came to the explosion of flavor that I was seeking tonight, and the Tiger beer tried to do its best to tame the heat. The ribs were however a little bit dry inside for my liking, though the coating of sweet sugar on the outside did its best to try to keep it somewhat moist in texture. For the size of the nine ribs that were on the plate, the again $10 price tag was reasonable. The third and final dish that we ordered was a “Vietnamese” pan-seared (apparently local caught) sablefish served with a heap of thinly sliced daikon and papaya salad, and a few more of those fried wontons that were in the dim sum appetizer that started off our meal. The fish sauce-based flavoring coupled with some garlic and chili spices did complement the well cooked filet of fish well. It was just right on the sweetness, nice and flaky and soft, as one would expect this species of fish to be, and a nice “main” sized end to our meal. I think I might have been able to appreciate this final dish even more if the remnants of the fiery heat of the ribs was not still hanging around in my mouth, but my mistake. This final dish was one of the “larger” menu items and clocked in at $18. Perhaps a bit much for its portion size, but for quality of the meat and flavor, it was worth it.
Sorry, skipped out on the dessert, in fact I don’t even think I bothered to look at the menu for it, but imagine it was not that large a selection. On the drink side, a short list of Asian and international beers, some Japanese sake, a decent sized listing of white and red wines (mostly BC and New World), and a choice of some original cocktails rounded out the menu.
Service was good, though it was clear the two main servers were taking on more than they could handle at the dinner’s peak, but things slowed down after I’d say 8pm, when a few more people trickled in to take up the spots vacated by those who had dined at about the same time as us. Thus, for most of the meal, service was relatively minimal and the kitchen staff perhaps took a bit more time than I would have liked, especially for the two first dishes to come out (probably thirty to thirty-five minute wait time).
All in all, a decent meal with the second and third dishes meeting the desire for flavor impact that I was seeking this evening. I’d probably try it out again as there were a few more items on the menu that sparked my interest – probably more to see what kind of take they have on them from the more conventional preparations of them. But if you are seeking true ethnic cuisine from any of the regions represented on the menu (north and southeast Asia), I’d say definitely look around town for a more traditional approach...
Its a nice place to hang out and have some interesting drinks and food when the evening's plan really is to spend time catching up with friends. It would be really exciting if the food was really great. The food isn't bad, its just not as fresh and punchy as its namesake dishes either abroad or "down the road" at whatever your favorite Asian restaurant is. The space is cozy yet fun, the service is fine. So I guess I would say I really like it, but I always feel it could be even better.
I love Flying Tiger for the eclectic menu. I love the Crispy Squid and the Spring rolls ( i swear they put crack in them they are so addictive), I also love the Hawker St Noodles.
Some of the other dishes I have thought we so-so, but good enough that I am there about once a month with friends to hang out and catch up. Oh and the Duck Confit crepes rock!