Pan-Asian street food flies high at Flying Tiger
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The Flying Tiger
2958 West 4 Ave.
Signature Drink: Hollywood
Signature Dish: Red Curry Mussels
Dinner & drinks for two: $75
It opened more than a couple of years ago, and had somehow stayed under my radar until last month when a chance drop-in kindled my gastronomic interest. I must admit, Asian street food has not been a staple in my culinary regime, but three or four recent visits have changed my perspective.
The Flying Tiger is the brainchild of James Iranzad, co-owner and operating partner of Corkscrew Entertainment, the group who also brought us Hell's Kitchen and Abigail's Party.
The room is a long, narrow box of reddish-brown walls, dark wood tables and a peek-a-boo kitchen that gives off tempting smells. On one Monday night visit, it was packed by 7:00 p.m. The servers, mainly pretty young things in black dresses, are friendly and prompt, although on one visit they reached the level of cloying, with their constant chirps of "How is everything?" at regular 10 minute intervals. Bit of a conversation-killer, that.
The menu is a select list of share plates put together by the oh-so-talented Tina Fineza, who was originally hired as a consultant and got roped into staying on board as executive chef. You may have tasted some of Chef Fineza's consulting and personal handiwork at the likes of Les Faux Bourgeois, Habit Lounge, George Ultra Lounge and Bin 942. If you have, then you are familiar with the bold, exotic, yet comfortable flavours that she routinely conjures out of local products.
Fittingly, the wine list focuses on the Americas, with a large part reserved for B.C. vintages. The bottles are as eclectic as the food, with almost kitschy descriptions, like this one for an Osoyoos LaRose: "If this wine were a woman, it would be Juliette Binoche. Medium-bodied and sexy." Try not ordering something like that.
As for the food, the plates jump from Hong Kong and Korea to Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines and Mumbai. It doesn't seem so much about authenticity, as influence, although the prevailing impression is just tasty.
Salt Spring Island mussels ($15) in Panang red curry and topped with sweet red peppers, were plump, juicy chews in a sauce good enough to serve on its ownâ€”especially with the puffy chili fry bread for dipping. A tempura sushi roll ($14.50) of fresh B.C. Albacore tuna belly topped with tasty seaweed "caviar" was a surprisingly hearty dish, sided with grilled shitakes. The fish was pleasantly warm, without being cooked, and the tempura made just a hint of its presence felt, a light crispiness and texture that added depth without too much grease.
Grilled Korean-style beef short ribs ($14) were fork-tender, chili-infused wonders. A favourite was the bowl of pulled duck confit ($14), which you spoon onto sesame oil crepes along with jicama-cucumber salad and fresh bunches of Vietnamese mint, coriander and basil. Hong Kong-style shrimp dumplings ($7) were less interestingâ€”I learned they're the only item not made on the premisesâ€”being too small, too chewy (the filling) and too mushy (the wrapping). These seem oddly out of place served next to Fineza's own creations, and certainly don't add to the panache of the menu.
I only tried one dessert, some deep-fried bananas ($8) smothered in chocolate and caramel. You really can't go wrong with this combination, but something in the nature of a palate cleanser, maybe some vanilla bean ice cream or a sorbet, would have made it pop nicely.
Still, it's a great collection of Eastern flavours, well thought out and crafted, with inventive local twists that will always lure repeat diners, including yours truly.
Mendoza's Bodega Catena Zapata Blends Wonders
I tasted this Argentinean winery's offerings for the first time at the recent wine festival and was blown away by the complexity, depth and flavour of their flagship label, the 2005 Nicolás Catena Zapata, a Cabernet Sauvignon-Malbec blend that's three parts Cab to one part Malbec. Aged 24 months in new French oak, it has a dark, almost violet colour, a nose of berry, mineral and pepper notes with a palate of cassis, black currant, tobacco and vanilla. Great for drinking now or cellaring. SRP $110 at private wine stores. catenawines.com.
On Saturday, April 25, discover the wines of Portugal at Marquis Wine Cellars (1034 Davie St.) between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. This free tasting will feature Douro, Bairrada and Palmela varietals. No RSVP required.
On Sunday, April 26, Senova Restaurant (1864 West 57 Ave.) will host a special three-course lunch featuring Portugal's wine producing regions. Joao Silva e Sousa, winemaker at Quinta de Veiga, will be in attendance. Reception starts at 11:30 a.m., with lunch from noon to 2 p.m. Tickets are $60. Call Marquis Wine Cellars at 604-684-0445 or visit marquis-wines.com.
For the month of April, Chef Romy Prasad of So.Cial at Le Magasin (332 Water St.) is presenting "A Splash of Spain," a tapas-style offering of Spanish dishes, in addition to their regular menu. Order individual plates or choose any five for $25. Offerings include pancetta-wrapped wild salmon, pork cheeks with white bean puree and mushroom-crusted lamb chop. Call 604-669-4488 for reservations.
Food in Brief
Le Gavroche Restaurant Manager Adam Rennick has now become a partner in the business with owner Manuel Ferreira. Also, the kitchen is now under the leadership of Chef Rob Guest.
Leslie Stowe, Canadian chef and caterer extraordinaire, as well as creator of the original Raincoast Crisps, has announced her official sponsorship of the Canadian Ski Jumping Team.