Amongst Yaletown’s many posh, upscale restaurants, The Flying Pig strives to offer home-cooked comfort food at a reasonable price
I’d been walking my dog Charlie past the construction site on Hamilton Street in Yaletown for weeks, trying to figure out what “The Flying Pig” would be.
One day the brown-papered door was askew and I could see people busy at work; it looked like the makings of a restaurant— a restaurant with gorgeous decor. I poked my head in and spoke with co-owner John Crook, who graciously told me very little.
I continued to pester him via e-mail and, after the dust had settled following their opening, I finally had the chance to sit down with Crook and one of his two business partners, chef Erik Heck, to chat about the already-busy restaurant and try the “nouveau Canadian bistro” cuisine.
“We talked about [opening our own restaurant] for years,” says Heck. “We’d finish working our 16-hour days and then we’d sit down for hours and just talk about restaurants. Different concepts and ideas, how we’d run a business, all those kinds of things.”
Locally sourced, freshly prepared at The Flying Pig
Chef Erik Heck handpicks the juicy tomatoes for the Beef Steak Tomato and Buffalo Mozzarella appetizer, which comes with fresh basil and a balsamic reduction. (Image: Catherine Roscoe Barr)
First up, I tried the Beef Steak Tomato and Buffalo Mozzarella, a generous portion at $8. I loved the crispy onions and combination of the lemon and basil-marinated baby bocconcini and an enormous disk of wonderfully mild buffalo mozzarella sandwiched between two hefty slices of tomato.
Next, Heck brought me The Flying Pig (TFP) Cured Meat Selection.
“We’re always changing our cured meats, says Heck. “Today we have a bresaola, an air cured beef tenderloin, a sopresseta, which is a spicy salami, and a capicola.”
The incredibly fresh cured meats come with house-made mustard, Camembert and Stilton cheeses (also locally sourced), pepper-crusted goat cheese, marinated olives and gherkins. It’s a huge portion for $7.
I double-check to make sure the price is correct, and Crook assures me it is: “Yeah, we give big portions, we’re big Canadian guys. We want people to leave here full. The portions are a nice size and they’re reasonably priced, especially for Yaletown.”
TFP has a very reasonable wine list, with by-the-glass prices from $8 to $11. My lovely server, Michele, brought one of her “favourites” to go with the locally caught halibut: the Wither Hills ‘Two Tracks’ Sauv Blanc, $8.50. (Image: Catherine Roscoe Barr)
The Pan Seared Queen Charlotte Halibut, $22, had an amazing combination of perfectly seared (yet flaky and moist) fish atop a bed of fresh peas and corn, stewed tomatoes, sautéed broccolini, a brothy stew of crushed corn (called a nage) and ridiculously good gnocchi. This would have been my favourite dish had I not moved onto another main.
The braised beef is slowly cooked to tender perfection, and Crook says the cheesy mashed potatoes should stretch from the plate to your chin before breaking. (Image: Catherine Roscoe Barr)
The Red Wine Braised Beef Short Rib with bone marrow mashed potatoes, $19, is the ultimate comfort food, and one Vancouverites will especially take delight in during the dreary winter months.
Even the way it’s served is comforting and homey, with its hand-painted platter and stamped brown paper liner. The huge beef bone jutting out from the tantalizing pile of cheesy mashed potatoes was a nice touch and the browned-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside meat was divine.
The waffle cones for the decadent TFP Drumstick are made from scratch, in-house. (Image: Catherine Roscoe Barr)
By this point, I was stuffed silly, but when I heard that they have their own drumstick-making station in the kitchen, complete with waffle iron and cone roller, my dessert stomach demanded I try the TFP Drumstick, $7, with chocolate and vanilla ice cream, caramel and a pistachio crust topping.
It even comes wrapped in paper and tucked into a jar so you’ll avoid embarrassing drips.
The Flying Pig was years in the making
It’s not just the gourmet comfort food that makes TFP special; it’s the little touches that add to the experience—ideas that have been years in the making.
The kitchen, for example, was rebuilt “to bring the kitchen to the table,” says Heck, with its large doorway to the dining room, framed in stainless steel and surrounded by stark white subway tiles, revealing the kitchen staff hard at work.
“You can see the kitchen, but you can’t hear the kitchen, which is nice,” says Crook. “I’ve been a chef at a lot of restaurants in the city and it’s fun to be around the kitchen, but you don’t really want to be hearing the kitchen staff calling your order.”
The rest of the dining room has nouveau rustic décor, with new touches like the red leather benches and snowy white bar stools, and old touches from the location’s early life.
“The brick and the beam are the only things that are original, everything else we gutted,” says Crook.
“A big part of [the renovation] was making sure that we used reclaimed wood. All of the tables and the bar are from 120-year-old wood. They don’t fit perfectly and sometimes they’re a little unsteady, but I’d rather have that and try to balance them than waste another tree—that was really important to us.”
About these three self-described “good Canadian family boys” and restauranteurs, Crook says, “we want to give good value, we want to have fun at work, and we want our clientele to be fun.”