The Flying Pig’s skirt steak—the real deal, Tim Pawsey photo

It just goes to show; you can never know what to expect on a Vancouver Monday night. One recent, still dry October soirée, you could have fired a proverbial cannon down most of Yaletown’s narrow streets, so who knew that we’d only just manage to score the last two seats at The Flying Pig?—Not to be confused with the more clubbish The Greedy Pig, on Cordova St.

These guys seem to have hit on the right recipe for the times.

First things first. How could you not like a resto with a name like  The Flying Pig? This Yaletown haunt has been around for only a few months, but judging by the early in the week crowd when we dropped in, it’s fast becoming a fixture.

There’s nothing like a good buzz to get you in the mood. And this place has buzz to burn. Not only that, but by the time we were perched on our stools with a commanding view of the bustling room and kitchen, we were being waited on by not one but two energetic servers. And it wasn’t a “byrote” kind of hospitality. These folk were genuinely out to please.

“Hey, it’s carnivore heaven!” quipped my companion, perusing TFP’s well laid out one pager. And indeed it is. Though we did notice a steady stream of Queen Charlotte halibut filets (with crispy gnocchi and Chilliwack corn nage) making its way from the open kitchen, which was rockin.’

Sometimes the best test drive is to work your way through a few small plates, which there’s no shortage of here. Our starter was a three pea soup, a perfect winter warmer and assertively flavoured combo of smoked ham hock with chick, split and sweet peas in a heady, thick broth that’s as close to the classic Quebec recipe as one could ask ($7). Also worth a nod: lobster and prawn risotto, well populated with wild prawns and a piece of lobster claw, richly creamed with mascarpone. Both went well with a gooseberry crisp drop of Wither Hills Two Track Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc ’09 ($8.50 a glass).

TFP gets major props for its tender slices of chili-rubbed seared skirt steak-a serving of six slivers that come with a haystack of matchstick potatoes. This was the best piece of meat for $9 we’ve tasted in a while, even better with raspberry-toned Cedar Creek Merlot ($40).

Mains, generously portioned, top out at $24 for a dry-aged striploin, but most are well under $20. While a side of deep fried Brussels sprouts (tangled with capers, lemon and parmesan) proved more under-cooked than the promised “crispy” ($5), the second go-back-for dish turned out to be dessert: an over-the-top, homemade waffle cone, perched in a jam jar for easy sharing and packed with seductive layers of maple vanilla, dark chocolate ganache, caramel and pistachio.

It’s quite the shift for a space that just a year ago was home to a fine dining Italian room-and a sure sign of the times that if you can offer affordable but sophisticated fare in a laid back, comfortable setting, then chances are you’ll put bums in seats right through the week. And that pigs might even be flying…

The Flying Pig, 1168 Hamilton St., 604-568-1344. Open for lunch (reservations accepted) and dinner (no resos) daily, brunch on weekends.

Tim Pawsey photo