2610 Main St.

Open Daily: 5pm to late
Signature Drink: Sex on the Beach
Signature Dish: Sweet Carrot & Brie Perogies

Rating: **** 1/5

Dinner & drinks for 2: $100

Some good habits are easy to form.

I had planned to visit this spot almost a year ago, just after Chef Tina Fineza (Flying Tiger) had worked her consulting magic on the menu, and renos had been completed. But then a massive fire gutted the interior over the Christmas season and the doors closed. A few weeks ago, Habit re-opened, with a stunning romper room that hints at 70s Canadiana and has made shag sexy all over again. It’s comfortable, chic and dim enough that Main Street swanksters, Yaletown ex-pats and Kits retirees can all feel comfortable together.

No reservations are taken, but a moderately busy Friday night saw us seated almost immediately. (Still, as word spreads, it would prudent to try to arrive on the early side.) The drinks list borders on stunted, listing only five options—all of which are fresh takes on classics like Sex on the Beach, Manhattan, Sloe Gin Fizz and Tequila Sunrise.

Priced around $9, they’re fairly reasonable, until you realize that you have to make them yourself. That’s right, cocktails arrive in bento boxes, with all of the ingredients in individual pours, plus a personal shaker, glass and printed instructions. The last are fairly straightforward—mix, shake and pour. It’s fun and kinda cute, with little paper umbrellas and a recipe you get to take home. The pour fills your glass up flush with the rim, so hope you have a steady hand.

The whiskey list, on the other hand, is exclusively Canadian, exhaustingly long—and extremely detailed. Over twenty labels on the list, and all are from somewhere between here and Nova Scotia, with the bulk coming out of Ontario and Alberta; each has a brief descriptor of origin, palate and aroma. All can be ordered in a cocktail, but I would recommend getting to know some of these on an individual and personal basis. These are sipping whiskeys, not firewater, so don’t come here looking for a fast tipple. Habit is all about comfort—comfortable sipping, comfortable seating, and comfortable service.

As for the food, it’s equally comfort-based. A few runs through the menu revealed little to complain of and lots to return for. Brie and sweet carrot perogies ($11) with a chived sour cream and caramelized onions is a starter that could almost double as a savoury dessert, it’s that good. In fact, I came back a couple of time just for these. Salt cod cakes over a wild rice and sunchoke pancake ($12) is one of the coolest flavour combos I have tried in a good while, while pork croquettes with braised fennel ($11) actually taste like pork—lots of local, grain-fed pork. In fact, most of the proteins are local, sustainable, organic or a combination of all three.

For mains one night, we went with grilled sockeye ($17) served with French lentils and a nutty butternut squash purée. The salmon was moist and separated at the slightest command from the fork. Pacific halibut ($19) was sadly slightly over-cooked to my taste, although the side of Israeli couscous was absolute perfection. In fact, I would love to see this added to the sides menu, right above the potato-parsnip mash.

Dessert included the much-abused crème brulée ($6), here thankfully done comme il faut—with a rich vanilla creaminess and a lovely, hard shell. A monstrous chocolate brownie ($7) was satisfying sweet, with its honeyed walnuts, mocha ice cream and caramel sauce, but should really have been listed as a sharing dessert—unless you’re a six-year-old.

Overall, Habit shows a wonderful instance of quality of cookery indeed living up to quality of ingredients. And that’s a habit worth keeping.

Finca Flichman, Part 2

Last week, I reviewed this Mendoza winery’s Cabernet Sauvignon; this week we move on to Malbec. The 2008 is a deep red quaff of plums and berries, with a slightly oaky aroma of cherries and more plum. Decanting for a solid 20 minutes helps this wine expand in the mouth, and the soft finish helps it pair with braised meats and even meatier seafood, like a maple-glazed salmon. At $11.99 (BCLS), you can even afford to buy two.

Top Shelf

Who Wants a Donut?

To celebrate their 30th anniversary, Lee’s Donuts, located in the Granville Island Public Market, will be selling their Plain Cake Donuts at the 1979 price of thirty cents each until September 25 inclusive. Race you…

Dining Out

Go Whole Hog at Fuel

Fuel Restaurant (1944 West 4 Ave) will offer their annual Whole Hog Dinner on November 25, 26 and 27. Five-course menu is $69; optional wine pairings $39. Dishes include spiced crackling with salsa verde, smoked lard ravioli, stuffed trotter, slow roasted shoulder and bacon ice cream. Reservations required. Call 604-288-7905.

La Cuisine de Chez Nous

For the month of October, Bistro Pastis (2153 West 4 Ave) is offering a three-course prix fixe menu of classic French comfort food for $37.50. Options include beef bourguignon, terrine de canard, sole Normande, potato and leek soup, caramel apple tart with crème anglaise, and chocolate profiteroles. Call 604-731-5020 for reservations.

Food in Brief

Deacon’s Corner Diner has won 1st place at the Gastown Chili & Blues Festival’s Annual Chili Cook-off. You can taste it at the diner at 101 Main St.

Barbara-Jo McIntosh’s classic home-grown cookbook, Tin Fish Gourmet, is again available after a long absence. Pick up a copy at Barbara-Jo’s Books-to-Cooks (1740 West 2 Ave) while supplies last.