First, a good thing about Tigertail, the nonspecifically Asian-themed lounge in Ballard: the flowering cherry tree painted in the ladies' restroom. It's not so skillfully trompe l'oeiled that you'd walk into the wall, but it's a happy surprise. It calls to mind the mural at the (also ambiguously Asiatic) bar Sun Liquor, which depicts a more elaborate tree with monkeys sitting in the branches holding fireworks. I imagined Tigertail's men's room with monkeys or tigers or, preferably, tigers eating monkeys; apparently it's got a koi theme that carries over into the washbasin, which sounds happy, too.

A bad thing: The flyer for the paintings currently hanging in Tigertail's main room was stuck to the table. The flyer from a neighboring table, while not sticky enough to be stuck, had clearly served many times as a coaster.

Tigertail is hard to get a grip on. It's sleek and dim and pretty, with richly colored, shadow-striped South American woodwork and lashed-bamboo chairs; it wouldn't be out of place in Belltown or downtown Ballard. On the same small strip as the (great) grubby Tin Hat and the Irish pub Molly Maguire's, it feels marooned, an outpost of upscaling. (Then again, the Dray—calling itself "a very good cafe and bottleshop"—just opened right next door.) Tigertail has been there since November, but it still seems not quite real.

The server delivered pan-Asian-small-plates/specialty-cocktails patter. Assuming the cleanliness issue was confined to the tables, I ate. The pan-Asian small plates ($3–$9): just okay. A special of spicy Vietnamese meatballs: lukewarm, somewhat stringy, abandoned. Chicken confit pot stickers: beautifully golden-fried, but with pasty, not especially tasty filling. Skewered cubes of kalbi-style beef with rich coconut sticky rice wrapped in a banana leaf: basic and good. The specialty cocktails ($7) varied likewise: In a cucumber-wasabi bloody mary, mighty wasabi annihilated timid cucumber (and the taste buds). A Saigon 66—champagne, gin, and house-made lemongrass syrup—tasted solely of the sparkling wine. A derby widow—Maker's Mark and elderberry liqueur with floating lemon pulp—was quite fine, but in more of an Alpine-lodge than pan-Asian vein. Fifteen kinds of sake are also available, which not many people were drinking.

A couple of local guys opened Tigertail. They've gone out of their way to do the right thing, using sustainable and salvaged materials, sourcing some local foodstuff. One of them said they wanted to do something that the neighborhood didn't have, something a little higher scale, something "not Euro-style tapas." Nothing's wrong with Tigertail per se, but maybe it feels more like the product of the process of elimination than like somebody's heartfelt wish to share their favorite things to eat and drink.

Tigertail, 704 NW 65th St, 781-TAIL.