Toucan and the Lion
THIS RESTAURANT HAS SADLY CLOSED
I choose to think of it as an Asian-Danish-Come What May influenced gastropub. It’s been referred to as any of these and more. What matters though, is that it’s the home of mostly interesting, innovative food with some of my favorite cocktails…ever.
It’s as if you suddenly found yourself in Monaco but you’re actually smack in the middle of the legendary Biryani Blvd aka East Sixth Street. Tres intime, beachy white with leafy hanging gardens everywhere. A seating capacity of maybe thirty? I’m not good at math but cozy is the word du jour.
Small plates, slightly bigger plates, a few sides all meant to be shared. It’s convivial, relaxed. No pressure to order up. Just drink your cocktail and see what looks good for the next round of dishes.
A word about the cocktails. I would have happily had any of the drinks we’d ordered. Usually I’m partial, secretly gloating on my good luck at having chosen well or sadly wishing I had been smarter about my choice and gone with my dining companion’s selection. This time we were all winners. Especially because Sundays and Mondays offer half price cocktails all night!
My trophy was the The Thai Fighter, a fabulous orchestration of bourbon, Thai basil leaves, lime, yuzu. It worked. Had several. Want one now. Also tasted The Lion, a kaffir ginger infused black rum, lime, sriracha. Loved. Not to be outdone by the Smoked Lychee – mezcal, lychee shrub, grapefruit bitters, malt rim. Just dandy.
Brunches are a great way to go here as well as stopping in for a cocktail (or three) and sharing a few tastes if you don’t want a full-on dinner. Loved the briny pop of the fried hop pickles from Brooklyn Brine Co, the lotus chips in a sriracha mayo, the stuffed shishito peppers all full of crab meat and duck sausage. The fish tacos with Asian slaw and dots of a mild white cheese were spot on. As was the yellow curry with tiger shrimp, hot hot peppers – a dish maybe meant for one of the many Indian joints down the block but veering more towards Thailand here. Toss in an order of the toasted bao buns with garlic lime butter and I’m a lifer.
Rounding off the meal was a lovely trio of creme brulees. You think yeah, whatever but kapow. These made it worth having creme brûlée again! A dark chocolate with basil, a red bean with ginger and an orange blossom with lime maybe. Sadly I may have these mixed up but happily – I don’t care. Just get them.
Things are pickled, spiced, muddled and combined with the unexpected. Not everything soars but I’d say for the most part it’s delightful, surprising and you do not, do not want to miss the cocktails.
The Toucan and the Lion
342 East Sixth Street between First/Second Avenues