Jungle Fever

The Toucan & the Lion brings warmth to winter

Gastropub cuisine, at its worst, is heavy stuff, more leaden than a No. 2 pencil.

Not so at the new Toucan & the Lion in the East Village, where the dishes yank inspiration from Latin America and Southeast Asia.

Sure, the food from chef Justin Fertitta has heft. His mofongo ($14) captures the substantive spirit of the iconic Puerto Rican comfort dish. But he also upends its rough-hewn nature, fancifying a hash of crisp taro root with duck confit and surrounding it with a moat of plucky salsa verde, then topping the lot with a fried egg.

Like the airy, whitewashed space, there is a breezy playfulness to the rest of the menu. A goat potpie ($22) resembles the traditional dish in name only. Fertitta wanted "a ballsier version," so the entrée features braised goat swathed in house-made massamun curry, fortified with red kuri squash and local purple sweet potatoes and served with fresh, buttery roti. Even roasted Brussels sprouts ($6) are blasted with the essence of Vietnam–lemongrass and fish sauce.

For a liquid taste of the tropics, order La Isla ($12). In it, Haitian rum is infused with gen-maicha tea and mixed with fresh coconut water and velvet falernum.

Winter vacation has become a whole lot cheaper than a flight south.

The Toucan & the Lion, 342 E. Sixth St. (at First Ave.); 212-375-8989 or thetoucanandthelion.com