Let me preface this by saying I do not normally dream about food.
It is a rare occasion I will enjoy a meal so much that I will go back and eat it again in a dream, let alone in real life. Sometimes I simply am not inspired to do so in either respect.
But I have dreamt about this burger, because I imagine my subconscious felt one experience of eating it in an evening was not enough and it instantly required more.
Having the pleasure of dining out with JW, who I had not seen in a year plus, we were initially going to go someplace else in the East Village, when I thought of the burger at The Toucan and the Lion. I stopped in my tracks and gasped. “What’s wrong?” JW said, and rightfully so. It was a simple burst of inspiration that had manifested itself in appearance as a moment of terror. When it dawned on me that this restaurant, where everything I had sampled was simply sublime (in my mind as I write this I am saying the word as the French do—“soo-bleem”), was also close by, I proposed JW look at the menu and see if it was to her liking. It was, and in we went.
Perhaps I should have written about this restaurant before. Perhaps I should have noted its petite bar snuggled by a long, high-top wooden communal table, its other dining room with lovely little white metal tables, lit by white chandeliers giving off subtly orange light. Perhaps I should have written about the adorable waiters and the air of modern yet casual elegance that pervades the small space. But more ‘perhaps’ than anything, I should have written about the burger.
I first read about this burger in New York magazine, and I thought it sounded strange and weird, a coma-inducing calorie fest that one simply should not eat more than once in a lifetime for fear of one’s health. On Chinese bao bun, the burger is topped with cashew butter and bacon. Maybe it doesn’t sound too wild. Maybe it’s not a violently long list of complicated ingredients that would be of interest to foodies, including words like ‘confit’ and ‘radicchio’. But that’s also what makes it amazing.
Bacon—not too complicated, the candy of meats; sweet, salty, generally delicious and occasionally worth the cult following it has inspired in recent years. Perfectly cooked.
Cashew Butter—Sweet but not too sweet, nutty (duh), and creamy; also not too complicated.
Bao bun—slim, doesn’t get in the way, allows the burger’s flavors to speak for itself. A little bit sweet and doughy-tasting (is that a thing? I’m trying not to sound like a d-bag, but I don’t know if it’s working), but it seals the deal.
Now put those three together and add delicious, juicy ground beef, and you, too, will have discovered one of the keys of the universe. It is a life-changing burger, the candle to which I will hold all other burgers in the future.
Once you take a bite, you just don’t want it to end. Each bite is salty, creamy, tangy, sweet, juicy, and utterly delectable. I wind my way slowly through it, making sure each mouthful has the perfect amount of cashew butter, beef, bacon and roll. Sometimes the cashew butter slides out and you have to redistribute it with a knife. But should you order it, make sure you truly savor each mouthful. Enjoy it with your eyes closed. See the flavors, taste them, smell them, feel them. Eat slowly. Long after JW had finished her equally brilliant Arctic Char, I was just beginning my second half of burger (I cut it so it didn’t squish everywhere), almost laughably savoring each bite. I urge you to do the same. You will not be disappointed.
Or, as JW said, "Maybe that's what love feels like, like you've just eaten a really good burger."
I certainly hope so.