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El Tucan on Coney Island (long)

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El Tucan on Coney Island (long)

Miriam G. | May 22, 2001 04:06 PM

My husband and I took a break from house renovation to have a late meal at El Tucan on Coney Island Avenue near Avenue C last Saturday night--about 10:00. We thought it was Mexican but it turns out to be a mix of Central American cuisines, I think (papusas, eg?). I'm hoping someone with more knowledge about South of border cuisines eats there and shares some thoughts.
The place was empty when we arrived, save the waitresses and the DJ. The music was already loud and the disco ball spinning. Food--with just the 2 of us we didnt' get a great variety of dishes, but: To start my husband ordered a plate of yuca and chicharrones. The waitress was kind enough to tell us the yuca was fried--a good thing, in my book. Best dish of the evening: The yuca was piping hot, absolutely greaseless, the frying oil must have been fresh, the outside crisp, the inside tender-al dente...We couldn't stop eating it and luckily there was enough for the 2 of us to have our fill. The chicharrones were a tad dry but crispy/chewy and flavorful, and, major highlight, the platter included spectacular pickled red onion slices (too few!) and a vinegary, cayenne-peppery cabbage slaw (we noticed that a young man who arrived later got a starter bowl of the slaw when he arrived; we got decent chips and a slightly watery but tasty fresh salsa).
We ordered too much--that platter was almost enough to be dinner. But: 2 thick, dense corn tamales were also piping hot, slightly sweet, like a coarse and intensely corn-flavored corn pudding. I think we ordered them with cheese, but I didn't taste any. They came with a little bowl of crema--into which we dipped the fried yuca--delicious! Finally, I ordered chile rellenos--quite a surprise. They were too falling aprt to be stuffed, really, and had a meat-like, tomato-y sauce that also covered the platter--could it have been some kind of pounded, shredded beef? Was not what I expected (should I have asked for con queso, as suggested by hubby?), but again, I'm wondering if it was a version native to a country other than Mexico...Tasty, but I wouldn't order it again. A side of refried beans was slightly bitter and dry.
The menu listed some very interesting dishes but the kitchen did not have a couple of them--86 the squash and cheese fritters I wanted, for one.
By the time we left after 11:00, a table of young men and 2 couples, all speaking Spanish, had arrived for dinner--we certainly felt old and staid (we're 40, if you must know). I recommend some exploratory dinners to Brooklyn hounds, and would love to hear further reports. Coney Island Ave. is looking up!

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