Hiccups in service and execution seem to go unnoticed by the classically cultured guests of the The Lion, who will always be more interested in the elegant appearance of the networking-friendly space than the decently prepared, yet handsome dishes coming out of the kitchen. Because as long as you make par on a few holes, who really notices anything after that?
Since its earliest beginnings, the menu at The Lion has slowly shifted away from heavier, béchamel-laden recipes in favor of a lighter, citrus-oriented approach, while still showcasing stately dishes that appeal to our basic senses of sophisticated food. The preparation of the traditional Roman Jewish Artichoke alla Giudia appetizer stands out in particular, with the lightly fried leaves served like a lovely flower balancing the creaminess of the artichoke hearts with fresh lemon and herbs. The rest of chef and owner John DeLucie's menu reflects this kind of simple, yet high-end food that you might find in the expansive dining room of a country club. The Pan Seared Scottish Salmon, while inconsistently cooked throughout, is well-portioned and at least has a crisped and perfectly salted skin, pairing nicely with the sweet bed of roasted fennel, dill seeds, and blood orange sauce on which it sits.
The meats seem to be more successful (and less oily) than the fish, ranging from options like the Long Island Duck with the always interesting and trendy pairing of quinoa, fresh cherries, and mustard greens, to the Lion's signature pork belly Burger that has been around since the restaurant's opening, topped with tomato, caramelized onion, provolone, and smoked cheddar.
It's this balance of uncomplicated, yet upscaled and overpriced food that attracts the same crowd to The Lion every night. The dark and soaring interior space is capped with a massive skylight that beams down on couples in suits and formal wear whose children likely graduated from Ivy League institutions 8 or 9 years ago. From the nameless exterior, with just the "No. 62" printed on the black awning, to the A-list celebrities that sometimes frequent the comfortably rich and eclectic space, it's a restaurant that feels like privilege, even if reservations are reliably easy to come by.