85 Ave A between 5th and 6th Sts (212-477-9887). Subway: F, V to Lower East Side--Second Ave; 6 to Astor Pl. Mon--Thu 5:30--11pm; Fri, Sat 5:30--11pm. Average main course: $16.
Tigerland didn’t pounce on the East Village; the restaurant snuck up and marked its territory slowly and carefully. Brother-sister team Judy and Jimmy Tu recognized that while the ’hood was filled with Pan-Asian menus—maybe too many of them—there sure as hell wasn’t any place offering organic ingredients prepared by a chef with a fine-dining pedigree. Mr. Tu, an alum of Eleven Madison Park, Nicole’s and Citarella, has assembled a small collection of recipes from his eclectic background (his Chinese parents were born in Vietnam but raised their kids in Thailand). No sprawling menus. No endless variations on boring classics. Instead: an odd but consistently flavorful assortment of not-so-obvious Asian dishes. The Thai shrimp cakes (pictured) are surprisingly tangy and greasefree. The “Berkshire ribs braised in coconut juice” taste as good as they sound; Tu marinates organic pork ribs in a lemongrass and garlic paste, and then braises them in coconut juice, fish sauce and fresh coconut meat. Adding one more angle of innovation, the Tus offer three homemade sodas: tamarind, ginger and lime. Served in glass jars with handles and straws, they’re terrific on their own and ideal options for anyone who doesn’t want to drink any of the Asian beers or New York wines (bottles range from $23 to $58). The decor focuses on function over form, which is a nice way of saying it’s neither pretty nor ugly; the food is the draw. Crowds have already caught on, so don’t be surprised if you have to endure a short wait on weekends.—TONY