Le Coucou is Classic Chic
With the help of a friend, I was excited to score a prime time slot at Chef Daniel Rose and Stephen Starr's most anticipated restaurant. Since it opened its doors a few months ago, there has been a lot of positive buzz about this place. The restaurant is beautifully designed with comfortable seating. It's cozy, but you don't feel crowded. The main dining room also overlooks the expansive open kitchen. With at least a dozen cooks hurrying around at their perspective stations. I also love the acoustic of the room as you could actually carry on a conversation with your party without having to shout at each other.
The service was attentive and our server was very knowledgeable about the menu. As to the food, it was superb. Each dish has its own characteristic and flavor profile. They are perfectly cooked and seasoned. I was blown away dish after dish. Right from the bread service I knew I'd like this place since other than butter they also gave us lard,
To start we had Chef Daniel Rose's take on Oeuf norvégien, a whole soft-boiled egg with artichoke heart, chive cream and wrapped in smoked salmon. The whole dish was so light and not overpowering. The artichoke heart was tender with still a little bit of bite so not mushy and when it's eaten with the egg created a harmony of texture. We also had the Fleurs de courgettes farcies which was lobster stuffed squash blossoms with yogurt, mint, dill and cucumber. Melt in your mouth delicious. More tastiness followed by the pike quenelle and lobster with sauce American. The sauce was deep with lobster flavor. The pike quenelle was delicate and smooth. This was another excellent dish. Our final appetizer was the veal tongue with golden ossetra caviar and crème fraîche. I love the pairing of the luxurious caviar and the most tendered tongue I've had tasted. It was such a beautiful pairing. For me this was highlight of all the starters.
For entree, we decided on the duck with mission figs, foie gras and black olives. Yet another tasty dish with the ingredient cooked and seasoned perfectly. We also had the Tout le lapin, aka
all of the rabbit. For me this was the highlight of this entire meal. The whole rabbit was cooked in three ways. The hind legs were marinated in mustard overnight then cook with caramelized onion. The sweetness of the onions mellows out the intense flavor of the mustard which created this beautiful marinate for the rabbit. The saddle was rolled and stuffed with the liver. Melt in your mouth and simple delectable. Finally the rest of the body and bones were made it the most scrumptious stock I've had tasted. I kept going back for more. My server told us that she craves that broth when we ordered this dish and now I know exactly what she meant. I will be craving this broth too. It is so simple, so clean and oh so delicious.
Finally we had a blue berry tart with goat cheese ice cream for dessert. Again like the rest of the meal, so nice and delicate. Even though we were so full, we couldn't stop eating. For me this was probably one of the best meals I've had this year. I love Chef Daniel Rose's twist to the classic French to the Classic Chic. It was absolutely spectacular.
NYC FOODIE OPENING OF THE WEEK: LE COUCOU
Restaurateur Stephen Starr is on a hot streak as of late. With the great Italian inspired fare at Upland, the upscale British pub fare at The Clocktower, he now brings fantastic French to Soho with Le Coucou in the 11 Howard Hotel. Starr has a knack for picking awesome chefs, and Chef Daniel Rose is no exception. After a meal there last week, I'm happy to tell you that Le Coucou is one of the Best restaurants to open all year. With spot on service, a great setting, and fabulous food, this restaurant should be on your radar. I'll be back soon, and I hope to see you there!
Start with a taste of Summer with their salad of tomatoes and peas, refreshed with strawberries and pistachios. Fresh, vibrant, light,- Summer in your mouth. Then maybe some big eye tuna with asparagus and smoked wood vinegar. #perfection
The most perfectly cooked tender duck comes with cherries, foie gras, and black olives. #Amazing One of the dishes of the year is served at Le Coucou, a fan favorite, and a must order. It's their pike quenelle with lobster sauce (which has lobster in it!) and it's truly magical. After my first bite, a culinary orgasm commenced. #yesplease
Don't skip dessert at Le Coucou either, because it's sweet perfection too. Both desserts I had were unbelievable. Chiboust a la vanille with red wine cherries is a cream pastry that will melt in your mouth. Chocolate Mousse is so amazing that you will be just a magician like me and make the entire bowl disappear in an instant. #Magic
See you at Le Coucou soon. A taste of Paris in Soho. French Magic awaits!
#Canard et cerises - #duck, mission figs, #foiegras, black olives - balances magically, surprises with bursts of sweet & briny, thrills… as does so much of this wonderful Christmas dinner at one of my favorite places to open in NYC in a long time. Bravo @danielroseadventure! (at Le Coucou)
Le Coucou- La Vie en Daniel Rose
My dinner at Le Coucou made me giddily, grinningly happy. It has been a long time since the atmosphere, food, and most importantly service, impressed me to the degree that Le Coucou did. I am not saying that everything was perfect, and perhaps my standards for service have been lowered due to the dire situations I have experienced lately (La Sirena, Le Coq Rico, I am talking about you) but Le Coucou is what dining in a pedigreed restaurant should be. Also, Husband, a notorious curmudgeon and reluctant diner at hyped new restaurants, was also blown away by our server, which was eager to accommodate his aversion to vegetables. Stephen Starr, you are doing something right.
It’s what’s on the inside that matters
Le Coucou is picture perfect, and it would be easy to dismiss the beautiful hostess as a stereotype, but she was helpful, efficient and engaged, far from just a model on autopilot. The bar area is small but well articulated, and any dalliance into “too precious” territory is canceled out by the character of the bartender, which is refreshingly attitude free. The No 2 cocktail seems like it was made for me ( or maybe any white chick), and I am obsessed with it: rosé, aquavit and elderflower, garnished with a cucumber; this should be mandatory drinking all summer long. The Roman and Williams designed dining room is stunning, basically divided into front and back areas, anchored by a large wall of windows in the front and the gorgeous, bustling open kitchen in the back. The first table at which we were seated was one of a couple of oddly placed tables straddling the two dining rooms and flush with a service station, awkward and in the way; fortunately they were able to accommodate our request for another table.
My take-away from Le Coucou was this: don’t be afraid to be a little daring with your order. The more complex, or slightly unfamiliar items that we tried reaped the biggest rewards. The Ouef Norvégien is sure to be a talking point for anyone who visits Le Coucou, and it was as good as I could have dreamed. A huge, perfectly poached egg is covered with airy, whipped creamed cheese dotted with scallions, then covered with perfectly silky and salty smoked salmon. The whole lot is placed over soft artichokes and some arugula, and when tasted it brings to mind the most composed, layered breakfast item you could imagine. The scallion cheese does not overpower the delicateness of the salmon, which was good enough to be a stand-alone item. The egg yolk simply gives some extra viscosity and fattiness. The fried quail was as perfectly done as one could hope, a substantially sized quail with the bones gently removed when needed, with a crunchy fry, herb butter that melts into the meat and a little lemon for some zip.
I’ve got sole but I’m not a solider…
For our main courses, I knew I wanted Dover Sole but husband was having a hard time making his selection. He has an intrinsic aversion to many types of vegetables and was not sold on ordering the lamb chops due to what he viewed as the offensive presence of eggplant. When he asked the waiter if there was any way to substitute the eggplant for something he might actually eat, like potatoes, the response offered could not have been better. The waiter was eager to find a solution, and amenable to asking the chef to work in a new element to the dish. Too often any request to alter a dish slightly is answered with “no substations” or “this is how the chef envisions this dish,” so a waiter and ultimately a chef being open to tweaking a menu item to please a customer was a breath of fresh air. Our waiter was really happy to find a solution and even made sure it was pleasing (it was,) instead of being haughty and condesencing. Service, apparently, is not dead, it has just been hiding in Paris (or Philadelphia?!) My dover sole was a little overwhelmed by the amount of buttery sauce heaped on and around it, and such a delicate fish I feel would have been better served by the addition of more citrus to cut the thickness of the sauce. The grapes also seemed a little misguided, but overall a pleasant dish.
The best chocolate mousse
For dessert I pretended I was in Paris and allowed myself a taste of three cheeses, and Husband got the chocolate mousse, both of which were phenomenal. Chef Daniel Rose was on the floor at times, but was most definitely hard at work. He has an easy charm but has the essence of someone who would rather be running a kitchen than schmoozing a room. I was happy to have grabbed his attention for a very quick chat.
Pantsarazzi, we see you Chef
Open Kitchen creeping
The bar, during the day
Daryl went to Le Coucou for breakfast and was equally smitten, especially with how the space looks in full daylight. While the breakfast menu is not overly ambitious (in a good way), everything she ate was cooked properly and had precise flavors. Daryl’s takeaway was that come Fall, Le Coucou will be the hot place for breakfast meetings for the fashion set, and should be filed away as the go-t0 place to impress your breakfast companion without being pretentious.
Avocado toast, obvs
Le Coucou is not to be missed, and will be the place everyone is talking about. Go for the food but go back for the service…
Pants tip: Make a night of it and grab a drink around the corner at The Blond, sexy sexy…
One Hears Le Coucou
One does indeed hear Le Coucou at this loose but swanky French bistro on the border of Little Italy (technically a few yards east of SoHo). And one doesn't hear it in the distant forest.
No, one hears it in the restrooms, where the mildly annoying French children's song, "Dans la forêt lointaine on entend le coucou" plays on an endless loop. One of the few mis-steps in what is otherwise a highly polished dining experience.
I say "experience" deliberately, and the food is only a part of it. Every other part of the experience, from elegant service by a surely excessive number of suited captains, to the freewheeling luxury of the surroundings--a vaulted ceiling, grand chandeliers, but wooden floorboards--is working powerful charms on a very mixed crowd. Well-off older diners, couples on a date, fashionistas spending a suspicious amount of time in the bathrooms (becoming word perfect, no doubt, in the cuckoo song).
Le Coucou is in the fashionable 11 Howard Hotel, with its own entrance. (If you need a drink before dinner--and on a hot evening, I did--about the best alternative to the hyped-up The Blonde bar in the hotel is probably the former Mare Chiaro, a short walk away on Mulberry Street--now called, tediously, The Mulberry Street Bar).
You're greeted by a miniscule bar where a couple of couches support diners waiting for tables (this is a very popular place). The dining area is L-shaped. At first glance, it seems to consist of one narrow corridor, but just around the corner it opens out into a larger room with an open kitchen. The first space has the vaulted ceiling, reminding me of restaurants in Barcelona's Barri Gòtic. There's no hanging ceiling in the second space, which boosts the noise level.
Although the bare boards say steakhouse, the linen-draped tables say fine dining (the restaurant sends many such mixed messages). There is bread service, but oddly no bread knife (when each course is cleared, you need to spread butter with your finer). Excellent unsalted butter though, together with a cautiously portioned section of radish per diner, and (NYC 2016) some rosemary flavored lard. I have to say, my parents and grandparents would be astonished that bread 'n' dripping has become part of haute cuisine.
New York 2016, again: the menu is divided into hors d'oeuvres and poissons et viandes--clear enough--divided by an extra section, gourmandises. Whether or not the intention is to refer to gluttony (a gourmand, in French, is nothing less), the effect is certainly to prompt diners to add an extra savory course. So I did, taking two classics to start the meal: the fried tripe and the gefilte fish.
Okay, okay: but the names on Le Coucou's menu are highly fanciful. The tripe is subtitled, souvenirs oublie de lyon; the best I can do with that is "forgotten memories of Lyon." Simply, the dish is what the Lyonnais call tablier de sapeur--sapeur being a "sapper" (military engineer) and tablier being the leather apron in which he carried his tools. The authentic dish does look like that, the tripe breaded and fried in one huge piece, and served with boiled potatoes and sauce gribiche.
Here, chef Daniel Rose introduced delicacy by slicing the (smaller) portion, using very crispy crumbs (panko?), laying it over a tomato confit, and garnishing with dill. Unfortunately, he also restrains his hand when it comes to seasoning (and the tripe could be a little more tender). Personally, I miss the sauce gribiche.
It's good value for a restaurant of these ambitions--$12. You can get a more rustic version at L'Express, a bouchon on Park Avenue, at $9.95.
This, of course, is what Rose is known for: classic bistro dishes with a "modern sensibility." Or, "fundamental dishes that we learned about in cooking school but didn’t think were very interesting at the time." And Rose learned about those dishes in Paris, where he runs Spring and Le Bourse et la Vie. Le Coucou is his first US venture.
So next up, another memory of Lyon (although to New Yorkers of a certain age, it perhaps recalls La Caravelle and La Côte Basque): not gefilte fish, but the fancier quenelle de brochet. Ethereal pike dumplings in a lobster sauce. Or a dumpling, anyway. The sauce was rich, with that deep mineral flavor of long-cooked lobster shells. I could have used more, because it was the prime flavor element in the dish. The quenelle was about as light and delicate as possible without floating in the air like a bubble. But taste--seasoning--was not prominent.
Now the plot thickens. Rose is a notable presence, not only in the kitchen but in the dining room, scampering back and forth with pans from which he was personally serving something or other to selected tables. (You can spot him anyway because, although he's the top tocque, he's the chef not wearing one). He was sufficiently displeased with his first attempt at my quenelle that he ditched it and started again. This meant a long wait, but the dish was comped.
In fact, to my surprise, dessert was comped too. This is a very generous restaurant, then, and I can't over state the solicitiousness of the service. Which is why I feel bad about the main course, which was a three-part disappointment.
Tout le lapin, this is called, and is pretty much "all the rabbit," but quite manageable for one person. (Two could share, but would need a couple of appetizers each.) There are three servings (that's one more than pressed duck service at La Tour D'Argent, if you're counting). First, the saddle, deftly butchered and stuffed with liver. There's a scoop of finely chopped innards on the side too, spiked with something acidic--verjus, or perhaps just vinegar. A nice hint of mint floated through the course, signalled by the mint leaf garnish,
The drawback again, no sign of salt. Domestic rabbit produces bland meat, especially in the saddle (it's the rabbit equivalent of chicken breast).
The second service was certainly dramatic: a huge, steaming copper pan. The downside this time was that, as far as rabbit went, the pan contained only the forelegs. I'm sure you're all familiar with rabbit forelegs. They're not quite quail wings, but they are not the meatiest or tastiest part of the beast. Two skinny forelegs, swimming in a sea of very mildly flavored broth, with some excellent baby turnips, and baby carrots overcooked to softness.
In a city where the broth standards might be measured by Hearth or Oiji (where the broth in which oxtails swim has symphonic depth), this isn't up to scratch,
Finally, a real puzzle. My third serving might have been an aberration, but it's an aberration to which the kitchen--on the basis of anecdotal evidence--is prone. Some people who have ordered the rabbit report "meaty" back legs. Others report "mush."
Sadly, I got mush. Or not mush, exactly, but rabbit meat reduced to a kind of toothpaste texture. Very odd. I've braised rabbit for hours and never produced anything like this. Could it be erratic use of a sous vide machine? I don't know, but the rabbit paste was woven into a dense nest of sweet Spanish onions reduced almost to a soubise. It was not pleasant.
And just as I was sitting there musing on the rabbit, and wondering why the kitchen didn't just turn out a good lapin à la moutarde and leave it at that, when I was offered complimentary dessert. Hard to stay angry at these guys. A refreshing plate of strawberries and almonds, with a tarragon sauce, and first-class strawberry sorbet profiteroles. Light, sweet, seasonal. (There's a cheese board they'll present if you have room for it.)
So many diners are so fully convinced by Le Coucou's proffer, that I won't win a popularity contest by pointing out some issues. I'd have hesitated to be so strongly critical of the rabbit if others had not had the same experience with it. The duck or beef might well be superb. Right now, this has the bones of a top-notch relaxed-formal French restaurant, perhaps filling the boots of Montrachet, for those who remember it. But it does need some tuning.
Although the prices of individual dishes were fair (that rabbit, $33), the fully monty--three savories, cheese, dessert and wine, will put you much closer to $200 than $100. The wine-list makes absorbing reading, but good luck finding more than a couple of reds under $50. Here's the website.