It was coup de foudre! For the French-impaired in the audience, that would be equivalent to “love at first sight!” In this case, more appropriately, love at first bites!
Le Coucou was one of the most anticipated restaurant openings of 2016. Chef Daniel Rose is American, but never having cooked here, he made his name in the culinary world in Paris. With restaurateur Stephen Starr backing him, Le Coucou would introduce him to the US via the New York dining scene. It opened the third week in June. We had our first dinner there a week later.
Truth be told, we were known to General Manager Troy Weismann. He had previously been a manager at Upland (another Starr restaurant) a few blocks from our apartment where we’ve been dining with some regularity since it opened in the fall of 2015. Also, when we arrived at Le Coucou, we discovered that one of the reception staff is Frank (don’t know his last name). He had worked at Upland as well as two other restaurants close to our apartment that we frequent, The Clocktower (also a Starr spot) and Danny Meyer’s Maialino. Frank greeted us effusively at the door and introduced us to the lovely ladies at the reception stand. How flattering it was to hear them say that they’d heard about us and were excited to have us there!
The space is gorgeous. The long front room leads to another room behind it where the open kitchen is located. On that first visit, we were led to a capacious table near the open kitchen. Seated side-by-side on a cushy banquette, we had a partial view of the brigade at work. This became pretty much our regular table and can easily seat four.*
The dinner during my birthday extravaganza in October was our fourth visit. And we’ve since been twice more: in November and again this past Saturday. During our initial dinner, we met Chef Rose for the first time. (Some patrons know him from his Paris restaurants which did not exist when we last visited France in 1999. We’ve kidded him that at that time he was still a young lad in school.) Sweet and self-effacing despite being so-o-o-o talented, he has gifted us with special treats and extra courses, often serving them to us himself. His cuisine is classic French. It is, in a word, sensational!
Jen and Louis joined us for the birthday extravaganza dinner. As I mentioned above, our table was a more than comfortable fit for the four of us. Jen and I sat on the banquette – she commented on how comfortably cushy it was — while Michael and Louis were in chairs opposite us.
Our captain for the evening was Jason. I must pause to note that service is always polished yet relaxed and friendly. That’s not just because we’re “friends of the house” since every report I’ve read has described the service that way. So, that is the Le Coucou way!
Michael consulted Jason regarding which wines by-the-glass would suit what he planned to order, settled on a Givry, and had two glasses.
Dinner always commences with a basket of wonderfully crusty bread accompanied by butter and lardo.
I’m not a lardo fan, but since it is house made, I figured I should try it which I did during our first visit. Nope. Still not my thing. Unfortunately, there is no gluten-free bread, so Louis had to abstain. However, the good news is that there was hardly anything on the menu that he needed to avoid.
For the first course, Jen chose Poireaux: Leeks with Hazelnuts which I’d had during one of the prior dinners. Leeks Vinaigrette are a bistro classic, a must for anyone who loves leeks (raising my hand). The hazelnuts are a Chef Rose enhancement.
Louis, Michael and I chose Celeri Remoulade: Celery Root with Apple, Smoked Salmon, and Walnuts which Michael and I had not had before. Chef Rose amps up this French classic by combining it with smoked salmon. Brilliant!
For the main course, Jen had Canard et Figues: Duck with Mission Figs, Foie Gras, and Black Olives.
I’d had the duck during our first meal when it was accompanied by cherries and a scrumptious cherry sauce. And, of course, the foie gras! An enormous tranche! If you passed our table that night, that was me moaning in ecstasy. Jen found her version equally superb. As I adore figs, I’ve no doubt I’d love the dish that way too.
Louis had Halibut Beurre Blanc with Daikon Prepared as Choucroute.
I had it in November, so I understand why he was totally happy with it. A perfectly prepared hunk of fish dressed with a classic sauce. As the French expression goes, “Le sauce c’est tout!” Plus, Chef Rose’s idea to prepare daikon radish in the style of sour kraut is an inspired conception.
Michael and I regularly check the on-line menu to see what new dishes Chef Rose might be presenting. When we saw the listing for Faisan à l’Alsacienne: Pheasant for two Alsace style with Foie Gras and Stuffed Cabbage, it was a no brainer as to what our main course would be.
Supremely succulent pheasant, two ginormous tranches of foie gras, and amazing stuffed cabbage (definitely not like the kind I prepare). What can I say? Heavenly!
We next all shared a Cheese Course.
Dessert? Mais, bien sûr!
Michael and Louis each chose Mousse au Chocolat which Michael and I had shared at the end of one of our previous meals. Considering its serious deliciousness, I can understand why he decided to have it again. Oh, and Louis concurred.
Michael had a glass of Madeira, a perfect accompaniment with chocolate desserts.
Jen had Pluots Pochés: Poached Pluots with Thyme Sorbet. On the side: Almond Financier. She was pleased with everything. I had a bite of the financier. Very tasty!
I couldn’t resist having Chiboust aux Figues with Port Wine and Cinnamon especially considering my love of figs. Served warm, this light, elegant dessert was right up my sweet endings alley. (I had it again this past Saturday. Still scrumptious!)
Well, not quite the end. As always, there were these lovely Mignardises: Pâtes de Fruits, Cookies, and Chocolate.
Dining at Le Coucou always feels special. Dining there with Jen and Louis in celebration of my birthday made it extra-special. No surprise that they loved it as much as we do.
Le Coucou has been showered with well-deserved accolades and has made every year-end “Best Restaurants 2016” list often in the Number 1 position. Obviously, Michael and I are far from the only ones who find everything about it enchanting.
I’m guessing you can tell that the “coup de foudre” we felt the first time has turned into an enduring love affair. We have not the slightest doubt it will last into the foreseeable future.
*On one of our previous visits, our regular table was occupied by Danny Meyer and his dining companions. No complaints from us about having a different table because (a) it was Danny Meyer and (b) we were seated at the backwards mirror image table just on the opposite side of the banquet immediate behind Meyer, et al, with a view of the kitchen’s right side instead of the left. (And, no, we did not speak with Meyer though we have met him a few times.) This past Saturday, since our table was already occupied, we were seated at a two-top at the rear of the front room with a view of that entire room as well a view into the back room with a more expansive view of the open kitchen than from our usual table. We liked it so much that when it’s just the two of us — which is most of the time — we’re going to request Table 54.
The entire photo set from the birthday extravaganza dinner can be viewed on my Flickr here.