Hello Guys and Gals!
If you’ve been following this newsletter for a while, you may recall some of the marvelous French restaurants that have come our way this year. And it wasn't all that hard to find them, as French cooking is undergoing something of a renaissance in New York. And while the competition was strong, the standout was Le Coucou, where our dining experiences have been memorable in every way.
Which is why it was fun to pick up the New York Times last Wednesday to learn that Pete Wells, its food critic, also chose Le Coucou as his best dining experience of the year, awarding it First Place in his list of The Top Ten Restaurants of 2016.
And what an amazing year it's been for the Chicago-born Daniel Rose, the chef/owner of Le Coucou which opened in August. Word-on-the-street has it that he's just returned from Paris where he added the venerable bistro Chez la Vieille in Les Halles to his collection of restaurants. The ‘old dame’, Adrienne, for whom the restaurant had been named, has passed away, but not Rose’s fond memories of the traditional French fare she dished up when he first arrived in Paris more than a dozen years ago.
Meanwhile, his restaurant Spring, also in Les Halles, continues to be one of the hottest tickets in town, reservations hard to come by. Then, too, there is the rumor that Le Coucou may be opening in Miami. Le Coucou Sud?
Another newly-arrived French restaurant in New York, which had also been featured in this column in 2016, was Le Coq Rico, a younger sibling of a popular restaurant by the same name in Paris. An all-bird bistro under the guidance of the congenial three-star chef, Antoine Westermann, Le Coq Rico came in at number five on Pete Wells's list. Other memorable newly-arrived restaurants that remain high on my list are the sumptuous Vaucluse on the Upper East Side; the lively Le Bibloquet in Midtown, and the eponymously-named Gabriel Kreuther, across from Bryant Park in Midtown.
To show you how the times are changing, 4 out of 10 of Pete Wells's top picks were restaurants in Brooklyn, which has become Mecca for foodies. What was disappointing was to see how many of these restaurants have dispensed with tablecloths. Doesn't the ambiance count? There’s nothing more calming for frazzled nerves than a yard of white damask spread in front of you. Understandably, tablecloths run up the laundry bills, but so do napkins and uniforms. Are they next to go?
Then, too, all those soft materials—draperies, carpeting, napery—absorb the chatter and noise, which may be another reason restaurateurs have been happy to jettison the tablecloths. For years, high noise levels have been the rule, the 'group-think' being that noisy restaurants are thought of as successful restaurants.
That said, there have been a few challengers of late. Keith McNally’s Cherche Midi, for instance, is a joyful place where you can have a fine meal and engage in conversation without shouting. This evolution in fine dining, by the way, comes from the same entrepreneur who in his other restaurants--Balthazar, Schiller's, and the former Pastis--has championed turn-of-the-century tin ceilings, tiled floors, and snug tables. All guaranteed to ramp up the decibel count.
It's a wrap for this year mes amies. Wherever you may be spending the holidays, I'm wishing you a Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukah! And a good Kwanzaa! Hope to see you back here in 2017, when I'll have the coffee waiting.
But for now, let's have a toast...a real one, with a glass of champagne! It's French, you know. So, here's to you, here's to me, and here's to 2017. May the promise of the New Year be yours. Cheers! À votre santé!