For those of you following my blog, you’ll remember that last week Veronica’s Grave won a silver medal for memoir in an international competition, with entries coming from more than a dozen countries. Thinking such good news called for a celebration, we headed for one of the hottest destinations in town, Le Coucou on Lafayette Street, sharing as it does the corner at Howard Street with the new Eleven Howard hotel.
This is the latest offering from the Chicago-born Daniel Rose who, for many years, has been the talk of the Parisian food scene with his restaurant “Spring,” offering "New French" cuisine; namely traditional dishes reimagined for contemporary tastes. Returning to the States after nearly twenty years abroad, Rose’s Le Coucou, with its spectacular setting and equally spectacular food, is a most welcome addition to the New York dining scene.
There's so much to tell, but where to start? As you enter, to the right is the bar, with limited seating, and to the left a rustic chic-dining room, traditional in feel, with high ceilings, full-length windows overlooking the street, tables set with white cloths, and on every table, a candle winking at you. And if that isn't enough to satisfy, in the adjacent dining room, you can watch the chef and the kitchen staff at work. Or you can lean back, as I did, to admire the white-washed brick walls, the chandeliers that bring to mind a collection of upside-down votive glasses, and the unfinished ceiling hinting of its long-gone industrial past. The rate and the manner in which New York reinvents itself continues to dazzle this denizen of the city.
Tables are well-spaced, giving the feeling of cozy, not crowded or cramped. All of which means that the sound level is comfortable, and there’s no need to raise your voice to be heard by your companions. Even talking to our delightful neighbors, Amy and Jonathan, who had come down from the Upper West Side to celebrate their 24th anniversary, was a pleasure. (The above photo was taken earlier in the day, between meals.)
Immediately apparent was the warmth of the staff –- from the maître d'hôtel, the affable Michael Cecchi who came by to say hello, to the server who, when asked the name of a wine offered to write it down on a card.
As for the wines, we started with a Clos de la Meslerie Vouvray 2011, a delicious medium-bodied white, the color of hay and 100% chenin blanc. A great favorite. And we followed with a Dom Chatenoy Rosé Meneton-Salon 2015, from a village twenty minutes southwest of Sancerre in the Loire – a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. If clean and elegant, it was not quite as fruit-forward as I like my rosés. But then, again, we are talking Sancerre.
The menu is divided into three sections, beginning with small plates to be shared, with regular-sized appetizers, and with the main plates. For a starter, I went with grilled asparagus with shaved big-eye tuna, that was dressed with a smoked wood vinegar and oil -- a wonderful combination of textures and tastes-- while my companion went straight for the quenelles de brochet—light and luscious pike dumplings— served in a delicate foamy lobster sauce that proved irresistible.
For our main course, we had the duck, medium rare, accompanied by a melt-in-your-mouth pate de fois gras, dressed with olives the size of tiny blueberries, with golden figs, and with a delectable reduction garnished with blanched almonds. Not at all like mother used to make!
Normally, I would skip dessert, but at Le Coucou, that would be a mistake. Dipping into a celestial bowl of mouse au chocolate—a shaved chocolate topping, a decadent melted chocolate center--was a transporting experience. A trip to paradise. Initially, I had been dithering over the choice of dessert, so our kind-hearted waiter also brought out a blueberry tartlette with iced chevre, minus the tart, which made it gluten-free. Incredibly, almost every dish on the menu is gluten-free.
The décor is exquisite, the service impeccable, the evening perfect. Le Coucou not only has the buzz, but the ability to transport you to more elegant time, with most of the men that evening wearing jackets. Reservations a must (212) 271-4252.
But now that the secret’s out, I fear it will be impossible to get reservations. Are you tempted to go? Have you been? Click on Comments to let me know your thoughts. Hope to see you back next week, when I'll have the coffee ready.How do you take yours? In the meantime, remember...sharing is caring. Merci beaucoup.