Bienvenue à New York, Le Coucou

 

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 'Spring', a restaurant offering 'New French' cuisine; namely traditional dishes that he has reimagined for contemporary tastes.

What a daring adventure that would  have been! Returning to the States after nearly 20 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.

 At the front of the house...

At the front of the house...

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, and tables set with white cloths. On every table there's 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 an unfinished ceiling that hints of its long-gone industrial past. The rate and the manner in which New York reinvents itself continues to dazzle this long-time denizen of the city. 

Tables are well-spaced, giving a feeling of elegance and not crowded or cramped. 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 from the Upper West Side to celebrate their 24th anniversary, was a pleasure.

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. Mais oui!

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 new favorite. And we followed that with a Dom Chatenoy Rosé Meneton-Salon 2015, from a village 20 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. In the gallery below, as it moves to the right, you will see the maître d'hôtel, the delightful Michael Cecchi. And isn't that duck with figs absolutely perfect?

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 pâté de foie 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! As for the desserts, a divine chocolate cloud and a gluten-free berry tart without the tartlette, I'll let the photos speak for themselves. Each is worth at least a thousand words.

When it's a special occasion, you could not choose a finer place to celebrate than Le Coucou. That's it for today, mes amis. I'll have the coffee ready next week. Until then, may life be good to you. À bientôt...