Le Coucou, the city’s very best new restaurant of the previous two a long time, is the last of our great eateries to reopen after lockdown. I’m thrilled to report that the gracious temple to French delicacies is even a lot more magnifique than it was right before the pandemic struck in March of 2020.
The 80-seat eye- and palate-popper in just SoHo’s 11 Howard hotel started welcoming friends back again on Nov. 18 — later than Le Bernardin, Jean-Georges, Restaurant Daniel, Marea, For every Se or Masa. There were good financial and staffing causes for the go-gradual, and the wait was really worth it.
Le Coucou’s ethereal, brick-framed, romantically chandeliered eating area has not altered an iota. White tablecloths nonetheless adorn all tables. Even the amusing “Coucou” track that plays ceaselessly in the bathrooms is just as it was when the location opened to acclaim in June 2016.
Support, from a crew in snappy grey satisfies, was always seamless and poised in the previous. Now, it’s in some way even far better, in spite of the well-publicized labor lack which is still left several eating places offering the moon absent to entice 2nd-fee help.
Servers and sommeliers are there when you need to have them and by no means there when you don’t. There’s no infantile blather about how the “bites” are dealing with us or if foie gras is to our “liking.” Alternatively, it is just intelligent dialogue about dish preparation in grown-up English.
Born in Chicago, chef-companion Daniel Rose 1st took Paris by storm in 2006 with his restaurant Spring — a accomplishment so troubling to Gallic sensitivities that the Michelin Guide did not award it a single star. Michelin also snubbed Le Coucou for many a long time, but the relaxation of the planet knew superior. The James Beard Basis named it the finest new cafe in The united states the calendar year it opened. Considering that then, practically each critic has lavished praise on Rose’s mild, loving update of the conventional French playbook.
The menu offers four new dishes, nevertheless Rose has not tossed out the original Le Coucou style. “It’s much more of a subtle adjustment,” he informed us. “There are a good deal of avenues to consider with the French composition of foods.”
He requires light cues from the Iberian peninsula and the French Basque state for some new additions, these as thon a la portugaise (uncooked bigeye tuna with Madeira vinaigrette). But, he notes with a chuckle, that the dish “isn’t genuinely Portuguese at all.” It is just delicious.
Bar noir a la setoise — black sea bass with “sea creatures,” such as shrimp, mussels and clams — is encouraged, sort of, by the town of Setoise in between Marseille and Barcelona. Did Rose find it there? “No, it is an plan of what people today may be consuming in Setoise,” he defined. The luscious preparation taps olive oil, olives, and herbs and is “more austere than in Italy or the Riviera where the fish would be cooked with tomatoes.”
Rose has notably tweaked his filet basquaise — prime beef filet with foie gras and ham, which he serves with a miniature pie of chard and purple pepper. He’s bid adieu to the buttery Bordelaise sauce that previously accompanied the dish. In its location is an herb-infused olive oil that lets the meat’s deep flavor speak for alone.
Rose has sensibly retained old favorites, these types of as a grilled Maine lobster and superb quenelle de brochet (pike dumpling) in thyme-loaded sauce Americaine, on the menu. But why did we have to hold out so long?
Restaurateur Stephen Starr, whose empire consists of Buddakan, Upland and Clocktower, reported that Le Coucou has incredibly number of seats for a location of its sizing. “The city to start with allowed us to reopen in increments, 25%, then 50%. The math did not get the job done for us. We’d be getting rid of dollars. So, we waited for complete capability.”
Even then, he waited till vaccine rules created diners truly feel safer. But the staffing trouble remained acute. Le Coucou’s fantastic dining design calls for seasoned industry experts, not the unskilled enable some destinations lured with $200 signing bonuses.
“Pardon my French, but a ton of individuals [bleeped] off” right after the 2020 lockdowns, Rose joked. Only five of the kitchen crew’s 26-human being staff, together with chef de delicacies Justin Bogle, labored at the cafe in advance of the pandemic.
Getting sommeliers proved specifically difficult. Le Coucou reopened with only beverage director Aaron Thorp and somm Marion Walker-Linsky to support prospects navigate the 850-bottle listing. (And to support non-oligarchs locate many, less than-$200 decisions amid a blur of pricier selections.) “But we just hired two extra this week,” Starr reported with relief.
Does he concern any influence from the Omicron variant? “I fear about every little thing,” Starr mentioned cheerfully. “A new virus, new inflation — each and every time some thing very good occurs, something walks by and kicks you proper in the nuts.”
But demand is incredibly potent. “We really don’t just take all the reservations people today want. We’re thorough not to overbook,” Starr mentioned. “We’re opening our guide more slowly but surely.”
Foods lovers would be intelligent to test and score a reservation as shortly as attainable.