Among the restaurants that I had visited in Paris during my trip there a couple of years ago, Spring stood out because of who was leading the kitchen. In the notoriously insular dining scene in Paris, it was quite a feat that a Chicago-born American could make a name for himself by serving modern French bistro food to the masses. When I visited Spring, I could tell that the New American touch and sensibility to French classics was beautifully executed to great effect. Obviously, I was very excited to learn that chef Daniel Rose decided to make the leap across the Atlantic to open a new restaurant this summer with power restaurateur Stephen Starr in downtown Manhattan. The moment I stepped into the restaurant, I knew I was going to like this place, with beautiful yet not ostentatious décor of dining space and a garden bar at the entrance. And yes, the entire dining experience was quite delightful.
What really stood out on my visit to Spring in Paris was how the kitchen was able to “modernize” French classics without compromising the integrity of the country’s flavor and texture. Here again, I’ve had some of the most memorable appetizers of the year. I could seriously eat the simple-looking salad of tomatoes, peas, strawberries and pistachios every day if possible, with the way the incredibly fresh ingredients came together magnificently to create what could easily be one of the best salads in the city at the moment. I’m not even a tripe person, but the fried wagyu tripe accompanied by green tomatoes and olives had the texture of finely cooked tonkatsu (pork cutlet) that was so delicious that the dish was gone in like 15 seconds with four people including myself rushing to get as much piece of the meat possible. The combination of egg, salmon and artichoke was another simple-looking yet well-executed appetizer that displayed the careful attention to detail that the kitchen pays, and the pike quenelle with lobster sauce had the aromatic quality to the flavor that was quite fitting for a romantic dinner (my girlfriend and I were on a double date with another couple).
While all of the appetizers wowed me with creativity and consistency, I felt the main dishes were slightly off, but not by much. Halibut was more or less perfectly cooked, but it seemed it could’ve been better with the emulsion of butter underneath. Duck was also quite nicely cooked to display juicy, tender texture, but its combination with mission figs and foie gras didn’t quite work the way I had hoped. The impressive-looking combination of tout le lapin consisting of three different servings of rabbit also had varied success. I very enjoyed the loin and saddle accompanied by rabbit vinaigrette, and the hind leg with Dijon mustard and Spanish onion had that extra kick of flavor from mustard that was unexpectedly pleasant. On the other hand, not only was the front leg in the rabbit stock difficult to share but it felt a little bit more pedestrian. For dessert, the girls obviously went for the rich chocolate mousse, but for me the rice pudding with pistachios and chartreuse was a bit more successful with the way it delivered moderate level of sweetness without overpowering my taste bud.
Le Coucou is still one of the hottest tickets in the city since its opening in June, so advanced booking is always recommended. As noted above, I was in love with the décor of the space that just oozes elegance in a non-pretentious way, quite fitting for a restaurant in New York City that works for both formal events and casual dinners at the same time. The service of professionally dressed staffs was nearly flawless, and upon my girlfriend’s request after I spotted him in action at the kitchen, chef Rose was kind enough to stop by our table and chat with my party for a bit (and even agreed to take a photo with me in front of the kitchen!). There is full bar with some surprisingly affordable French wine selections that would do an awesome job of complementing your meal. I’m so glad that an American in Paris decided to make the trip back home for a new bistro in New York City that I’m sure will be talked about for a long time. Welcome home, chef Rose!
- Creativity: 8.5/10
- Execution: 8.5/10
- Ingredients: 8.5/10
- Flavor: 8.5/10
- Texture: 8.5/10
Address: 138 Lafayette Street, New York, NY 10013
Telephone: (212) 271-4252