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All the Buzz on Le Coucou, Stephen Starr and Daniel Rose's New NYC Stunner

The American-born Paris chef brings French food to SoHo

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Nick Solares

Chef Daniel Rose — an American who spent the bulk of his culinary career in Paris — has generated a lot of buzz with his new venture, Le Coucou. That’s partially because the restaurant, located in the Howard Hotel in New York’s SoHo, is a partnership with restaurateur Stephen Starr.

The two are both industry heavy-hitters, though perhaps a bit of an odd couple: Rose has earned acclaim for his Paris restaurant, Spring (he also owns La Bourse et La Vie and his slated to open a third, Chez La Vieille, this fall) while Starr sits atop a sprawling, 34-restaurant empire. But as Starr told the New York Times in April, this restaurant is more a labor of love than a blockbuster crowd-pleaser: “I will never make a lot of money here, in this restaurant. That’s not the point. My heart is in these types of restaurants, but you’ve got to pay for the things.”

Some of Starr’s larger, popular restaurants — like the 380-seat Buddakan, for instance — might not be known for their culinary genius, but they do help “pay for the things.”

So far, the partnership between Starr and Rose is being met with overwhelmingly positive reviews. (Even Brad Pitt is a fan.) The New York Post’s Steve Cuozzo hailed the arrival of Le Coucou as proof of New York City’s “return of fine dining,” calling it “one of the best restaurants of the century”:

Classically based dishes seem revolutionary. A deceptively simple salad of tomatoes, peas, strawberries and pistachios makes you want summer to last forever. Golden ossetra caviar brings glory to humble veal tongue. Not to miss is Rose’s virtuoso spin on oeuf norvégien — a whole soft-boiled egg and an artichoke heart, cooked separately, bound with chive cream and wrapped in smoked salmon.

Eater NY’s Patty Diez said her Le Coucou experience was “something special,” with food ranging from good to really great:

The room is stunning but not at all intimidating, and the staff moves so elegantly, you feel instantly at ease. For a brand new restaurant, they have seemingly nailed their timing and coursing. All the food ranged from good to really great. A highlight was the poached egg with salmon and artichoke, though the server did not care for my likening the dish to eggs Benedict. The duck with cherries was delicious and I could have had three more of the summer scallops, but a few dishes leaned on the heavier side, leaving me without dessert.

Eater’s Amanda Kludt was also enchanted by Le Coucou:

I was completely charmed by my first visit to Le Coucou. They put effort into the lighting (spotlights on the food but soft lighting on your beautiful face), the dishware (copper pots and silver serving trays abound), the (complimentary!) bread and butter, the mignardise, the plush seating, even the pen in the checkbook at the end of the night.

Insatiable Critic Gael Greene had some hits and misses, but is eager to to try Le Coucou again:

I relish the potatoes boulangère with shredded oxtail more than the mundane filet in marrow juice it accompanies. And too-cooked Dover sole folded over chanterelles with the sweetness of green tomato broth poured over is not for me. But I’m seduced by rare duck slices with cherries and black olives and the expertly sautéed foie gras that comes in its own copper pan, and I can’t wait to return to try everything we skipped.

Tasting Table concurred with the Post that the restaurant is “proclaiming the start of a new era in fine French dining in New York City”:

The menu at Le Coucou, presented with a flourish by waiters, providing you actually score a ressie, reflects Rose’s affection for his adopted patrie. It is swaggeringly, unabashedly French: quenelle de brochet, sauce américaine; crépinette de volaille aux foie gras et fruits d’été; tripe, souvenirs oublié de lyon; and my favorite, tout le lapin, or as it is translated, “all of the rabbit.” That’s one plural away from a meme.

Even non-professional dining critics (i.e. online reviewers) seem pleased with the French restaurant. From Chowhound user mitchleeny:

Service is quite good, and there are like 100 people on the floor and in the kitchen - at this point. And at no point were we called monsieur or madame. It's professional, yet that Danny Meyer vein. When we left at close to 10 PM, the place was packed.

Below, some reviews from Yelp, where Le Coucou currently enjoys a 4.5 star rating.

Izzy I. writes:

This brought me back to classic New York, well dressed people dining.... Manager coming up to say hi & check on things... Attentive staff, great drinks & wine list... PRISTINE BATHROOMS....Food:Amazing!!!Was so flavorful. One of the best meals I have had in a long time, no corner cutting with this chef and it shows!!!Will be going back & I rarely go back as there is so much to eat in this city...Tip:Go with the Dover Sole!!!

Yelper Andrew L. was less than impressed, though, writing that the menu and the service could both use a little work:

Service: servers were uniformly terrific. But, the number of staff hovering around us (including what seemed to be several layers of managers) got to feel oppressive, particularly after we had been asked three times in under 2 minutes how we were enjoying our entrees. No joke.

Wine list was hard to navigate and there was no sommelier to be found (odd, given the staffing levels). Menu itself (set up as basically bites, apps, mains) needs a restructure - no need for this level of complication. It should not require multiple questions to clarify what things are and how the meal is supposed to work.

OpenTable users gave the restaurant high marks, too. One anonymous reviewer, a fan of Rose’s Paris restaurant Spring, called it “ambitious and fun”:

I think the restaurant is a triumph. It takes Daniel's cooking to a new level, and responds to the edginess of New York, while retaining the warmth and conviviality of Spring. There were too many great dishes to mention in a short comment, but I found everything surprising, with unexpected flavor combinations and great depth. As with Spring, traditional cuisine is magnificently reimagined, with the complex quenelles appetizer and the rabbit and the duck main courses being particular standouts for me.

Another OpenTable user disagreed, writing that the restaurant was more Vegas show than intimate tete-a-tete:

The food itself rings of Gallic overtones (pike quenelle, a refurbished duck breast with Montmorency sauce, steak au poivre but much less of the peppery coating). But this is no "Lutece reboot" as had been described by the NY Times. The old Lutece made me saunter in that refined dining decades ago and enjoy an evening of food that Mr. Soltner's grandmother had taught him to make. Mr. Rose's version, though good, would seem more appropriate in an episode of Sex and the City Part 3 -- showy, consumed and digested while wearing a pair of Manolo's pumps by Ms. Bradshaw.

Overall, I would go again to Le Coucou just for the pageantry - as one makes his way past tables of ladies in sleek sleeveless black dresses and gold necklaces. The food was decent but, in my opinion, not aiming to be the star of this Vegas show.

Daniel Rose, an American in Paris, Comes Home to Cook [NYT]

Stephen Starr and Daniel Rose's Le Coucou Opens With White Tablecloths And Chandeliers [Eater NY]

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