Cuckoo for Le Coucou
The city’s best new restaurant comes from a Philadelphia-based restaurateur and is helmed by a Chicagoan chef who’s spent half his life living in France. Perhaps it took a band of outsiders to give New York something truly new—a restaurant the city didn’t know it needed until it was upon us.
But need it we did: Such are the crowds flocking to Le Coucou that even for the well-connected it’s nearly impossible to score a table. Is it because of the space, a majestic, exposed-brick-walled palace designed by Roman and Williams, all glowing chandeliers and tall taper candles, romantic and supremely elegant? Is it the service, warm and welcoming, precise yet surprisingly laid-back? Neither hurts, but truly, it’s the food that diners have fallen in love with. Part Escoffier-inspired haute cuisine, part brightly flavored midcentury nouvelle cuisine, chef Daniel Rose’s menu is unmistakably old-school French—think quenelles de brochet in lobster sauce or an entire rabbit served as three dishes. Yet Rose reimagines the traditional canons through a kaleidoscope of American ingredients, adding his own light, playful touches to produce more bold, clear, precise flavors than anything this city has seen in years.
If you’re very lucky, the kitchen might send out a small bowl of turtle soup, with veal pinch-hitting for the traditional meat in the classic delicacy—a perhaps tongue-in-cheek nod to Rose’s traditional training. After all, as the saying goes, you have to first know the rules in order to break them effectively. And Rose has certainly been schooled in the rules of classic French cuisine: He studied at the Institut Paul Bocuse and worked in a succession of Michelin-starred restaurants before opening Spring, a tiny spot in Paris, where he gathered accolades for his modern French fare. He returned stateside earlier this year at the behest of Stephen Starr, the restaurateur whose other recent openings include Upland and The Clocktower. As at his other hits, Starr has provided his star chef with a glamorous playhouse and is allowing him to play.
With its glamour, Le Coucou eschews the current trend toward pared-down, bistro-style dining. By most modern measures, it’s a resolutely unfashionable place, beloved simply for serving incredible food. And we’re all the luckier for it. 138 Lafayette St., 212.271.4252
Foodies cheered when chef Jared Sippel, previously of San Francisco’s Quince and Boulder, Colo.’s critics’ darling Frasca, announced he’d relocate to NYC to helm Brooklyn Fare’s new Manhattan outpost. When that fell through, Sippel stuck around—partnering with James King to open Italienne. Focused on eats from the borders of Southern France and Northern Italy, Italienne has a double-dining-room concept: one features Sippel’s four-course tasting menu ($98); the other, small plates in a taverna setting ($3 to $40). 19 W. 24th St., 212.600.5139
Italienne Photo by Ken Goodman
Aska’s sleek dining room with only nine well-spaced tables makes for an intimate and dramatic experience. Lights shine brightly on the chefs in the open kitchen; it’s a stage, but the real theater happens on your plate—and palate. Go for the full 19-course menu of chef Fredrik Berselius’ Nordic-style cuisine and you’re likely to encounter tastes like lamb hearts reduced to ash or a pig’s blood pancake topped with rose petals. 47 S. 5th St., 929.337.6762, Brooklyn
Best New Cocktails
From freshly squeezed greens to a cocktail designed to share to a painstakingly perfected rum mixture, here’s what we’ll be toasting with in the new year.
1. Can’t make it down to Cuba? Try the Southside ($16) at Prohibition Era-inspired BlackTail (from the team behind the Dead Rabbit), a take on the mojito made from the joint’s own blend of nearly 30 rums. 22 Battery Place
2. The Cannibal Liquor House takes juicing to the next level with the Mean Green Machine ($12), a “healthy” brunch cocktail with celery, apple and cucumber juice, topped with Chartreuse and Salers liqueur. 113 E. 29th St.
3. AvroKO Hospitality Group is at it again with mezcal and tequilla bar Ghost Donkey. Go for signature cocktail El Burro Fantasma ($26), meant for two, with peloton de la muerte, aperol, agave, lime, pink grapefruit and chili. 4 Bleeker St.
Cocktail Photo by Kevin O’Leary