Confusion happens all the time when New York's two hottest restaurants are French, located downtown, and named for fowl. Here’s a crib sheet for sorting things out.
The Room Itself
Le Coq Rico: Compact, underdesigned space with cream walls and black tables and chairs. Opt instead for the brightly lit chef’s counter.
Le Coucou: High-ceilinged, dimly lit—a single tapered candle on each table—the two spacious rooms radiate rustic elegance (though the pewter-steel chandeliers dominate).
LCR: Informal and friendly. Anthony Battaglia, the general manager, is warm and welcoming.
LC: Polished, flawless, and classic; needs are anticipated. But expect to wait for your reserved table—plan on 20 minutes.
LCR: Fanatical about fowl. The standouts: Slow Cooked Egg, Terrine en Croûte of Duck Foie Gras, Plymouth Barred Rock Chicken.
LC: High-style French. A tad overrated but hits many of its marks. The standout is the Crépinette de volaille aux foie gras et fruits d’automne.
The Wine List
LCR: Wisely chosen list with plenty of French and American options (like the Gamay, Vieilles Vignes “L’Ancien” for $56). Well priced.
LC: Extensive, predominantly French, international list with a broad range of prices (like the Patrimonio, Clos Signadore for $92). Enlist the sommelier, Dominique; she’s wonderful.
LCR: Traditional-style bar with cocktails. Lighting is a little harsh; the check being delivered after every drink is annoying.
LC: Very small, very handsome service bar with a lounge feel, even if there are no chairs at the actual bar. Fine for a tipple while you wait for your table.
LCR: Cool and young mixed with older couples and families. There is a strong neighborhood-y feel.
LC: Buzzy, downtown. Anyone who is anyone has eaten here, from 93-year-old Henry Kissinger to Brad Pitt to Kanye West.
The Frenchy Factor
LCR: Alsace, France–born chef Antoine Westermann has appropriately stacked his kitchen with French cooks, all donning white toques.
LC: Chef Daniel Rose was born in Chicago, but all his restaurant experience comes from Paris, where he also runs the acclaimed Spring. His kitchen comprises a diverse staff, each selected for his or her wealth of experience.
LCR: Another fine addition to the Gramercy Park area, which has witnessed its restaurant scene explode in the past few years, between Cosme and Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s ABC empire.
LC: The Upper East Side transplanted to Chinatown. “Downtown finally has its La Grenouille,” wrote Pete Wells, quoting a friend, in his New York Times review.
LCR: High. It eats well every day. Its casual, simple, unfussy menu reflects how we like to dine now.
LC: Lower—because it’s that hard to snag a reservation. Event eating at its best. Good for special occasions. Fussy and formal.
LCR: Three courses for two with a bottle of wine is about $200 before tax and tip. 30 E. 20th St.; 212-267-7426; lecoqriconyc.com.
LC: Three courses for two with a bottle of wine is about $250 before tax and tip. 138 Lafayette St.; 212-271-4252; lecoucou.com.