Hot Restaurant Face-Off: Le Coq Rico vs. Le Coucou

Ditte Isager / Courtesy Le Coucou

A handy guide to distinguishing which restaurant is which (and the one you actually mean to book).

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).

The Service

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.

The Food

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.

The Bar

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.

The Vibe

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.

The Neighborhood

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.

Returnability

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.

Price

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.

 

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