The 2016 NYC food scene has been all about le French food. Last year’s new hot spots like MIMI, Le Turtle, or Le Coq Rico, have brought New Yorkers a new wave of quality modern French fare, without having to go the Michelin or Keith McNally route. But le star of le year was indisputably Le Coucou.

Le Coucou was probably the most anticipated restaurant opening of 2016, and for good reason: it’s been qualified as one of the best restaurants of the year/city/country/century! A hype that, for once, is no exaggeration and highly justified – Le Coucou has become one of the hottest tickets in Manhattan and Gourmadela’s #1 restaurant of 2016!

Le Coucou Best ambiance - main dining room by the open kitchen

Best ambiance – main dining room by the open kitchen

“American in Paris” Chef Daniel Rose had already made a name for himself in the city of lights (with his restaurants Spring, La Bourse et La Vie and newly revived Chez La Vieille), before finally deciding to leap back across the Atlantic to make his New York debut with Le Coucou. Chef Rose packed his embraced French traditions along with him, and partnered up with acclaimed power restaurateur Stephen Starr to open up this contemporary French restaurant in Downtown Manhattan, on the border of Soho and Chinatown.

Table-seated dinner only – no bar dining

Le coucou Entrance bar

Entrance bar

To accurately portray Le Coucou is a tough task… The best words to describe it would be sophisticated, exquisite, and a close-to-perfect French dining experience! Seldom are the restaurants where the food, setting and service are so immaculate. The restaurant is located in an airy, tastefully designed space with a full bar waiting area at the entrance, and two dining room sections with a large open kitchen at the back. The white-tablecloth interior sets the tone for a refined bistro-dining experience, but without the uptight pretentiousness of other French gourmet establishments. The most striking detail of Le Coucou’s space is the lighting. The long white stem candles perfectly shed a dim light on every table, but the jaw-dropping prize goes to the imposing modern chandeliers. The whole restaurant oozes with elegance, making Le Coucou one of the prettiest dining rooms in New York City.

Le coucou Entrance dining room with gorgeous lighting

Entrance dining room with gorgeous lighting

Le Coucou Main dining room

Main dining room

Le Coucou Main dining room open kitchen

Main dining room & open kitchen

The impeccably polished service adds to the overall sophistication, with an always-accommodating and knowledgeable wait staff, devoid of the unnecessary (annoying) formality and stuffiness. The clientele is pretty diverse, with an older corporate crowd here, a special occasion date there, but overall a vibrant eclectic mix of New York food lovers! The ambiance is great, especially if you’re sitting by the open kitchen.

Now let’s get down to le nitty gritty of Le Coucou: le food! The menu at Le Coucou is – say it with me – extraordinaire. Le Coucou offers an à-la-carte seasonal menu (I’m hearing a tasting is on the works!) of traditional French cuisine but with a unique, sophisticated and very decadent twist. Chef Rose manages to modernize French classics by adding an extra dose of refinement (and big dose of wow factor!) without compromising the integrity of the recipes. A lot of the dishes feature indulgent, luxurious ingredients such as foie gras, lobster, or caviar, but still feel accessible, even by pairing them with the oddest concoctions (veal tongue or pheasant anyone?).

Le coucou Quenelle de brochet, sauce américaine / pike quenelle, lobster sauce

Quenelle de brochet, sauce américaine / pike quenelle, lobster sauce

Le Coucou Oeuf Norvégien - before

Oeuf Norvégien – before

Le Coucou Oeuf Norvégien - before

Oeuf Norvégien – artichoke heart topped with a soft-boiled egg, crème fraîche with chives, enveloped in smoked salmon

Le coucou Asperges et thon, vinaigre fumé / Tuna with asparagus & smoked wood vinegar

Asperges et thon, vinaigre fumé / Tuna with asparagus & smoked wood vinegar

Le coucou Veal tongue topped with Ossetra caviar

Astounding Veal tongue topped with Ossetra caviar

Now serves a 2-course prix fixe lunch for $48!

The dinner menu (written in French with an English description) is divided in three sections: small-plates, starters (called “gourmandises” 😛 ) and main courses. The refined French fare is so satisfying, you’ll want to order as many dishes as you can and share. Vegetarians might be the only frustrated diners, as most highlights are meat or fish focused. The Quenelle is nothing like grand-mère‘s, the Sweetbreads are out of this world…  And for a duck snob like myself, I can affirm that their Canard entrée is the very best I’ve had in NYC. As one would expect, the mostly-French wine list at Le Coucou is just as impressive (a limited selection of “Cock’tails” and beer is also available).

Le coucou Canard et cerises - duck, mission figs, foie gras, black olives

Canard et cerises – duck, mission figs, foie gras, black olives

Le coucou Tout le lapin stew

Part of “Tout Le Lapin” – Rabbit 3 ways – broth, made from chest and belly with carrots and turnips

Le coucou "Tout le Lapin" - medallions of liver-stuffed saddle

“Tout le Lapin” – medallions of liver-stuffed saddle

Le coucou "Tout le Lapin" - oven-roasted leg sbaked with caramelized onions & mustard

Tout le Lapin” – oven-roasted leg sbaked with caramelized onions & mustard

Le coucou Chiboust à la vanille

Exceptional desserts – Chiboust à la vanille

Le Coucou New York breakfast

Breakfast heaven

Le Coucou is fantastic for a memorable dinner, but also serves an exceptional breakfast (and now brunch) –  and I no longer need to look for the best Kouign Amann (i.e. my French pastry obsession) in town! Great for an early business meeting or breakfast with mom.

Le coucou Breafast must: my new favorite Kouign Amann pastry - so rich & decadent

Breafast must: my new favorite Kouign Amann pastry – so rich & decadent

Le Coucou Comme un clafoutis - french pancake, blueberries, crème fraîche

Comme un clafoutis – french pancake, blueberries, crème fraîche

Le coucou Salade de fruits au lait de coco ou crème fraiche - seasonal fruit, coconut milk or crème fraîche

Salade de fruits au lait de coco ou crème fraiche – seasonal fruit, coconut milk or crème fraîche

Le Coucou Oeuf spécial - poached eggs, sauce choron, pomme dauphin

Oeuf spécial – poached eggs, sauce choron, pomme dauphin

Le Coucou Le californien - sunflower spelt avocado toast, poached eggs

Le californien – sunflower spelt avocado toast, poached eggs

Such excellence obviously comes with a few drawbacks. A hefty bill is almost a guarantee – but the quality definitely merits the digits. Reservations are extremely difficult (it’s been said that it’s the hardest booking in NYC), especially for regular dining hours – but a challenge worth while. Book well in advance and be open to 5pm dinners!

The sophisticated French cooking at Le Coucou is nothing short of excellent, and a fantastic dining experience altogether. Come for date night dinner, a breakfast catch-up with mom or a business meal – or just anytime you can snatch a table!

Breakfast Mon-Fri 7am-10:30am / Sat-Sun 7am-10am
Brunch Sat-Sun 10am-2pm
Lunch Mon-Fri 11:30am-2pm
Dinner Sun-Mon 5pm-10pm/ Tues-Sat 5pm-11pm