There are few restaurants that I would stay up so late for. A 9 pm seating is my limit, and after that, I’ll move on and revisit once the hype has died down. But like the desperate girl who can’t play it cool when she’s finally invited to a party, I caved to the pressure and made an exception for a 10:30 reservation at Le Coucou. There was a little thought behind this, though. First of all, Ruoxi’s birthday was at midnight, so we would need to do some sort of big, late night blowout celebration anyway. Also, my friend Eugenia from Hong Kong was in town, and she was already going to be jet lagged, so why not shake it off by staying up as late as possible? All good reasons for me to bite the bullet on a super late dinner reservation.
I don’t regret my decision at all, because Le Coucou is one of those restaurants meant for the start of a late night bender. It helps that there is an adjoining bar called The Blond that sets the tone for the festivities. If you can make it past the bouncer, you’ll make your way upstairs to a dark and sexy lounge and hold yourself over with an $18 cocktail or two. I suggest attempting this earlier in the evening, otherwise you’ll be subject to the indignity of the “are you on the list?” nonsense when in fact the space is half empty.
The Blond has a little bit of an attitude, but Le Coucou is a different story. You’ll be seated at your table and served by the most pleasant staff members ever. No one is snooty, and everyone is genuinely happy to share their favorites on the menu, which were all available from the kitchen, despite the late hour. We kept the momentum of good spirits going with an order of a bottle of wine and an expectation that the night was young and could lead to anywhere.
What it did lead to in the near term was some very good and indulgent French food. The trend these days seems to be full fat and butter in everything, and Le Coucou fully embraces all the rich creams in its arsenal. You would probably die from gout here, but at least you would die happy. The quenelle de brochet, a French dish that can be best described as a pureed fish chawanmushi, was served in a thick and glorious sauce seasoned with herbs and lobster. The sauce was so good, perhaps better than the quenelle itself, that we couldn’t help but dip our bread in it multiple times, even though it was doing our cholesterol no good. Sweetbreads are never really my thing, but if you like dense, decadent offal, then the ones at Le Coucou won’t disappoint.
The star attraction was definitely the tout le lapin “all of the rabbit” dish, an elaborate and impressive three-course meal within a meal. First come the hind legs, which are marinaded in mustard and cooked with onions; next comes the main body or saddle meat, which is rolled into medallions and pan-fried; and finally we get to the front legs and remaining meat, which are used in a broth. Chef Rose could have very well pleased diners with just one really good rabbit dish, so why go the extra mile with three? Maybe he knew rabbit is an underrated meat, so this grand scale preparation would give it the respect that it deserved. If that was the intention, he definitely pulled it off, as there was no question that the rabbit was the highlight of not just that evening, but of even many meals before that.
(And yes, rabbit tastes good, a little like chicken, but different.)
By this time it was close to midnight, my memory of what came next became a little hazy. I don’t remember if we ordered dessert, but if we did, I’m sure it was epic like the rest of our experience at Le Coucou. It’s not possible to be too in the details for a 10:30 dinner, but bigger picture, our dinner at Lc Coucou was the celebratory spectacle we wanted it to be.
138 Lafayette St (between Howard and Canal St)
New York, NY 10013