Le Coucou: Serious French food in NYC that doesn’t take itself too seriously

October 27, 2016 | By | 18 Replies More
Le Coucou, New York City

Le Coucou, New York City

Any food lover soon realizes that beyond the omnipresent temptations—New York bagels, New York pizza, New York cheesecake and New York black and white cookies—the range of culinary options in New York City seems to be infinite.

In truth, if you count all the hole-in-the-wall delis, cafés and takeout shops spread across the five boroughs, it’s estimated there are some 24,000 eating establishments in the city. As a result, visitors can indulge their appetites and sample cuisine from almost anywhere else in the world.

We recently experienced a wonderful staycation weekend at the Hampton by Hilton Manhattan-Times Square North in Hell’s Kitchen. As Seekenders who love French cuisine, we decided to check out the buzz about Le Coucou, located just north of Chinatown. 

Chef Daniel Rose comes to the Big Apple

The opening of Le Coucou is a collaboration between successful restaurateur Stephen Starr and Chef Daniel Rose. Chef Daniel achieved celebrity overseeing kitchens at two highly acclaimed restaurants in Paris, Spring and La Bourse et La Vie. Starr is the visionary who brought the chef’s talents to New York and helped create a spectacular setting to showcase them.

After attending the American University in Paris, Chef Daniel, a native of Chicago, studied cooking while living in Lyon, France. (When we visited that city, we truly believed we had found the culinary epicenter of the world). After reading early reviews of Le Coucou and delving into news articles about the opening, our already-high expectations grew.

Then we learned that the chef trained at Lyon’s Institut Bocuse cooking school. (Hands down, we considered the meal we had at the three Michelin-star Bocuse restaurant at L’Auberge du Ponte de Collonges just outside Lyon as the best we had in our lives.)

We decided to splurge on what promised to be a very expensive meal, even by New York standards, but a gastronomic experience fit for foodies. We were so happy our son Andrew could join us for this staycation, taking a few days off from his work in California, so our New York City Seekender weekend would be one we could share together.

The setting

The spacious dining room at Le Coucou

The spacious dining room at Le Coucou

The dazzling bar at Le Coucou

The welcoming bar just inside the lobby

It’s hard to imagine that the footprint now occupied by Le Coucou was once the lobby of a dilapidated Holiday Inn and an adjacent Chinese bakery. From the moment we entered, we felt like we’d been transported to an elegant Parisian brasserie.

The two cavernous dining rooms are aligned in an L-shape: Large floor-to-ceiling windows in the front room overlook the busy street; the back room offers views of the bustling open kitchen. Tables are well spaced throughout making it easy to forget anyone else is around except for the servers.

Chefs at work in the open kitchen

Chefs at work in the open kitchen

Fresh bread outside the kitchen

Fresh bread outside the kitchen

The extraordinarily high ceilings are covered with oversized chandeliers forged of dark metal with dozens of candle-like lights circling each one. Except for their uniformity, they look as if they might have been repurposed from an old French palace. Tables are draped with white tablecloths and the walls are covered in washed brick adding a warm patina of age. Despite the grandeur of the space, it feels comfortable and relaxed. The knowledgeable, well-trained, and approachable waitstaff help create this ambiance.

A disarming sense of levity and whimsy pervades Le Coucou—starting with its name. In an article in the New York Times, the Chef explained that the term “Le Coucou” refers to someone who is “sweetly crazy.” One example of the unexpected: When you head to the washroom, there’s a long scribbled paint line along the walls of the dimly lit hallway that leads to the unisex Toilettes.

The painted "road" to the restroom that turns a corner

The painted “road” to the restroom that turns a corner

Unisex selfie

Unisex selfie

The menu: Non-daunting Classic French

The dinner menu at Le Coucou is divided into three sections:

  • Hors D’Oeuvres;
  • Gourmandises (more hearty appetizers), and
  • Main courses that include Poissons (fish) and Viandes (meat).

The menu is classic French with a nouvelle twist; each of the dishes relies on fresh, very high-quality ingredients. Plating approaches a picture-worthy art. Since we are more food lovers than food writers, we’ll present a few of our favorites:

Ris de veau a l’estragon (sweetbreads, crème de tomate, tarragon)

Ris de veau a l’estragon (sweetbreads, crème de tomate, tarragon)

Quenelle de brochet, sauce américaine (pike quenelle, lobster sauce)

Quenelle de brochet, sauce américaine (pike quenelle, lobster sauce)

OMG Canard et cerises (duck, mission figs, foie gras, black olives)

OMG Canard et cerises (duck, mission figs, foie gras, black olives)

Filet de boeuf, jus à la moelle, queue dans la boulangère (prime filet, bone marrow jus, oxtail potatoes)

Filet de boeuf, jus à la moelle, queue dans la boulangère (prime filet, bone marrow jus, served with oxtail potatoes)

Oxtail potatoes side

Oxtail potatoes side

The dessert standout: Chiboust aux figues port wine, cinnamon

The dessert standout: Chiboust aux figues (with figs, port wine and cinnamon)

Close second: Mousse au chocolat (chocolate mousse with shaved chocolate on top)

Close second: Mousse au chocolat (chocolate mousse with shaved chocolate on top)

Not far behind: Riz au lait Coucou (rice pudding, pistachios, chartreuse)

Not far behind: Riz au lait Coucou (rice pudding, pistachios, chartreuse)

An after dinner surprise from the chef: Ginger cookies, chocolate with orange peels and cassis bonbons

An after dinner surprise from the chef: Ginger cookies, chocolate with orange peels and cassis bonbons

Bottom line

Le Coucou lives up to the hype. It’s the next best thing to a trip to Lyon. It’s worthwhile to scrimp, save and eat at home for a few weeks (or months) to savor a memorable meal like this one.

That's all there is

That’s all there is


Le Coucou, 139 Lafayette Street, NYC, just north of Chinatown

TIP: Reservations are available through OpenTable but are tough to snag, especially on weekends. If you are lucky enough (as we were) to be staying in New York City, you may be able to obtain last-minute reservations at off-hours. (There is no dining at the bar).

Disclosure: As a member of the Seekender team, our weekend getaway to Hell’s Kitchen in Manhattan was sponsored by Hampton by Hilton but we paid for our dinner at Le Coucou and all opinions expressed in this post are our own.

Hampton by Hilton logo

Hampton by Hilton logo

Given its convenient location, Hampton by Hilton Manhattan-Times Square North is an excellent value if you are planning a trip to NYC. 

  • Read about Chef Daniel Rose’s bespoke dinner for two at the Frick Collection on Grub Street.

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Comments (18)

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  1. Lauren says:

    Sounds great. I like the name, Le Coucou, I’ts such a fun name: Coucou, c’est moi! The food sounds wonderful.

  2. I passed that new restaurant when I was walking downtown with my daughter last week. It looks amazing from your pictures and description. Have to start saving my food dollars!

  3. noel says:

    I can almost lick my computer screen, but it’s never the same…..in any case this restaurant and the incredible food is definitely something to try when I visit the city.

  4. Okay, this meal does look SERIOUSLY delicious — and probably seriously expensive :-). But a very nice treat for your visiting son… It’s nice to hear it’s a top French restaurant that deserves the raves :-).

  5. Michele Peterson says:

    That mousse au chocolat with shaved chocolate on top is definitely swoon-worthy! I’ve pinned for my next trip to NYC!

  6. Donna Janke says:

    Wow. Le Coucou looks beautiful. As does its food. Yum.

  7. Hi Irene: I’d love to dine at Le CouCou; It looks like a fab place. You are so right about New Yorlk cuisine. You can indeed get anything there. Time for me to return. It’s been far too long!

  8. Jackie Smith says:

    Here I am sitting in Rome waiting for my next food fest and you’ve got my mouth watering for French food – I love the kind that doesn’t take itself too seriously! The atmosphere is absolutely charming looking in that place!

  9. Nancie says:

    This is the second over-the-top food post I’ve read this morning, and I’m fasting today! I must be mad 🙂 Gorgeous restaurant and food and would try to dine here if I was ever in NYC.

  10. Honestly, my mouth is watering and it is only 9:00am! What a delightfully descriptive recap of a fabulous meal and experience. Your selfie is adorable. The restaurant sounds like a wonderful place to laugh a little, enjoy magnificent food and be pampered!

  11. I love French food and the photos make me wish I could order such dishes where I live here in the Midwest! Love the name, Le Coucou, and its meaning…sweetly crazy.

  12. Patti Morrow says:

    Wow, what an array of drool-inducing dishes to sample at Le Coucou! Looks like you found a gem… and really enjoyed it!

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