“We’re going to brunch”, said my husband. Yes, that husband. The one who never willingly goes to brunch.
It’s a surprise.
And what a surprise it was! A glorious, whimsical, scrumptious surprise.
Alsatian chef Antoine Westermann bestowed Le Coq Rico upon NYC in 2016, an iteration of his restaurant by the same name (it translates as “the bistro of beautiful birds”) in Paris. And what a gift it is! We still don’t know which came first, but he serves both the chicken and the egg as you have never experienced them before.
The CE had dined there earlier in the week and lamented that the superb Coq au Vin was not on the brunch menu. “It’s the Tuesday special”, explained General Manager Anthony Battaglia, who may actually know more about chickens as I do, and has a beguiling French accent besides.
Battaglia genially explained the relative merits of the Plymouth Rock, Guinea Fowl and Brune Landaise chickens on the menu and was justifiably proud of the fact that the birds served at Le Coq Rico are pastured for 120 days. Not kept in cages. Not “cage free”, which often means birds are crowded on a platform where there might be an occasional sliver of a glimpse of the outdoors, but pastured. This means that these chickens roam and forage freely, and do so for about three times as long as that shrink-wrapped fowl you bring home from the grocery. Pastured birds are, well, as rare as hen’s teeth, so this is a big deal. Those in the know, which includes the French-speaking patrons at every table around us, come here for their Saturday “Coq Tales” and roast chicken, which many order en famille, served on a heaping platter.
I settled for the poached and roasted quarter chicken, accompanied by salad and jus. It tasted nothing like any chicken I’ve had before and was a plentiful followup to the sensational En Meurette appetizer – poached egg, red wine reduction, smoked pork belly, onion confit and portobello.
In the interest of accurate reportage, we were forced to order dessert, and so are you if you go. Because the Ile Flottante was far and away the best I have ever tasted. Seriously, you must have this. Or perhaps the Vanilla Mille-Feuille with Madagascar vanilla custard cream we saw being shared at the neighboring table. It was all I could do not to dip my spoon in.
The exquisite Ile Flottante:
The restaurant space itself is something to crow about. Acclaimed visual artist Doug Fitch, (who, according to the restaurant web site, once lived with a hen) provided the signature artwork:
And a most egg-cellent view awaits in the alcove outside the washrooms:
As the saying goes, even a blind chicken finds a piece of grain now and then, and we are so grateful to have happened upon this truly outstanding bistro. Consider us birds of a feather – we’ll be back!
If you go: Le Coq Rico is located in the Flatiron district (just a few doors down from Gramercy Tavern) at 30 East 20th Street, New York, NY 10003. 212.267.7426
Hours: Lunch Monday-Friday 12 pm – 3 pm; Dinner everyday 5:30 pm – 11 pm; Brunch Saturday and Sunday 12 pm – 4 pm; Bar everyday 12 pm – 11 pm