I never order chicken in a restaurant. Unless it’s a place I’m particularly sketched out by, or someone tells me I need to get chicken, I’m a fish person. Cooking fish in a New York City apartment does not make for happy neighbors, so it’s what I want to eat when I’m out of the house. Plus, I can make chicken. And chicken is chicken is chicken. Not so at Le Coq Rico, according to Pete Wells.
The restaurant opened three months ago in Flatiron, and if you go, you should be eating birds. He ordered two: the Plymouth Rock for $95, and the guinea fowl for $96. Each bird is meant to feed four people, and they come to the table in iron roasting pans. Wells said that when he saw it, all eyes at the table were drawn to it, and if he didn’t know any better, he would say their gazes were lustful.
Of the meat, he said it “had all of the things [he] wanted and none of the things [he] didn’t. It was moist but not drippy or briny; compact and muscular but not tough; long on deep, rounded flavor that didn’t seem to rely on salt or sugar.” He also noted that “some of [his] guests preferred the chicken, calling the guinea fowl “sinewy.” It was a bit stringy at the joints, but once disentangled, the flesh had a flavor [he] found highly persuasive. Even the white meat tasted like dark meat.”
Antoine Westermann owns the place. He’s something of a bird expert. He opened the original Coq Rico in Paris, where “poultry turns up in almost everything the kitchen makes.” The subtitle of Le Coq Rico is “The Bistro of Beautiful Birds.” Westermann is dead set on making sure he has the right birds, too. He spent months finding the right ones here in America, and on the menu, you can find out the age at which the bird was slaughtered. It’s right out of this Portlandia sketch.
Prices are steep. A whole Brune Landaise comes in at $120. The quarter version is $24, though it’s not as good as the whole bird. If you’re alone, get the squab. “Unwrapping the cabbage leaf around it, cutting into the handsomely roasted bird surrounded by foie gras stuffing, and dipping slices of excellent house-baked baguette into the glossy dark sauce is a sure route to Francophilia.”
And, where there are chickens, there are eggs. Or is it the other way around? Westermann does good work with eggs, or “Eggz,” as he calls them. You can have them as an appetizer, or in your dessert. He’s doing organ meat too. Get the sautéed chicken livers, skip the gizzards.
The room is kind of awkward and U shaped, and on Wells’ visits, there always seemed to be confusion at the host stand when he walked in. But, it’s a new restaurant, so we’ll give them a pass.
Overall? Two stars.
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