BREAK INTO 1,000 LAYERS OF PERFECT PASTRY AT LE COQ RICO
Le Coq Rico loudly proclaims its commitment to poultry from the second you walk in the door. The walls are lined with eggs, feathers dangle from the ceiling, and there is a rotisserie of beautiful golden birds that spins gently at all times. As tasty as the savory dishes are, however, it’s best not to fill up on chicken; the desserts are not to be missed. Chef Antoine Westermann, who, as you’ll see, is quite possibly the most French chef of all time, serves up an assortment of perfectly executed bistro classics that will remind you why these desserts became so famous in the first place. Check out the video above to hear why host Alan Sytsma can’t end a meal at Le Coq Rico without indulging in a mille-feuille. – Madeline Muzzi
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The slogan emblazoned across Le Coq Rico’s entrance—”a bistro of beautiful birds”—is definitely the year’s most appealingly outlandish tagline for a restaurant. Turns out, it also accurately describes the year’s most refreshingly simple dining concept: a fever dream of fowl enthusiasm where your choice of ultra-luxe poultry—identified by terroir and age—is trussed, poached in jus, spun on the Cadillac of rotisseries, and eventually presented whole at your table with all the ceremony befitting of its noble origins. While the roasted chickens are reason enough to visit, chef Antoine Westermann’s Parisian import doesn’t stop there—eggs slow-cooked with chanterelles, funky presentations of heart and liver, and an explosion of feathers hanging from the walls and ceilings exemplify the refined brand of mania that makes the place tick. Share the Brune Landaise, but steal the squab en croute for yourself—the deeply flavored breasts, enriched with foie gras and squab liver, then baked in flaky puff pastry, is our pick for best dish of the year. — Chris Schonberger
Order this: Brune Landaise chicken, squab en croute, seared chicken liver salad, vanilla mille-feuille
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The Alsatian chef Antoine Westermann has built a poultry-focused bistro that’s more compelling and carnally satisfying than any modern steakhouse. His star dish is rotisserie chicken, and his secret is buying old breeds raised by farmers who let them feed and mature longer than usual. The meat has a depth of flavor you rarely encounter. Other birds, like duck and squab, play minor but memorable roles on the menu. The dedication to poultry continues with eggs and livers; the foie gras is very fine, as you’d expect, but a more telling sign of how much care goes into the ingredients is the plate of gorgeous, creamy chicken livers. The prices can make your eyes pop, but so can the portions. And while Mr. Westermann spends half his time in France, he hasn’t hit autopilot on Le Coq Rico. He was in the house one recent night, and new breeds of chicken have strutted onto the menu since my review. – Pete Wells
A FRENCH CHEF IS MAKING SURE LEFTOVERS DON’T GET LEFT BEHIND
One of the first high-end restaurants in France to embrace the concept of le doggie bag was Le Coq Rico, a Parisian temple to roast chicken opened by the chef Antoine Westermann in 2012. The restaurant specializes in whole roast birds, and diners are encouraged to experience the chicken in its entirety: from egg to table, from cockscomb to tail feathers.
“A wing is a different flavor from the breast, and the breast is a different flavor from the oysters,” the chef wrote from Paris. “We want each client to be able to enjoy any part of the bird that they prefer.”
The traditional French way of eating embraces moderate portions and clean plates; taking food home was long considered impossibly gauche.
But a restaurant that serves whole roast birds — often more than one per table, as the menu encourages tasting chickens of different breed, age and terroir — is going to produce leftovers, and Mr. Westermann has adopted them with enthusiasm. (It is also possible that customers who pay 98 euros, or $108, for a roast chicken feel entitled to every last scrap.
Now that a branch of Le Coq Rico has opened in the Flatiron neighborhood of Manhattan, Americans can see this French flair as applied to the doggie bag. The basics are the same: glossy shopping bag, spiffy paper container.
But each bag also holds a creamy sheet of thick paper with recipes. The recipes are easy and not earthshaking, but their presence gives the leftovers a shimmer of potential.
Mr. Westermann has visions not only for the meat, but also for the bones and even the juices that collect and coagulate in the container. Rich with gelatin and umami, they are melted into a dressing for salad greens in one recipe. In another, they are used to bind and flavor a terrine.
The French government has recently become involved in l’affaire leftovers. As part of an effort to reduce food waste, since Jan. 1 restaurants have been required by law to send all customers home with le gourmet bag, a rebranded doggie bag, on request.
Perhaps official recipes for leftovers will be forthcoming.
LE COQ RICO IS BRINGING BEAUTIFUL HERITAGE BIRDS TO NYC
Paste spoke with Chef Westermann about his philosophy behind Le Coq Rico and his hopes for the new outpost of his French empire.
Paste: The concept and ingredient combinations are fascinating. It’s reminiscent of the Japanese dish of oyakodon — chicken mother and child egg. Both are foods that are common, beloved, and easy to cook terribly. Why did you pick these two ingredients for your bistros?
Antoine Westermann: Poultry is an universe in itself — the different birds, the different terroir. It is also the meat I prefer — you can eat everything on a bird; there is no waste. If I do remember well, in traditional yakitori places you also eat everything on the bird: heart, liver, neck. I like when there is no waste; it is respectful for the animal. I love eggs, and it is what small farming traditionally does, using everything of the poultry yard environment. It is the same idea as at Le Coq Rico.
Paste: You traveled extensively across the Hudson Valley and Pennsylvania to
find the best poultry and understand American poultry farming. What was the most important thing you learned about American Northeast regional poultry farming?
AW: There are very open minded farmers, doing a wonderful job, involved in welfare, open to building a long-term relationship. They are not only raising poultry; they have also heritage pork or other animals like at Sara Bude’s Majestic Farm. Sometimes they add vegetables, and some like Jennifer Grossman are studying new options with me like providing me guinea fowl eggs.
Paste: Do you feel we have a responsibility to raise our animals humanely?
AW: We deeply need to become more respectful for animal raising in general. Chefs in the U.S. do wonderful work by working even more each year from farm to table. Slow food involvement is increasing. Companies like Heritage Food and Grow NYC provide wonderful farm products, and America does a wonderful job on that subject. I like as guidance the Animal Welfare chicken standards.
Read the full interview here.
POULTRY HAS A PEDIGREE AT LE COQ RICO
I’m almost always the one who gets the chicken. For review meals, I try to let my guests choose their own food. Then I pick something nobody else wants. Often, this is the chicken. I think this can be explained by a remark a friend made recently. “I never eat chicken in restaurants,” he said. “I can make chicken at home.”
So can I, but every time I go to a new restaurant, I hope the kitchen may know things about poultry that I don’t. Every once in a while, I’m right. At Le Coq Rico, a three-month-old restaurant on East 20th Street, I was right. In fact, I think I have finally found the perfect restaurant to take people who think they can make a better chicken at home.
We’d ordered an old New England breed of chicken called Plymouth Rock for $95, along with a guinea fowl that cost a dollar more. Carved and fit back together, each bird was placed in the center of the table in its own iron roasting pan. Our eyes locked in on the bronzed skin and tapering curves of drumsticks with fixed and purposeful stares that, if we had not been humans looking at poultry, I would call lust.
The meat had all the things I wanted and none of the things I 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. Some of my 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 I found highly persuasive. Even the white meat tasted like dark meat.
Read the full article here.
A PERFECT ROAST CHICKEN MADE IMPOSSIBLY EASY
Antoine Westermann has always had a rebellious streak. For nearly four decades, his brash but elegant spin on old-school haute cuisine won over the world’s most discerning diners at his Strasbourg farmhouse restaurant, Le Buerehiesel, in his nativeAlsace. By the mid-’90s, he was considered one of the top chefs in France, known for his intense, primal sauces—saffron on lobster, blood on wild duck. He was rewarded with three Michelin stars, which he held until 2006, when, in a characteristically gutsy move, he handed them back. Westermann was done with fine dining.
“I wanted to be more accessible, to leave behind the universe of luxury,” says the chef, now 70 years old. He then settled in Paris, where he’d opened a satellite bistro, Mon Vieil Ami, nine years earlier. “I wanted to do simple cooking focused on the quality of the products,” he says.
He began to think about the recipes that made him happiest, what he most liked to eat on days off—and he realized he’s fanatic about a certain fowl. “At home, whenever it was a party, it was around chicken,” he recalls fondly. A vision for a new sort of restaurant, dedicated solely to his beloved bird, started to take shape. “I wanted every dish on the menu to have chicken in it,” he says. “If it was a piece of fish, it would be wrapped in chicken.”
And so in 2012, he opened Le Coq Rico (which means “Rico the chicken” and also plays on the French for “cock-a-doodle-doo”), the city’s first “bistrorotisserie,” where he serves the very best chickens, sourced from across France. His menu features simple fare: chicken soups and stews, chicken salads and eggs. But the star attraction is a golden rotisserie-cooked bird trucked in from Bresse, just north of Lyon. The region’s coddled fowl finish their days on a diet of bread soaked in milk. They are the only chickens in the world that are federally protected, like Champagne or Roquefort cheese, with an official AOC designation. Nineteenth-century French food philosopher Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin called them the “queen of poultry, the poultry of kings.”
Those Bresse chickens helped make Westermann’s “bistro of beautiful birds” a sensation in Paris. “Everything here is to die for,” wrote the critic from Le Point. “Real luxury chickens!” gushed L’Express. Having conquered one great food city with chicken, the chef set his sights on another two years ago, planning a second Le Coq Rico near the Flatiron Building in Manhattan. “I thought, if I’m going to do something outside Paris, it would have to be in New York,” he says. “I feel this city; I’m comfortable here.”
The transatlantic outpost, which opened in late winter, serves the finest chickens in America, sourced, like his Bresse birds, from the very best farms—you can’t even import a Bresse chicken egg. To find North American specimens of that caliber, he scoured the East Coast for a year and a half.
Read the full article here.
LE COQ RICO CAPTURES ESSENSE OF PARISIAN POULTRY PALACE.
Le Coq Rico Antoine Westermann, the Alsatian chef who once had three Michelin stars, has created a New York incarnation of his Parisian poultry palace. It occupies two storefronts, one with a long bar and the other a stretch of counter with a battalion of rotisseries and some seating, joined by a spacious rear dining room. Mr. Westermann has had some practice operating a restaurant in the United States. He ran the Café du Parc in Washington and became familiar with local farmers. He is a fan of our heritage chickens from small farms; his menu even lists how many days it took to raise each one (the longer the better). “In France, it’s poulet de Bresse,” he said, referring to the chickens with blue feet, “but here there are other breeds that can replicate the taste of Paris.” There are also guinea fowl, Cornish hens, ducks and squab, as well as poultry livers, egg dishes and a traditional Alsatian Baeckeoffe casserole: (Opens Thursday, March 10th)
THIS MICHELIN-STARRED FRENCH CHEF’S NYC RESTAURANT SPECIALIZES IN POULTRY
Antoine Westermann is kind of a big deal: He’s a three-Michelin-starred, Alsace-born chef who currently presides over five restaurants in Paris, and now one in New York. Flatiron is home to the second location of Le Coq Rico- the first is located in Montmartre- and here poultry is the focal point. The restaurant’s birds are raised in open farmland for at least 90 days (the industry standard is 40), and then served whole, family-style, for four people. There’s also an entire section of the menu devoted to foie gras and terrines, as well as one for dishes featuring pasture-raised eggs. All in all, this is ambitious cooking.
THIS WEEK IN RESTAURANT OPENINGS: LE COQ RICO
We’ve worked diligently to assemble this short roundup of promising restaurants that we are certain have recently opened for business and of the newest announcements we’ve come across regarding restaurants certain to open in the near future. Well, fairly certain. Take a look and be sure to reserve your table today!
French chef Antoine Westermann once received three Michelin stars for his cooking at Le Buerehiesel in Strasbourg. Currently, he is the chef and owner of four restaurants in Paris, including Le Coq Rico. This evening marks the chef’s first opening in New York City, as he brings the same concept to the Flatiron District. The “Bistro of Beautiful Birds” will pay homage to the unique terroir of the northeastern U.S., expressed though the diverse flavors of wild and noble American birds. All poultry served at the restaurant is raised responsibly in open farmland for 90 to 120 days (a stark contrast to the industry standard of 40). Whole birds, including hens, rooster, squab, duck and guinea fowl, are served as shared meals for up to four people, while the menu also features an entire section dedicated to eggs and traditional dishes rooted in Westermann’s classical style, such as chicken baecheoffe, a simplified version of the signature large-format dish at Le Buerehiesel and inspired by the Alsatian preparation of slow-roasting in a casserole dish sealed with dough. The beverage program includes both individual and large-format cocktails, a wine list with both French and American selections, and beer and cider options.
FLATIRON. A THREE-STAR MICHELIN CHEF. POULTRY.
It’s times like these when you realize the phrase “tastes like chicken” is meaningless, because the person saying it never experienced baeckeoffe, and thus has no idea of chicken’s full capabilities. Times like the opening of Le Coq Rico, which happens tonight.
What it is: A capacious poultry bistro with a beak-to-tail philosophy and an original location is Paris
Behind this madness: An Alsatian fellow who goes by Antoine Westermann and has a three-Michelin-star restaurant to his name. When you’ll use it: Power lunches, meals with the Michelin groupie in your life, anytime you walk by and catch the scent. What you’ll find: Well, poultry in its many forms.That beackeoffe we mentioned is essentially a giant chicken pot pit with artichokes, potatoes, tomatoes, and riesling jus. That can serve four people. There’s a soft boiled egg thats been decapitated and filled with salmon roe and served with buttered soldiers of toast, a duck foie gras baked into a pastry… you get the idea. You’ll also find a bit of seafood- a roasted cod and Main Lobster… that come with smoked duck breast and chicken fricassee, respectively. What that looks like: Right this way into the slideshow, please.