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Culture / Restaurants

America’s Hottest New Restaurant

No Spot’s Drawing More Raves Than This Surprising French Escape

BY // 11.07.16
photography Ditte Isager

Everyone’s talking about Le Coucou. Once a decade or so, a restaurant comes along packing the ultimate trifecta of impeccable food, service, and design. Friends are buzzing about it, it constantly pops up in your Instagram feed (W magazine hosted the It Girl Luncheon there), and soon you find yourself planning a trip to New York solely to dine there.

Perched in Aby Rosen’s chic 11 Howard boutique hotel — which is buzz worthy in itself — Le Coucou is a partnership between chef Daniel Rose and restaurateur Stephen Starr (Buddakan, Morimoto). The food, celebrated by critics, is a series of sophisticated, elevated French classics (veal terrine, oysters, oeuf Norvégien). The lauded service has a phone line that actually takes reservations, and the restaurant seats 80 instead of packing in nearly double that.

But we’re going for the design. Behind the poetic rooms are Architectural Digest AD100 designers Roman and Williams, the husband-and-wife team Stephen Alesch and Robin Standefer. Swirling from the high, exposed-concrete ceilings in the dining room are custom pewtered-steel chandeliers with hand-blown glass shades that mimic candlelight. Existing brick has been whitewashed to reveal layers of historic paint, which look authentic but are made with Alesch and Standefer’s special techniques to mimic a lone raw wall on Lafayette Street.

Every seat in the house — many in the form of reinterpreted ’20s Thonet armchairs upholstered in olive velvet — is a good one, thanks to Alesch and Standefer’s film-design background. No view is left unconsidered.

The bar — or, shall we say, salon — is the show stopper. Set into a private space, it’s framed by a 13-foot vaulted ceiling and hand-troweled plaster walls, with a retro- fitted early-20th-century oak French door with beveled glass and bronze hardware. A moody hand-painted mural based on the work of 18th-century French landscape painter Hubert Robert covers the walls.

The bar resembles a kitchen counter, with marble top and brass faucet, and lacks bar stools, making it a gathering place for an aperitif and a little people-watching before your dining experience.

Le Coucou, 138 Lafayette St., New York, 212.271.1728, lecoucou.com.

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