Upon walking into the glittering Le Coq Rico in Flatiron, your hostess will likely ask you if you’ve been there before. A seemingly odd question, considering the sleek French restaurant has barely been open two weeks, that is until you realize she’s referring to the original eatery; a largely identical, poultry-focused spot in Paris. And as you pass through the three adjoining rooms — already filled to maximum capacity on a Tuesday — there’s little doubt that many were once regulars; being largely well-heeled, frequently French accented, and otherwise young and hip, likely willing to travel anywhere for a noteworthy meal.
Le Coq Rico — overseen by the three Michelin-starred chef, Antoine Westermann — is far from being your run-of-the-mill brasserie. As the name duly indicates, it has a very specific focus; namely, responsibly sourced hens, roosters, squab, ducks and guinea fowl, raised in open farmland for 90-120 days (the industry standard is 45). In addition to helping support a far more humane practice, it means the restaurant has access to poultry that runs rings around that plastic-wrapped stuff you’ll find from Perdue, with incomparably moist, deeply-flavored meat that effortlessly slides off of the firm, dense bones.
So if you’re dining with a group of four or more, by all means order a whole bird, such as the 110-day-old Brune Landaise (a French import, now raised by Mennonite farmers in Lancaster County), the 90-day Plymouth Barred Rock (developed in the U.S in the 19th century), or the New Hampshire, prized for its fast growth, vigor, large eggs and quality meat conformation. Because in addition to being spectacularly delicious, they all come with a charming “Little Bird Book,” which schools patrons on the difference between Cornish Hens and Guinea Fowl, and provides a helpful glossary of frequently used terms.
Not that smaller parties are at a loss, as the succulent Brune Landaise also comes in a quarter-sized portion with a sprightly green salad; although a side order of thick-cut russet fries is practically prerequisite, for mopping up the intensely savory jus. And while those feathered mains undoubtedly take center stage, know that the through-line is cleverly upheld throughout the menu, starting with an Offal Platter (don’t be squeamish, as preparations are both approachable and unquestionably appealing; think tidy apple and heart brochettes, burnished curls of liver on horseradish toast, diminutive glacéd wings, and hearty spiced croquettes). There’s also a selection of Soups (Poultry Consommé with duck liver ravioli), Salads (Shaved Artichokes a la Barigoule, with slips of sautéed guinea fowl), and Terrines (Foie Gras en Croute), although we were especially taken by the section entitled “Eggz;” don’t miss the classic En Meurette, paired with bacon and mushrooms and poached in red wine. And don’t assume that Le Coq Rico drops the poultry baton at dessert, as eggs, quite cunningly, play a leading role once again, incorporated in a gold standard L’Lle Flottante — a perfect sphere of meringue, bobbing in a velvet crème anglaise — and a vibrant Rhubarb Soufflé, served with a quenelle of fantastically rich frozen custard.
We may never be regulars at Le Coq Rico in Montmartre, but we could readily imagine becoming frequent guests in Flatiron.