Le Coq Rico
98, rue Lepic, in the 18th Arrondissement. 01 42 59 82 89.
Open daily, noon–2 p.m. and 7 p.m.–midnight.
Antoine Westermann’s Alsatian roots shine in all their glory at his new bistro-rotisserie, which gasconades the barnyard (or basse-cour) in a simple yet elegantly Parisian fashion. Bashfully located in the quaint rue Lepic, just west of Sacré Coeur, le Coq Rico ostensibly represents his latest attempt to fly the coop from his Michelin-starred existence at the luxury Paris restaurants. The inspiration for these belles volailles comes from his childhood favorite: roasted chicken. Known for his emphasis on products, Westermann, no spring chicken himself, has Thierry Lébé taking on the birds and Adrien Boulouque stocking the wine cellar, showcasing a carte of chicken specialties as well as rabbit and game dishes, all emphasizing the highest standards.
I’ve been an admirer of Westermann ever since a delicious experience at Drouant, one of my favorite Paris restaurants. Appreciative of his quality ingredients and deep respect for seasonality, I must admit that this radical back-to-the-basics approach roused some skepticism. Could my strict German bang-for-the-buck value system justify a 90 euro bird, however high end?
I stepped into the restaurant with an ambivalent heart. The plain but graceful interior harbored about a dozen polished Parisians relishing in the degustation—we’d be the only Anglos making relentless puns on the restaurant’s inopportune name tonight. Two obliging servers welcomed us, and after a considerable wait (didn’t I make reservations?) seated us at a large, communal table mimicking the Alsatian Stammtisch, traditionally reserved for regulars, which we shared with a handful of other chatty patrons.
Our waitress, whose attitude remained belittling in that French sort of way, promptly delivered our rillettes de canard served with rustic country bread—an impeccable if simple start. A forewarned 40 minutes later (excellence takes time), our poulette for four and sides of rice embellished with fried foie gras, oyster mushrooms and peas appeared. Roasted to perfection—white meat equally juicy as dark—it really was a beautiful bird! The perfectly bronzed skin exuding a few fatty beads was crispy and flavorful. The fried liver dotting the rice provided some earthiness, while the oyster mushrooms added a subtle, sweet pleasure tied together by fresh peas.
Helplessly seduced by our neighbors’ delicate (and enormous) millefeuille au chocolat, we couldn’t hide our disappointment when we learned that it was all out. Nevertheless, the vacherin glacé, or French meringue, served with vanilla ice cream and rhubarb sorbet sprinkled with rhubarb slices and pistachios provided a satisfying alternative. The tangy rhubarb countered the sweet meringue, while the ice cream consolidated everything smoothly. The meringue was crunchy inside yet slightly stale outside after a long day—excusable given that it was already midnight.
It was an exquisite meal—our chicken was masterfully roasted and the creative nuances (such as liver) we’re a real delight. The verdict on the 90 euro chicken? From a German to an Alsatian: despite the tastiness and expected inflation at all Paris restaurants, it still sort of ruffled my feathers. Perhaps an option with a higher oomph factor, like roasted pigeon or stewed duck leg, might have won me over. Surely, the 15 euro plat du jour would have done the trick. Still, I was wholly satisfied. Therefore, I rationalized it as a slightly overpriced splurge—a perfectly tasty one.
In a nutshell: Antoine Westermann perfects the poulet at this luxury bistro/rotisserie. Splurge on chicken (and the rest of the barnyard) prepared in all its splendor in a plain but elegant setting where the food runs the show and the polished clientele is in the know.
Price check: 50 euros per person; 15 euro plat du jour at lunch.
If le Coq Rico sounds good, you might also like the Alsatian-influenced restaurant Schmidt—L’Os à Moelle. Read the review.
Schmidt—L’Os à Moelle
3, rue Vasco de Gama, in the 15th Arrondissement.
01 45 57 27 27. Lunch and dinner, Tues–Sat.
Le Coq Rico