Le Coq Rico, Paris, France

The cat was out of the bag- or rather, the chicken out of the rotisserie, so to speak. This Thanksgiving, it seemed as if we were not the only ones to “discover” Montmartre’s cloistered Le Coq Rico. Surrounded by chatty French and American families, the small restaurant was bustling despite the chill. My excitement had only grown as the temperature had dropped in the preceding days, as I am a firm believer that roast chicken goes best with frostbite. Entering the restaurant ushered by the brisk wind only heightened my anticipation. Le Coq Rico, owned by famed Parisian restauranteur Antoine Wasserman, specializes in the classic brasserie and outdoor market specialty, roast chicken and little else. 

Reviews for Le Coq Rico have been mixed, ranging from unimpressed to raving, so I went in with an open mind and an empty stomach. My need for schmaltz-laden potatoes and crispy skin overrode my internal Zagat server, and off I went, three famished family members in tow. In retrospect, I’d rank my experience somewhere in the middle of the hubbub- Le Coq Rico is right to stick to chicken and its various accoutrements, but is somewhat lacking in other essential areas.

The decor is simple, and not as chillingly minimal as I’d initially anticipated. In retrospect, it looks like the inside of a very well-kept, pristine white chicken coop. We started off with a bottle of the 2011 A. Keintzler Riesling, tight and fragrant, with a smooth, phenolic development over the course of a few hours. The restaurant favors this small family vineyard- many of their whites were from the Alsace-based Keintzler. We chose to whack up an order of the famed gésiers, crispy giblets ‘n’ bits platter that unfortunately never arrived. It was later discovered that they had forgotten the appetizer. For our main course, the poulet de Bresse, which the menu describes as serving 2-4. While this could be seen as a cost-driving tap dance, it was certainly practical for our needs. In fact, with the sides, the chicken almost yielded too much food, even with a party including a hungry student and a protein-loving weights enthusiast. 

The main course was extremely enjoyable, yielding and naturally sweet, soaking up its savory gravy with ease. It was served simplistically, adorned only by bursting whole cloves of garlic, a sweet and strong accompaniment with each bite. If you’re looking for something a little more formal than gnawing on poulet roti in the middle of a bustling market (my preferred atmosphere of choice) the 90 Euro poulet de Bresse is a fantastic example, providing your company can divvy up white and dark meat without killing each other. Yes, 90 Euro, when taken out of context, can seem a bit dear, but divided by 4 people with plenty of sides to go around, makes it one of the better fine-dining deals in Paris. With the tender chicken, perfectly cooked, we split two plates each of macaroni gratin and frites, the latter crispy and double-fried, the former peppery and comforting, but served somewhat stingily in what resembled an individually-portioned ramekin for a side dish.

After the chicken, it was almost unfair to order desserts. And had the macaroni or the gésiers been on the dessert menu, I am positive I would have chosen them. We opted to share two desserts between the four of us, a monolithic île flottante (at a chicken-themed restaurant I am inclined to wonder why they chose not to include the sibling to this famed dessert, œufs à la neige, or eggs in the snow) in a puddle of vanilla creme anglaise with a scattering of chopped almonds, and Brioche French toast with chestnut ice cream and autumn fruits. With the île, the classic garniture of caramel was missing, compelling its white-on-white counterparts to strikingly resemble the restaurant interior. This was vapid and soft, with a light, sugary flavor. 
The French toast really missed the mark for me– it had a dense, granulated crust around it, like crushed up Captain Crunch, and the deluge of powdered sugar and creme anglaise drizzled on top made it more reminiscent of a diner dessert than a delicate end to the meal. With so many rich ingredients, a more minimal touch would have been preferable. The toast was surrounded by autumn fruits- a fun selection of pineapple, pear, apple, melon, and grapes, some soaked in mulling spices. Combined with the boozy chestnut ice cream, I would have preferred the fruit alone.

If your savory side is singing out for a little chicken and formality, I wouldn’t hesitate checking Le Coq Rico out. Otherwise, you may be better off picking up a chicken from one of many of the stands dotting Paris. However, as Thanksgiving dinners abroad go, this was incomparably better than frozen turkey!

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