I don’t like restaurants that make me feel guilty. But that’s not the fault of Antoine Westermann, owner of the new and fantastic Le Coq Rico in Montmartre. I’ll first of all say, reserve right away, the place is fantastic and open 7 days a week, so there’s no excuse. How much of a genius do you have to be to come up with a single-ingredient concept restaurant? Poultry, meaning chicken and guinea fowl, duck, and pigeon. And everything it brings to the table. The reason that Le Coq Rico makes me feel guilty is how they use every bit of those tender birds and turn kidneys and hearts and livers and wings into miraculous morsels. And I don’t. I stuff my freezer full of chicken livers for the terrine I never make. I stuff the birds with hearts and gizzards as I roast them, when I should be treating the ingredients with greater honor. But to the reason of Le Coq Rico: the whole bird. Chef Thierry Lébé and his ultra-professional staff cook with precision and quiet perfection, roasting farm-raised poultry from all parts of France (each comes with a pedigree and the name of the farmer) whole on a rotisserie set in their small but efficient kitchen. Diners can choose to sit at the bar and watch the action, or dine in one of the two small dining rooms. The place is bright, modern, understated. The menu offers something for everyone: from a golden-brown, intense poultry and celery root broth ladled over tender ravioli filled with foie gras (photo), and on to their signature planchette de béatilles: poultry hearts seared, gizzards cooked tenderly in fat, wings lacquered, and little curried balls of herbs deep-fried. I love pigeon but am never 100% satisfied with my efficient use of the bird, yet here it’s roasted perfectly rare and rosy, teamed up with mushrooms and bacon with the tender liver crushed atop a rectangle of toast. A single serving of Challans farm-raised chicken is a wonder of nature, moist, tender, as it should be but not always is. And, well, the fries are about the best ever, deep golden brown, crispy, can’t stop eating them delicious. Even the little green salad here is fresh and attentively dressed. I can’t imagine having room for dessert here, though somehow I did: the l’ile flottante is gorgeous, rich, and flawless, the seasonal salad of pineapple, pineapple sorbet, with a touch of ginger and lime zest add a tonic that takes you bravely into the cold winter air.
LE COQ RICO, 98 rue Lepic, Paris 18. Tel: +33 1 42 59 82 89.Métro: Lamarck-Caulincourt. Open: Daily.www.lecoqrico.com
Lunch & Dinner: A la carte, 35-70€