Food Blog | Cooking Blog
Nestled in the network of cobbled streets that makes up the 18th arrondissement of Paris, Montmartre, Le Coq Rico is something really worth seeking out upon even the briefest of trips to the city. Le Coq Rico is open for lunch, dinner, and everything in between, and what is more, it is a stones throw away from Antoine Westermann's latest venture, Degustation, a champagne bar and delicatessen open from noon through to midnight. Atop the relatively steep Montmartre, the restaurant welcomes its breathless customers with a warm and cosy ambiance that is not dissimilar to an Alpine chalet. Le Coq Rico promises an intense culinary experience, uncharacteristically good service (in Paris terms), and an adventurous and unique menu that adapts classic poultry and wild game dishes that you might recognise. Everything is garnished with something fabulous and indulgent (truffles and foie gras feature prominently on the menu) and the relative expense of the food is not remotely askew; you are really getting bank for your buck in terms of quality and taste - haute cuisine at its most affordable.
Westermann is quoted for aiming to share is unwavering passion for poultry, bringing in game and farm birds in various combinations to give quality, variety and flavour. The restaurants work in close collaborations with livestock farmers to ensure freshness and high quality of their ingredients, and the eggs are carefully selected from various sources depending on the season. All of this hard work does not go to waste as the chefs employ the use of such a seemingly every day food in unique and colourful ways (see the oeuf a la coque with tuna ventreche, and the oeuf en cocotte with fresh thyme an black Gascon bacon toasted crostini, above). If only eggs could be so spectacularly prepared at home using ingredients we might actually have! We will have to settle for enjoying the exquisite food at the bar with a view of the open kitchen, or in the stylish dining room of LCR.
From an extensive list of soups, consommés, giblets, eggs, chicken salads and liver dishes, the plus one and I chose our starters. He went for a salad of pan-fried duck livers with poppy seeds, grapes and Chantecler apples, and I for the Westermann-style goose foie gras (when in Rome, eh?). The pan-fried livers were outstanding and entirely unlike anything either of us had ever tasted; the peppery poppy seed crust provided the perfect antidote to the smooth texture and sweet taste of the livers. The portions was generous, with each slice packing enough flavour to warrant a good few minutes of cutlery attention - taking a good 15 minutes to make his way through the dish, the plus one was in bliss. The citric soy dressing married perfectly with the sweetness of the grapes and sour crunch of the apple shards. Innovative, beautifully presented and harmonious on the palette. The foie gras, by contrast, was unrefined and indelicate. An unbelievably generous door stop of the finest goose foie gras coated in a deliciously crumbly short crust pastry. With the fresh baguette and homemade port relish, I too, was in heaven. The pate was rich, creamy and round in flavour, garnished with nothing more than a grind of black pepper and sprinkling of rock salt.
As soon as we turned our attention to the main course menu, we remarked on the adventurous inclusion of wild game (fowl, partridge, pigeon and so on) in an incredible variety of dishes. The chef uses nearly all elements of the bird, something which I may have previously judged as off putting. He does not believe in wastage and provides information about the sources and terroirs of each and every cut. There are time honoured classics alongside weird and wacky creations - from pan fried scallops wrapped in smoked duck breast with winter squash and ginger puree, to young partridge spit roasted with chestnut, grape and quince fricassee. Everything is seasonal, so I won't go into the details of the menu that we had on the day, but I think it is safe to say that there is something for everyone (so long as you aren't a birdophobe or vegan). Alongside our mains, we enjoyed the gratin de macaroni au fromage (I actually ate the entire thing alone, without wanting to share a piece of it with my guest), field green salad, and thrice baked frites maison: all delicious, but not to be taken lightly as the quantities of meat really are enorme.
From left to right, the plus one went for a vollailes and crawfish vol au vent, and I for a roasted Challans guinea fowl
with caramelized sauerkraut & wild mushrooms. Both dishes were outstanding in entirely different ways. The light, fluffy dome of the vol au vent was a more delicate accompaniment to the (already complex) dish than would have been potatoes, and the pastry had the rich and buttery taste of that which had been freshly made. The shreds of crawfish went curiously well with the medley of tender and succulent poultry pieces. It was unexpectedly similar to a mild curry, spiced with garam masala and garnished with chilli, spring onion and lime. Not what the traditional Englishan expected of a vol au vent (I think he was envisioning a filling more similar to Campbell's chicken soup) but he was very pleasantly surprised. Incredible, thick and hearty - advised better alongside the salade verte than the heavy macaroni gratin. My dish, by contrast, was a classic roast guineau fowl, impressive for its incredible succulence and rich flavour, rather than its' zany combination of ingredients. Nothing complicated, just honest to God moist and tender meat with a perfectly light and crispy skin - I can see how Antoine Westermann has gained his reputation as the master of poultry. The sauerkraut relish was sweet and sticky, herbed with parsley and sage so as to bring out the flavours of the pan fried wild mushrooms and garlicky guineau fowl gravy.