Critic’s choice: The best new restaurants in three U.S. cities
Le CoucouNew York City The winner of this year’s James Beard Award for America’s best new restaurant “would make no sense anywhere but New York,” said Pete Wells in The New York Times. Chicago-raised chef Daniel Rose, who has run a restaurant on Paris’ Right Bank for the past decade, understands Manhattanites well enough that he discerned the city’s need for a place that would bring back high-style French cuisine. Le Coucou’s dining room, with its white tablecloths and simple chandeliers, has an elegance that is “well outside the everyday rumble of New York life.” Still, the atmosphere’s far from fussy, and perfect for diners newly discovering what creamy, buttery French sauces do for poached fish, fried tripe, sweetbreads, or a lean beef fillet. The sauces aren’t heavy. In fact, “they are so dynamic, the contours of their flavors so precise and rewarding,” that smart diners use a tablespoon, supplied for the purpose, to savor each drop. Add “tuned in” service and an impeccable wine list, and of course New York has responded. For visitors to the city, there’s currently no better place to enjoy a meal they couldn’t have back home. 138 Lafayette St., (212) 271-4252
“Prepare to be dazzled,” said Tom Sietsema in The Washington Post. The dining expe- rience at our city’s best new restaurant, which sits just two blocks from the White House, only begins with the “sublime” dining room, appointed with cushioned booths and leather and walnut walls. Former White House chef Frank Ruta is hyperattentive to every ingredient: The braised veal tongue arrives with bites of carrot and spinach that “taste as if each has been pampered by its own kitchen minder.” His boudin blanc is the best around, “basically a cloud whipped up from chicken, foie gras, and cream.” Open just two months, Mirabelle will need time before every detail is right, but diners can already count on “graciousas- it-gets” attention and a knockout dessert cart. The great pastry chef Aggie Chin is working alongside Ruta again, and one of her gems is a cake made from 20 layers of crepes, each slathered with yuzu marmalade and sesame seed cream. The word “Mirabelle” can mean “wondrous beauty”; how apt. 900 16th St. NW, (202) 506-3833
Han Oak Portland, Ore.
Han Oak isn’t really a restaurant, said Brett Martin in GQ. “Simply put,” it’s instead a unicorn—“something magical to be seen at all costs, before it notices it’s among us, and promptly disappears.” But Portland is lucky for now that chef Peter Cho, who worked for years under April Bloomfield in New York, has turned part of the industrial building he lives in into a spare, bright popup destination specializing in home-style Korean dishes. Some nights, you might share the counter with Cho’s 2-year-old son while Cho’s mother hand-rolls dumplings nearby. Still, “for all the warm, familial vibe,” the service is crisp. Cho, in his cooking, “opts for soulful over pyrotechnic.” His smoked hanger steak with slaw “might make you feel like you’re deep in Texas,” and much of the food you get with the $35 tasting menu—even the homey Korean dishes—is equally simple. Still, when Cho steams and then deep-fries sweet potatoes, the actual results are so delicious “you assume some higher science is involved.” 511 NE 24th Ave., (971) 255-0032
Christopher Gregory/The New York Times/Redux, Andrew Scrivani/The New York Times ■