The Monkey Bar – Local Food Dining New York

Hopped across the globe to Europe, and enjoyed a quick overnight in New York, it does cut down the air time and I never say no to a visit to the Big Apple.

Monkey Bar New York

Happily, this stop also included dinner at the iconic Monkey Bar restaurant, where my friend, David Tanis, has been brought in to revamp and refine. One NY restaurant that’s endured decades of the city’s ups and down, is the Monkey Bar. Few surviving restaurants have as celebrated history—even fewer in the ever changing midtown Manhattan dining scene. You may remember I followed David to Sicily a few summers ago to indulge in his cooking class.

Several months ago, the New York Times announced that David Tanis, a longtime contributor to the newspaper’s weekly food section with his “Hungry City” column, had been brought in as the new chef. Co-owner Jeff Klein expects “refinement and subtle changes,” under Tanis, who says his food “will be straightforward and simply presented.” Keeping up with the times, the chef will swap steakhouse staples for more salads, seafood and seasonal dishes made with sustainable ingredients—or, how people want to eat these days.

Monkey Bar has long been on my little NY walking map of historic stops to quench a thirst as a girl never knows when one may be in need of a glass of bubbly and a little bite – parched and peckish is never an acceptable condition anywhere! One must always know where to stop and linger.

History
With the repeal of Prohibition close at hand, a humble new establishment opened its doors on the ground floor of the still-new, luxurious Hotel Elysée in the Midtown: The Monkey Bar. Known as a comfortable locale to while away an afternoon with an impromptu companion, the new bar at the Elysee – known to some customers, between drinks, as the “easy lay” –would become the New York home of Tallulah Bankhead and the site of a number of historically significant events during its lifetime, such as the untimely death of Tennessee Williams, when the playwright mysteriously chocked on an eye-dropper. For decades, the Monkey Bar provided a cozy outpost for ad men in bespoke suits, after-hours politicians, and media barons looking for a little fun. After a few years in disrepair, the Monkey Bar was purchased, in 2009, and returned to its former glory by Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter, his wife, Anna, and hotelier Jeff Klein. Renowned illustrator Ed Sorel was commissioned to paint a three-paneled mural paying homage to the great Jazz Age figures who once sailed through the saloon doors. The dining room’s lush red leather banquettes and dim, attractive lighting have restored the fizzy thrill of both glamorous and cozy-and harken back to a bygone era when a gentleman never left the house without a tie and a lady always had a pair of white gloves in her purse.

Monkey Bar is one of those Classic NYC Establishments that “has history.”

Highly Recommend Monkey Bar Manhattan!

Local Food – New York – Le Coucou

Local Food. You really get to know a city by tasting local food.

New York – restaurants change by the minute in the Big Apple; fortunately my 212 friends are unabashed foodies thus my Journeys result in nightly expeditions to the latest hottest Dining Temples.

Le Coucou New York

Le Coucou New York

My Parisian visits to the petite restaurants of  Spring (recently closed), Chez La Vieille, and La Bourse et La Vie owned by American Chef Daniel Rose, created a passion for dining at Le Coucou in New York, his latest foodie emporium. After seventeen years in Paris, this new restaurant is his exciting debut in New York. Inviting my dear friends, including David Tanis, is probably why I obtained the best seat in the restaurant. We passed by Clive Davis to our table, the best table in the house…Clive, with white napkin tucked into his collar, gave us the up and down once over of who are they? Who knew David Tanis was King of New York?

Le Coucou New York

Le Coucou, which opened a little less than a year ago, was named Best New Restaurant this year at the James Beard Foundation’s annual award ceremony in Chicago. Le Coucou is a fancy French restaurant – refined French fare emphasized by crisp white tablecloths, every table is accented with a flickering single taper candle, dripping ever so slowly; the menu is bursting with complicated French dishes with names you might not always recognize, dishes served out of gleaming copper pots, by suit wearing waiters. Can you visualize the scene? Having a famed Chef as a guest, immensely helps menu translation…why wouldn’t you want to order the fried veal head, it looks like it is sublimely prepared as such…David can make poetry out of a turnip.

Our picture-perfect table right by the spectacular performance kitchen was engrossing theatre – shelves stacked with all sizes of copper pans, numerous chefs all wearing skyscraper white toques, without any sense of awkwardness, balancing pots and tilting spoons as gracefully as in a ballet. It’s a French restaurant after all!

Le Coucou New York

Initially, I was taken back by the restaurant size, although the darkly lit bar is very cozy with deep silk covered sofas, Daniel Roses’ restaurants in Paris barely seat 22 patrons, cozy conversation next to another diner is almost unavoidable. Last November when I supped at La Bourse et La Vie, my table neighbors shared their veal stew..when they arrived, the Champagne hinted at a celebration and although I lack any knowledge of French, it rapidly appeared that she was breaking up with the handsome man from Spain…he did invite me to an art event in Paris the next day. Le Coucou is massive and apparently serves over 500 plates an evening, not quite as intimate, but certainly gorgeous and dazzling.

Le Coucou New York

Le Coucou New York

Le Coucou New York

The walls are decorated in typically French pastoral murals depicting scenes of 18th Century landscapes, sparkling chandeliers dangle from above, a few original exposed brick walls are evident and the tables are laden with layers of glass and flatware, perfectly positioned on stiffly starched white tablecloths.

Le Coucou: Breakfast. Lunch dinner. 138 Lafayette St, New York,

And then the menu:  DINNER

HORS D’OEUVRES

Huîtres, granité aux algues
oysters, seaweed ice

Limande rouge au caviar
fluke, cucumbers, American sturgeon caviar

Poireaux
leeks, hazelnuts ( Highly recommend!)

Crêpe “souvenir de Lannilis”
crab, buckwheat, lime

Joues de boeuf en gelée au foie gras
beef cheek and foie gras terrine, sherry vinaigrette

Raie au poivron et câpres
poached skate, capers, sweet pepper vinaigrette

Tomate farcie au thon
tomato stuffed with tuna, olives and herbs ( (Yummy!)

GOURMANDISES

Salade de homard, sauce lauris
lobster tail, basil, tomato, sauce lauris ( Loved by all!)

Langue de veau au caviar américain
veal tongue, golden ossetra caviar, crème fraîche

Ris de veau a l’estragon
sweetbreads, crème de tomate, tarragon

Crépinette de volaille aux foie gras et fruits ( Excellent!)
chicken and foie gras, roasted plum

Quenelle de brochet, sauce américaine
pike quenelle, lobster sauce

POISSONS ET VIANDES

Halibut, beurre blanc
daikon prepared as choucroute

Navarin de Lotte
monkfish, mussel broth, summer vegetables ( Loved by Barbara!)

Sole Véronique
dover sole, grapes, champignons ( Loved by Gwen!)

Tout le lapin
all of the rabbit ( adored by David!)

Pigeon et homard
grilled squab, fricassé of lobster and squab bits, potato purée

Canard et cerises
duck, cherries, foie gras, black olives ( Stuart says yes!)

*Côte d’agneau grillé, collier braisée à la tomate**
Colorado lamb with steamed eggplant, neck braised with tomatoes

Filet de boeuf, jus à la moelle, queue dans la boulangère
prime filet, bone marrow jus, oxtail potatoes

Divine, it’s not Paris, but the Fancy French Fare translates in New York.