The once-sleepy Venice stretch of Main Street between Rose Avenue and Pico Boulevard is suddenly popping with new and notable restaurant openings. Heavy Handed recently brought short-rib burgers and soft serve to the neighborhood, and the Crudo e Nudo team just launched Isla, where they’re doing glorious things with wood fire. Even Eastside restaurateurs are taking note: The Silver Lake Wine folks are slinging margs and nachos at Vamos Vamos, and Triple Beam Pizza is opening on Main Street later this year.
The newest resident of the seaside stretch is Coucou, a French-Californian bistro with classics like steak frites and mussels mariniere, as well as caviar-and-potato chip service and a memorable martini. Owners Hayley and Jesse Feldman didn’t have to think twice about where to open their restaurant, noting that “Main Street is full of small business owners who really care.”
That passion for the neighborhood, as well as for French bar and bistro culture, shines through at Coucou. Here’s everything you need to know before paying a visit.
Their “Perfect Martini” flips the script
The cocktail program mainly focuses on inventive gin and vodka drinks, as well as classic aperitifs. Jesse jokes, “If Erewhon made a cocktail, it would be our Hippies in Paris,” which involves Citadelle Gin, turmeric, ginger, galangal, and lime. The aptly named “Perfect Martini,” made with both Monkey 47 and The Botanist gins, is one of the beverage program’s highlights.
While a “perfect” martini traditionally refers to a drink with equal parts dry and sweet vermouths, mixed with vodka or gin, this one inverses the ratio, using two gins instead. The result is a smooth, balanced cocktail with just a rinse of vermouth, served ice-cold with a twist, as it should be. There’s also a spicy margarita riff and espresso martini made with Gnarwhal Coffee, because after all, we’re in Venice.
Expect caviar, potato chips, and a classic ice cream sundae
Jacob Wetherington, formerly of Bouchon Las Vegas and Malibu’s Surfrider Hotel, helped design a menu that features French favorites and Feldman favorites. Dive in with oysters from Tomales Bay and, if you’re there to ball out, the Calvisius Prestige caviar served with potato chips and crème fraîche. The meaty, flaky dorade — an early standout — is butterflied, dressed in a lemon-caper sauce, and cooked over white oak and almond wood. There’s only one dessert on offer, and they’re keeping it classic with a soft serve sundae made with Strauss Creamery milk, finished with a chocolate hard shell drizzle, Luxardo cherries, and chopped almonds.
It’s a family affair
Jesse grew up a stone’s throw from Main Street, in a house that his father still lives in. He returned to the neighborhood with Hayley after living and working in France, where the couple fell in love with the casual, bustling bistros that serve simple but exceptional food.
Coucou strikes a balance between elegant details, thoughtfully chosen ingredients, and an intimate, effortlessly hip atmosphere. “Earlier in the night, it’s very chill,” says Hayley, “and then, as soon as the sun goes down, we turn the music up and it’s a lot of fun.” It’s a cool factor that can’t be fabricated—the vibe just flows.
The bar is one for the books
The Feldmans designed the space themselves, which gives the vibes of Balthazar in New York meets Hotel Costes in Paris. For the bistro’s salon wall, Jesse enlisted an old college buddy to create drawings of Serge Gainsborg. There’s tables with cognac-colored leather banquettes, as well as eight stools at the gorgeous bar. “We wanted the bar to draw you in like catnip,” says Hayley, and it does, thanks to arched mirrors, warm lamp lighting, and vases filled with wild fennel and chamomile. When the weather gets nice, they’ll open up the accordion folding doors in the front, and the sun-kissed crowd will no doubt spill onto the street with aperitifs in hand.
Erin Mosbaugh is food and travel writer who has worked in kitchens in New York and L.A. and co-created the James Beard Award-winning food site First We Feast. Follow her on Instagram and TikTok; follow Resy, too.