Le Cirque

By grace.g.yang ยท November 3, 2008
Under: Dinner,Prix-fixe,UES

After meeting some wonderful people at Top Chef’s Taste of the Five Borough’s event, I was invited to a free meal at Le Cirque to try out their tasting menu. Le Cirque is located in the Bloomberg building on the UES (it’s third location since the restaurant opened):

Le Cirque started on 65th street (for 22 years) and then moved to the Palace Hotel (at the time, it was called Le Cirque 2000). It’s been in the Bloomberg horseshoe since 2006 and the interior designer for the restaurant, Adam Tihany, also helped design Per Se (both restaurants are very beautiful). The first floor has high ceilings, whimsical monkey sculptures made out of metal, and a very large wine cooler near the bar. The restaurant was very busy with lots of families, older people, and younger business types, and Chris and I were very excited for our meal.

The hostess seated us in the main dining room and we immediately saw the owner, Sirio Maccione, walking around the tables and greeting regulars. Sirio even has a table next to the hostess stand because he’s always at the restaurant (when we were there, he was actually having dinner at the table as well). The overall feel of the restaurant is very family oriented; Sirio’s family photographs are wallpapered on the walls by the entryway to the restrooms. There are also photographs of Sirio with all of the famous people that eat at the restaurant (lots of past presidents, movie stars, etc).

Chris and I were very excited to try the menu at Le Cirque – we both ordered the menu degustation (four courses for $120). After we selected our appetizer, fish, meat, and dessert, a waiter came by offering us a wide selection of bread, including an olive rosemary baguette that I REALLY liked (I ate 4 of them):

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The waiter came by throughout the meal (similar to the bread cart at Bouley) and I tried the majority of them, but liked the olive rosemary baguette the most; it had a great texture and the olives added the perfect amount of saltiness to the bread.

To start off the meal, the chef presented us with a butternut puree soup:

The soup was smooth, earthy, and had a great mix of spices. The puree also had a tiny tart cherry inside, which was a nice contrast to the almost spicy puree.

My first dish was the Australian shrimp with Asian mixed vegetables and coconut lemongrass jus:

The shrimp was similar to the shrimp I ate at the Taste of the Five Boroughs event in Grand Central. It was very large (bigger than any cocktail shrimp I’ve ever eaten) and the coconut lemongrass jus was an interesting combination (although I eventually ate the shrimp separately because I’m not a big fan of lemongrass).

Chris’ first dish was the Tuna Tataki – carpaccio of daikon radish and avocado, sesame vinaigrette, yuzu cucumber granite, and seaweed salad:

The fish was very fresh and the daikon radish added a nice texture to the smooth tuna. The yuzu cucumber granite almost tasted like freshly grated (icy) wasabi, and the seaweed salad was the favorite part of this dish (for me) because I love the texture of seaweed (although Chris and I both thought it was a little on the salty side). I’d say the texture of seaweed is similar to tripe (cow’s stomach), which is another favorite dish of mine. Chris didn’t like the seaweed salad, although he also doesn’t like the texture of anything too chewy like tripe or octopus.

After our first dish, we were presented with our fish course. For me, I went with the Atlantic Chatham Cod – slow poached with a poppy seed crust served with a red pepper shiitake chutney and a light ratatouille:

The fish was very light, although I didn’t like the poppy seed crust because I thought it didn’t match very well (I usually only eat poppy seeds with bagels or muffins). The light ratatouille was a great addition to the cod and it was probably my favorite dish of the evening.

Chris was presented with the turbot, (a flatfish native to marine or brackish waters of the North Atlantic) with baby vegetables, grain mustard, and saffron-kaffir lime:

Our waiter actually told us it was the John Dory (a predator fish I seem to know a lot about because I occasionally watch Hell’s Kitchen with Gordon Ramsay), so we were a little disappointed when we found out that we were actually eating the turbot (although it was really delicious). The turbot had a delicate flavor which was balanced with the grain mustard and the baby vegetables were cooked perfectly. In terms of favorites of the night, Chris and I both enjoyed our fish dishes the most.

After our fish course, we were excited to try our meat dishes – I went with Roasted duck breast, leg confit, caramelized daikon, and orange glazed beets:

The duck was prepared many different ways and the roasted duck breast was probably the most tender and flavorful. The leg confit was under the duck breast and a little too salty for me. The orange glazed beets didn’t have much flavor, possibly because of the salty leg confit, because I didn’t actually know it was a beet until I later looked at the menu. As a side note, all of the plates at Le Cirque have cute illustrations of monkeys and jewels (although I’ve heard the illustrations depend on the dish, I only remember monkeys).

Chris was presented the lamb with a gremolata crust, pecorino ravioli, mint jus, braised shoulder, and crispy flank:

Gremolata is actually a chopped herb condiment made of garlic, parsley, and lemon peel that added a great flavor to the tender lamb. The pecorino ravioli was a burst of cheese that was a little overpowering, but the lamb was quite tender and delicious. The lamb dish was probably my second favorite dish of the evening.

The waiter also brought along these hash browns:

The hash browns were like mashed potatoes that were lightly fried – the potatoes were smooth, but it had a nice crust that added a nice crunch to the little poppers.

After our meat dishes, we were pretty full but were offered the dessert menu and I couldn’t refuse the Floating Island “Le Cirque”:

I had no idea what I was ordering and I didn’t read that much into the dessert menu, so I was pretty surprised when I was presented with the Floating Island and made Chris take a picture of me with this gigantic dessert:

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The Floating Island consists of three meringue-like balls that are light and very sugary. They are drizzled with a little honey and in a soup of vanilla cream (which had lots of vanilla beans). The soup also had some berries that were larger than any berry I’ve ever eaten (the blackberries were seriously the size of a large olive). It was a little too much for me, although I’m sure kids and older people both love the dessert for smooth texture and the sugar content.

Chris ordered the pineapple souffle with the sour cream gelato:

The pineapple souffle was airy and served very warm. It paired well with the sour cream gelato and I ate the majority of it while Chris drank the floating island.

Finally, we were presented with some mignardises:

Overall, the dinner was a fantastic way to spend an evening (we spent around 2 hours for our meal) and the waitstaff were all very friendly and attentive. Le Cirque also has a cafe that is more casual, but I didn’t feel like I was under-dressed or out of place in the main dining room (however, I must warn guys that jackets are required). Everyone at the restaurant was very kind to us and it definitely operated like a well-oiled machine; the waiters allowed us to enjoy our meals but were always sure to have our waters refilled and anticipated when we needed more bread, were ready for our next course, etc. I liked that Sirio still eats and spends time at his restaurant – it shows just how much he cares about Le Cirque.

Le Cirque on Urbanspoon

Reader Comments

Hey, this place looks good. I always walk by and never knew what it was like. I’ll probably check it out now.

Written By Justin on November 3rd, 2008 @ 10:48 am


  1. Le Cirque | Indoor Grills  on June 2nd, 2009 @ 11:18 pm

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