Restaurant Week: Le Cirque

by Ada on February 23, 2011

When NYC Go announced the extension of restaurant week until February 27th, Zara and I immediately booked reservations at Le Cirque. Le Cirque is somewhat of a New York City institution, steeped in traditional formalisms and classic French cuisine. Men are required to wear jackets with a tie and females are expected to dress up.
Le Cirque is located in the futuristic looking Bloomberg building in the midtown east area of Manhattan.

As soon as I walked in I felt a tad uncomfortable, as though even sneezing might elicit an abraded glare. The restaurant’s space is quite formidable, featuring a large and glamorous inner dining room and a swanky lounge area. I’ve often heard Le Cirque casually referred to as “Le Jerk”, since your seating arrangement can largely depend on social mannerisms. Well known socialites, for example, are always seated in the main dining hall, while those of “lower class” might be seated behind the lounge area. Luckily, Zara and I did not experience such treatment and were seated at a magnificent table in the main dining room.
Upon being seated we were greeted with a diverse bread basket and waiter wearing a full suit and tie. I particularly enjoyed the olive ficelle, while Zara preferred the foccacia.
For her appetizer, Zara selected the pheasant tagliatelle. I cannot find the exact description online, but these were lovely dense pillows of meaty comfort. The perfect food for a raw winter night.
For my entree I selected the hamachi tataki, a more summery dish. I was impressed by the generous serving of fish and even more impressed by the wonderfully brueleed grapefruit. The sugar crystallized on the citrus, complimenting the bitter fruit well. The grapefruit foam, however, added nothing to the dish’s flavor and felt rather superfluous.
For her entree Zara selected the salmon with salsified mushrooms and a grape jus. The mushrooms were nice and meaty, but the actual salmon was a rather bland affair. Zara did, however, request it “well done” and I usually order it medium rare or rare.
For my entree I selected the daurade fillet upon recommendation of the waiter. The daurade was served over pureed gigante beans in a tarragon, yogurt, cucumber sauce. The fish was well cooked, with a perfectly crisped skin, but the dish simply felt boring. If you go to Le Cirque, go expecting classic French cuisine and not a transcendent meal.
For dessert we shared the chocolate canelloni
and the baba au rhum, just to be tres francais😉
I’m not a huge rum fan, so I didn’t expect to enjoy this dessert, but ended up being pleasantly surprised. The cake was super moist (as to be expected when doused in a liquidy substance and surrounded by cream) and had a nice whipped cream/candied fruit filling.

Overall I had a lovely evening at Le Cirque with Zara, though the meal certainly had some flaws. Aside from the banality of the entrees, there was an overly extended gap between the appetizer and main course and our server abandoned us immediately after dessert, forcing us to flag him down for a check. The main fun of Le Cirque, however, comes from dressing up and heading back in time, to the days when eating out constituted a luxury only to be enjoyed on special occasions.

Le Cirque on Urbanspoon