Last night I joined several others to Le Cirque for restaurant week to see why it has always received such high acclaim. Yes, I know, I should have been prepared to be underwhelmed since it was RW, but at a place known to have great service, maybe it would be great, however, in the end I felt as though I was ripped off despite the cheap three course meal for $35.
Le Cirque has been located somewhere in Manhattan since 1974, some considering it an institution of the city’s restaurant scene. The minute you walk through the door, you can almost tell what type of meal that will be in store. The majority of the clientele is older, in their 50’s or later, and because of the strict jacket policy, most of the men are decked out in Insert Fancy Suit Brand Here and sipping on cocktails that cost more than the $35 meal I’m about the eat.
The restaurant claims to have 16,000 square feet of space, though I can already tell more than half of that is wasted on a high vaulted ceiling in the main dining room that are to mimic a circus tent. While we made a reservation well ahead of time, we were asked to sit in the Cafe, which in my personal opinion was really due to the fact that we weren’t old and perceived as cheap skates. The cafe was still adorned with a very whimsical feel, orange umbrellas spanned the entire ceiling and a large 27-foot kaleidoscope wine tower was in the center. The wine tower is mostly unnecessary (and not used while we were there), but hey, at least they have one. The cafe portion of the restaurant has a much cheaper menu, offering many items as a $35 for two-courses. And if you’ve seen the prices here, that’s a
good great deal.
Ok, so we did come here to get food, so on to that. Aside from the fact that it took more than 20 minutes to see a menu, we did get to order from it eventually. I decided on the heirloom tomato salad with gorgonzola mousse to start, the Navarin d’Agneau
aux petits légumes (summer lamb stew) and the Rocky Road for dessert. The first course was plated very well (see below) and the tomatoes were exceptionally delicious, though I’ve definitely had better tomatoes (recently).
For the next course, the stew came out with a really nice presentation, however, it couldn’t make up for the undercooked potatoes and only average vegetables. While the lamb was actually very flavorful, it would have benefited from another hour of cooking to get even more tender. Overall, it was satisfying, though not exactly what I expected from a restaurant that has stood since 1974.
The rocky road dessert was pretty amazing, the only dish that I ordered that was truly inventive and not just a simple French classic. While our meal was pretty reasonably priced because of the RW menu and deal, I couldn’t possibly fathom how the meal would have been worth the money at regular prices. With a bill reaching around $250 for 4 people, it is likely that we each would have paid $250 for the same meal under normal circumstances. While some places are worth it (cough cough, Le Bernardin, cough cough), this place is not. I tasted several other dishes, including the skate and flounder, and the skate was one of the most awful pieces of fish I’ve ever had, just pathetic. I really cannot comprehend wanting to come here for a regular priced dinner unless you have money to burn (even then, I’d rather go anywhere else) and/or want simple classic preparations you remember from your high school trip to Paris in 1960.