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Black Tie Fine Dining 1
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Black Tie International - Restaurant Review:
Le Cirque



Karen Gantz Zahler


Le Cirque’s Allure

 by Karen Gantz Zahler


   After 35 years of blending unmatched elegance with some of the world’s finest cuisine, Sirio Maccioni is still one of the grandmasters of New York’s culinary scene. To anybody who has been inside of his luminous establishment, Le Cirque, now located inside the esteemed Bloomberg Bloomberg building, the pull is obvious and over the years it has attracted one of the most eclectic and renowned followings imaginable; from Presidents Ford, Reagan, Nixon, and Clinton to the likes of Andy Warhol, Martha Stewart, and Jackie Kennedy, this legendary establishment has something for everybody.


            While Manhattan is home to innumerable restaurants, Le Cirque has a distinct element of charm and intimacy which has long made it the island’s most celebrated dining spot. After all, are there any other restaurants of this caliber where the owner and his family, including his wife, Egi, and two of his three sons, Marco or Mauro, preside in-house 6 days a week. Though the new restaurant stands at over 16,000 square feet, one can still catch a glimpse of Mr. Maccioni, talking and laughing exuberantly with diners. This excitement is part of the reason why, as Jon and Lizzie Tisch of the Regency Hotel said, he is “a wonderful gift to New York City.”


            Despite the struggling economy and the difficult times facing many restaurants in New York right now, Le Cirque has made 2009 a year of innovation. First, its new Executive Chef, Craig Hopson, trained under Guy Savoy and Alain Senderens in France, will bring some welcome changes to Le Cirque’s venerable menu.  As a start, Le Cirque has created a 35th anniversary menu, in which one can enjoy a three course prix-fixe meal in the lounge for lunch or dinner. The prices, $28 and $35, will certainly help recession-weary New Yorkers get out of the house again and enjoy some great food.  If Sirio has room in the main dining room, he tries to accommodate his customers in the main dining room.


            Chef Craig Hopson will make gradual but decisive changes in the restaurant’s menu. He added some lighter fare to the lounge menu, like his hamachi carpaccio, a smoky, spicy yellow tail with basil puree and Cavaillon melon and chipotle oil. A popular salad features duck confit blended with green mango, slightly bitter minzuna and honey vinaigrette. The Thai influence of mango paired with textured duck confit is most endearing. The dishes reflect what he considers to be “a blending of cuisines” and have a particular cosmopolitanism about them. The grilled octopus salad, for instance, has a Spanish Mediterranean influence with chorizo aioli and fingerling potatoes.


            Of course, all the new dishes are available alongside the mainstays which have made Le Cirque one of New York’s most favored restaurants. Some of the wonderful indulgences of its culinary repertoire include, lobster risotto, grilled dover sole, the signature paupiette of black cod with Barolo wine sauce, and the sensational sea bass wrapped in buttery Yucca gold potatoes adorns a luscious bed of caramelized leeks surrounded by a delicate wine sauce. Rich and ethereal, the creamy textured crème brulee custard, crystallized with brown sugar, is as good as ever.  Mr. Maccioni, after all, is a firm believer that “food is not fashion” and that it should not change by the season. He aims to provide straight-forward, simple, and delicious food—fare that is elegant yet familiar. 


            In another act of innovation and expansion, Le Cirque has started offering off-site catering, a move which will surely be met with an eager and excited audience throughout New York, so people having dinner parties at home or at different venues will have the excitement of Le Cirques imprimatur.


            Yet, with all of the exciting changes at Le Cirque this year, several things remain unchanged. The Maccioni family has been honored for years, and just recently Mr. Maccioni was honored by CityMeals-on-Wheels for his charitable efforts. Many charitable events are hosted at Le Cirque, because it is a real cache.  The restaurant will continue to host some of the most important charity and private events in the city, and, as always, the establishment will be filled with excited and highly satisfied patrons.


Karen Gantz Zahler is an entertainment lawyer and literary agent who is trained in classic French culinary techniques.  She is the author of A Taste of New York: Signature Recipes from New York’s Best Restaurants, where she appeared on QVC selling one thousand books with Sirio Maccioni’s sublime crème brulee, and Superchefs: Signature Recipes from America’s New Royalty.


Taste of New York


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