In an effort to squeeze in one last restaurant before Restaurant
Month and a Half Week comes to an end (for reals this time) on Monday, I set my sights on Le Cirque. As is tradition, I chose Le Cirque mostly because I could never afford the full price menu, and less so because of its history as one of NYC’s most well known eateries, although that did play a factor.
Emily and I were seated immediately in the main dining room and they quickly brought us fresh bread and butter. If you are on a budget and eating at Le Cirque, well, you are clearly in the wrong restaurant, but you could easily cut it down to just an entree and this complimentary bread to get you through the meal. It is an assortment but the stand out is the focaccia and I had at least three pieces. I am a firm believer that all restaurants should give you something to start while you get situated and ponder the menu.
After a few minutes of consideration, we were set on starting with the White Gazpacho as well as the Ricotta Gnocchi. My bite of the gazpacho was good and both dishes were very visually spectacular, but the true stand out of the night, for all 3 courses, to me was my ricotta gnocchi. With a sprinkle of salame, olives and escargot, and sitting on a bright green pesto sauce, the gnocchi was hearty and salted to perfection. The portion was perfect for an appetizer, not too small, but leaving enough room for the next course.
We decided to split our entrees, sharing the pork belly and the mini burgers. I started off with the pork belly, which had a small side of some sort of watermelon salad that seemed like a throwaway addition. The portion size was also relatively small. It also didn’t seem picture worthy. While the taste was there, I would have a real problem paying whatever the full price would be for the amount of food on the plate. Which brings me to my next point, while some dishes on the RW menu were indeed on the regular menu, we somehow chose 4 dishes that, in looking right now, don’t seem to be listed. If you are going to participate in RW, don’t cheapen the experience by offering less costly food. The additional business must be offsetting the costs for the most part, so serve Le Cirque food, please. Neither dish was stunning in the visual department either. The burgers and fries were good, but its not like they stood out over a generic burger or fries in New York. I kept debating if the burgers and fries were too pedestrian a choice but nothing else on the menu jumped out to me as a better option.
The desserts that followed were Rocky Road for Emily and Creme Brulee for me. Again, both good but nothing to write home about. Additionally, I’m fifty-fifty on what appeared at the bottom of my dessert. While it was cool to see the recipe right there in front of me, albeit a little gimmicky, I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe I would be better off not being reminded how extremely unhealthy creme brulee is immediately after eating it.
I was once told Le Cirque doesn’t live up to the hype (JLaff shoutout). Maybe they put a lot more effort into their main menu but I just felt so mediocre afterwards. I had a good meal, but I’ve had better. It gave me no desire to return for a more expensive meal. While RW can be a way to try a restaurant you could never afford, it should be the restaurant’s goal to inspire diners to make the return trip. At the end of the night, I think the meal just fell short of that.