By Christopher A. Pape
As much as it pains me to admit, French cuisine sits at the summit of dining; so beloved a food culture the French have, that most countries emulate their technique, and flavors – even their raison d’être is influenced by the French (I’m happy to report that as an Italian we are one of the lone countries to resist such temptation).
So you can understand my horreur to acknowledge the fact that the grande dame of fine French cooking in our city is owned by an Italian family (okay – yes I knew this already, it’s just for dramatic effect). Sirio Maccioni, his wife and three sons own the fabled restaurant of which I speak, Le Cirque (they also own several wonderfully delicious Italian restaurants and Le Cirque in Las Vegas).
Starting at the famed Colony Club as a maitre d’hotel in the late 1960s, Sirio developed his first taste for the New York restaurant business. Then in 1974, he opened what was destined to become a New York landmark – Le Cirque, which literally translates as “the circus” in French, at the Mayfair Hotel. In 1997, Le Cirque outgrew its original location and relocated to a larger space in the New York Palace Hotel under the name Le Cirque 2000. By 2004, Le Cirque was an established New York City landmark and decided to move to the prestigious Bloomberg Building on East 58th Street and finally opened its doors in May of 2006.
Through trials and tribulations, Le Cirque has remained a bastion for New York’s well heeled, well to do and well connected. And they’ve also been the incubator of great culinary talent for the city, starting the New York careers of chefs like Daniel Boulud, David Bouley, Terrance Brennan, Alain Sailhac, Rick Moonen, Jacques Torres, Sottha Khun, Sylvain Portay, Christophe Bellanca, Michael Lomonaco, Alain Allegretti, Pierre Schaedelin, Bill Telepan, Alex Stratta and Geoffrey Zakarian to name a few.
Recently, I revisited after a two year hiatus. And what a difference it is! During my first visit, I was underwhelmed by the quality, taste and preparation of the food and the service was brusque and mostly unfriendly. But this time, under the new Executive Chef Raphael Francois – coming to NYC from the two Michelin star Connaught Hotel in London – it was superlative dining experience. From first bite to last of our tasting menu (you must have the six course option) we were enthralled. The staff, thankfully, was attentive, considerate, freiendly and helpful.
I could drone on about each dish’s use of texture and flavor (each was unique and testament to fine French cookery), but that would be boring. Trust me when I say, Le Cirque under Chef Francois is worth a visit (and perhaps several visits). You will love the décor, service and most especially the food.
151 E 58th St,
New York, NY 10022