A glamorously adult restaurant where French sophistication and decorum rule.
I sometimes wonder if, 40 years from now as I near my retirement, I’ll lose interest in trying new foods and new cuisines. I wonder if I’ll lose the youthful desire for adventure, and instead just prefer to enjoy what I already know and love. Will I sacrifice curiosity for the fulfillment of safe, basic pleasures? Will that be enough to make me happy?
I sometimes wonder about these things because I have noticed that many restaurants decades into their life ultimately choose to no longer strive for innovation, but rather to simply serve food that its chef and its long list of regulars already enjoy. And sometimes, like at Le Cirque, that is not such a bad thing.
Indeed, Le Cirque has confidently left behind the values of youth and experiment long ago, and the result today is an exceedingly sophisticated, old-fashioned restaurant just as regal and charming as ever.
The French fare will not necessarily provide insight into the culinary canon, nor will it definitely rank among the best ever enjoyed. It will, however, feature rich ingredients and be intimately satisfying, like a safely elegant meal craved for a special occasion. The Burrata with figs and richly aged prosciutto di parma is a pleasurable, formulaic dish of the highest quality components, for the type of culinary enjoyment that doesn’t require much thought or effort on the part of the consumer.
While the Dover Sole is undoubtedly the specialty of Le Cirque, the Skirt Steak with arugula, pine nuts, and a truffle balsamic is a perfectly balanced alternative for a slightly more affordable price, and can help ease the sticker shock so often felt after a meal at Le Cirque. Though for those diners being dropped off in a limousine in the almost suburban courtyard of the Bloomberg corporate headquarters where Le Cirque is located, cost may not be a consideration. Perhaps that is what happens in 40 years when one nears retirement, anyway.
The service, too, is some of the most refined and knowledgable in the city, though there is also an undeniable warmth to the waiter who sincerely compliments your choice of wine. There is never a risk that a staff member will make an unforgivable social gaffe, so properly executed is every movement in the soaring, formal dining room, and for many diners, there is a deep pleasure to be taken from this classic, proper style of service.
As it shows no signs of going anywhere, Le Cirque may actually be an honest insight into what my retirement looks, feels, and tastes like. Perhaps I’ll still crave wickedly adventurous Korean food in the East Village then, but perhaps I’ll only want food of high quality in a classically French style. If it has to be the latter, I’d be glad if it was Le Cirque.