Wed Jun 4 2008
Time Out Ratings<strong>Rating: </strong>4/5
Even after moving into the Bloomberg Tower’s ground-floor atrium two years ago, Sirio Maccioni’s haute-dining palace still seemed to be coasting on its iconic reputation. With the aging impresario consistently ceding control of Le Cirque to his sons, however, there’s recently been a shake-up. The changes—from the addition of a casual bar menu to a new executive chef—are exciting enough to recast the place as a restaurant once again worth a detour. The drab food of Pierre Schaedelin has given way to the vibrant, contemporary cooking of Christophe Bellanca, lured east from L’Orangerie in LA. The chef is a stylist of impeccable technique, with beautifully spare Franco-Japanese flair. Although the price of admission remains prohibitive, if you steer clear of stuffy dishes like asparagus with hollandaise—presumably on the menu for the old-timers—you get what you pay for. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a foie gras presentation more artful than Bellanca’s lush duck-liver confit served with sweet-sour persimmon puree and an aspic-glazed asparagus rosette. Melt-in-your-mouth frog legs luxuriate in a spring-in-a-bowl fricassee featuring sweet pearl onions and a bright pea puree. Lobster tail is gently infused with vanilla and perched atop a savory apple Tatin. Desserts, too, have more polish than they once did. Pastry chef Vincent Jaoura delivers a pitch-perfect soufflé made zingy with raspberries and passion-fruit–banana sorbet, and fills a religieuse with delicious cherry custard. While the food sings, the service whispers. Though flawless and unobtrusive, with no amuse bouche, the fanfare perhaps has been scaled back too much for prices this extravagant.