Gourmet re­view

The am­biance and pol­ished ser­vice at Le Cirque Dubai

Destination of the World News - - CONTENTS -

Founded by Sirio Mac­cioni back in 1974, Le Cirque is some­thing of a leg­end in New York City, as is Mac­cioni him­self. One of those rare, charis­matic hospi­tal­ity char­ac­ters, the Ital­ian im­mi­grant charmed New York­ers when he worked at the Colony Club as a maitre d’ho­tel in the late 1960s, as has his ven­er­a­ble restau­rant, helmed over the years by lauded chefs like Daniel Boulud, David Bouley and Christophe Bel­lanca. To­day, there are out­posts of Le Cirque across the globe, from Las Ve­gas to New Delhi, and judg­ing by the black-and-white pho­to­graphs of Mac­cioni with his celebrity pals on the walls of the Dubai restau­rant, the leg­end goes far deeper than food. It’s only been a few months since Le Cirque’s Dubai in­car­na­tion opened its doors at The Ritz- Carl­ton, Dubai In­ter­na­tional Fi­nan­cial Cen­tre (DIFC), and it seems the per­fect fit for the ho­tel. With high ceil­ings and full-length win­dows over­look­ing the court­yard, a so­phis­ti­cated pal­ette of grey and white and a mix of ta­bles with ban­quette and French bal­loon­style chairs, it’s a breezy, light-filled set­ting that’s ideal for a power lunch, though on the day I dine, it’s not so suit heavy – more a mix of trav­el­ling pro­fes­sion­als and fi­nance work­ers, a vo­lu­mi­nously pouted woman here, even a cou­ple or two there. A grand pi­ano is set up for evening per­for­mances though at lunchtime, Le Cirque has a more muted yet el­e­gant am­biance, with servers and hosts milling about clad in waist coats and jaunty red bow ties. It’s cer­tainly more chic than staid, and the din­ing room is given both a con­tem­po­rary edge and a colour pop thanks to the art­work hand­picked by Opera Gallery Dubai, from the neon green and skulls in works by David Gern­stein to the splashes of fuch­sia in a flower in­stal­la­tion by Barcelon­aborn Lita Ca­bel­lut. We are greeted and seated swiftly, and are nos­ing through the menu when the charm­ing Mex­i­can server sug­gests let­ting the chef do the choos­ing for us. At Le Cirque, it’s dubbed “Dé­je­uner avec Le Chef” and we read­ily agree with just two re­quests: grilled en­trecôte as a main and scorched scal­lops, sweet potato and co­conut as an en­trée. It’s not long be­fore table­ware ap­pears, the pink and grey flo­ral ce­ramic plates so pretty, I can’t re­sist flip­ping one over to see who de­signed them (Sin­ga­pore-based pro­duc­ers, Luzerne). The plates look even bet­ter once the scal­lops, seared ever-so-slightly, are deftly served up, with wafer-thin sweet pota­toes and a sweet co­conut cream fused with gin­ger, vine­gar and just a hint of chilli. The chef’s choice of en­trée is to­mates au fro­mage de chèvre – with smears of goat cheese, a sweet, charred onion chut­ney and sprin­kling of edi­ble flow­ers, the heir­loom tomato tart fea­tures at least 20 toma­toes of vary­ing sizes, all per­fectly peeled, I’m gripped by the urge to salute the kitchen, for any­one who has ever peeled a tomato knows just how fid­dly and mad­den­ing the process can be – yet worth it a hun­dred times over for that un­in­hib­ited burst of juice. There are two low points in the din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. The first is when I dis­cover Le Cirque’s at­trac­tive bar is churn­ing out an even more at­trac­tive cock­tail menu – and I have driven my car. The sec­ond is when my French Riviera mock­tail ap­pears to go AWOL; though when it fi­nally ar­rives, any ill feel­ings are promptly de­fused with a joke (“We were out pick­ing the or­anges”), and de­fused some more once the fresh or­ange and pas­sion­fruit juice dosed with elder­flower syrup starts tan­go­ing on my tongue. For my non-driv­ing din­ing part­ner, the som­me­lier rec­om­mends a Chi­anti, and it’s an ideal choice paired with the en­trecôte, the suc­cu­lent, fat-of-the-land rib­eye sliced and served with Café de Paris. Tout de suite, we’re tuck­ing into it with with aban­don along with risotto d´as­perges, with both white and green as­para­gus, and purée de pommes de terre, the creamy mashed potato spooned onto the plate, it’s a beau­ti­fully ap­por­tioned and clas­si­cally French meal. Le Cirque’s dessert menu is not for any­one hop­ing to prac­tice re­straint, and we cer­tainly don’t when the tarte fine aux pommes (ap­ple tart) ap­pears, topped with cin­na­mon ice cream and a tof­fee-style caramel sauce. The crème brûlée, its cop­per­coloured shell en­cas­ing the vanilla won­der­land be­low is an­other stand­out. Our server cocks her head con­spir­a­to­ri­ally as she tells us the recipe for the dessert will be re­vealed once we reach the base of the ce­ramic ramekin, which sounds like per­mis­sion to lick the plate (if only!). In­stead, we vig­or­ously scrape with spoons un­til Le Cirque’s fa­mous recipe ap­pears on the bot­tom. By 3pm, there’s only a ta­ble or two left of lin­ger­ing din­ers, so we de­cline cof­fee and stroll out, ad­mir­ing more art, nod­ding at the warm farewells from the staff, and unan­i­mously agree­ing upon a re­turn. Clas­sics with grav­i­tas, so­phis­ti­ca­tion with­out the pomp, zero at­ti­tude and the lus­tre of pol­ished ser­vice, Le Cirque Dubai lives up to the leg­end.

“LE CIRQUE’S DESSERT MENU IS NOT FOR ANY­ONE HOP­ING TO PRAC­TICE RE­STRAINT”

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