The trouble with big ticket restaurants is that the hype takes away from the experience. The first Le Cirque opened in Manhattan 36 years ago and after conquering New York and Vegas, its owner, Sirio Maccioni, launched his newest baby at the formidable Leela Palace Hotel, Chanakyapuri in the capital. Delhi loves adopting all things foreign and Le Cirque is no exception.
The Delhi version of a stiff upper-lip NYC fine-dining restaurant fails to impress with its interors. The buff wooden panelling and carpeted look is uninspiring and there is no hint of the circus which once made it legendary in the United States and gave it its name.
Looks aside though, the food shines. In its original form, Le Cirque is an Italian restaurant serving French food, but given the Indian palate, the French influence has been pared down dramatically and the chef experiments with classics instead, giving them a new name along with a new identity, The original Le Cirque classics find themselves highlighted in red in the menu; the dishes in black are executive chef Mickey Bhoite's own creations. I began with the duck prosciutto which is a delicate confection of well-done duck that dissolves on the tongue, leaving behind hints of caper berry, apple and aged balsamic. The softness of the produce and the tart flavours of the sauce give it a distinctive appeal.
I went with the paupiette of black cod (the New York version served sea bass) for mains. Fresh cod was served with a Barolo wine reduction, on a bed of potatoes and leeks. The fish had a mahogany crispness that elevated the dish, but leeks are an acquired taste and I can't say I enjoyed the beautifully cooked version at all. My companion opted for the Wagyu rossini plated up with foie gras, cream spinach, asparagus and truffle jus. Foie gras may be banned on the pretext of animal cruelty in some American states but Indian activists have (thankfully) not yet demanded the same here. While the meat was cooked rare and was possibly the best Wagyu I have eaten in India, the foie gras added the wow factor to the dish.
In dessert, the floating island Le Cirque, served with berries and cream anglaise was a neither-here-nor-there kind of confection and nothing else on the menu looked particularly inviting. Le Cirque, Delhi, still riding on its foreign antecedents, needs to come into its own. Till such time as that happens, it invites you to be part of this very elite circus where owner Maccioni's signature dishes compete alongside Chef Bhoite's winning experiments.
The Leela Palace, Chanakyapuri
Meal for two: Rs7500 + taxes
Tel: 91-11-3933 1390