TYPE: Modern French
Still, it was impossible to ignore waiters toting dishes that seemed curiously absent from the menu. In mid-bite, my dining partner demanded to know what the table next to us was eating. “What is that?” I whispered to the fur-cloaked women. “It’s not on the menu,” one of the women coyly bragged as if she knew something we didn’t. “It’s just spaghetti primavera.” On behalf of my eating partner, I chased down our waiter and timidly requested the same dish. The entire troop of servers circling our area, took pause, dumbfounded by the demand. Sometime later, a silver serving cart toting a dish of naked spaghetti arrived with unusual fanfare. “Big deal”, I thought to myself as they whisked the cart away to toss the pasta with primavera sauce. Two piping hot bowls were presented before us; firm spaghetti entangled with bits of broccoli, fresh tomatoes, savory mushrooms and a sprinkling of crunchy pine nuts, all pleasingly bathed in a creamy sauce that didn’t resemble primavera, but I wasn’t about to push my luck by asking questions. While the pasta itself was incontrovertibly pleasing, the satisfaction of dining on “members only” fare far outweighed the charm of such a simple dish. As my dining partner reclined back into the banquette, he gloated, “That’s the way you eat at a place like Le Cirque.”
We wrapped up the evening with a rich, warm chocolate cake, topped with a splendid mint chip gelato. As I sipped an accompanying petite mug of thick hot chocolate and a homemade mint-laced marshmallow, I pondered a somewhat inexorable dilemma: Will the next breed of diners ever truly embrace the notion of jacket & tie dining?
While aspirational young foodies are undoubtedly serious about inspired fare, they seem unwilling to make it a formal, never mind weighty affair.
While Le Cirque still seems to satisfy its veteran clientele, the institution is tragically damned if they do, damned if they don’t. Like many other fine dining establishments, Le Cirque now faces the quandry of drawing in a new crop of diners,
while still maintaining its loyal following. As Sirio slowly passes down the reigns
to his sons, the Maccioni family might be forced to acknowledge that old world regulations just don’t work in this millenium. Maybe they should lose the jacket
policy in the dining room, an ancient practice that just doesn’t work anymore. If they truly want to compete with the new culinary establishment that has moved in on New York’s food scene, they’ll have to change more than just the menu, and perhaps share “off the menu” secrets with the rest of us.