Written by Hulda Lawrence
Sirio Maccioni is not one to rest on his laurels as one of the most outstanding restaurant owners around town, so his newest enterprise aptly named Le Cirque, located at One Beacon Court, 151 East 58th Street, 212 844-0202, has been drawing old and new timers for about a year. Those familiar with Sirio's style know that the food will be superb and it will be presented with panache in a splendid place. They will not be disappointed with the décor designed by Adam Tihany and architect Costas Kondylis. Tables are set in an area that seems like a huge lamp shade suspended from a high ceiling. This is the main room; beyond that is a huge bar and behind that is a café. There also are private rooms for large and small gatherings.
At luncheon the other day, we began with a Cosmopolitan for me and a Negroni for my companion. There is a special lunch of three courses, but we opted to order a la carte. Our appetizers were Spring Vegetable Cassolette and Salmon "Gravlax." Both were excellent; the salmon was accompanied by tiny warm blinis, créme fraiche and sweet and sour vegetables. Other choices might be Prosciutto di Parma; Tuna Roll; Sashimi; and Tartare with mango, galangal, cucumber yuzu granite; the day's Risotto; Spaghetti alla Chitarra or with Seafood and Zucchini Flowers stuffed with zucchini, parmesan and mint.
There is an extensive wine list, but we chose a glass of Shiraz for me and Sancerre for my companion.
Our entrees were Chicken Curry Salad and a Minute Steak with pommes frites. The salad was delicious, done with golden raisins, crème fraiche and mango chutney. Other salads are "Le Cirque" of mixed lettuces with tomato, carrot, avocado, asparagus, haricots vert and a poached quail egg; Roasted Shrimp Salad; Lobster Salad; and Warm Calamari Salad. Cheese Soufflé and Omelette du jour are also available.
Among the main courses are Paupiette of Black Sea Bass, wrapped in crispy potatoes on a bed of braised leeks and Barolo wine sauce; Pike Quenelle with sauce Nantua; Slow Roasted Salmon; Grilled Branzino; Ginger Chicken with spring vegetables and rice pilaf; Roasted Lamb Chops; Braised Beef Short Ribs and Mini Cheeseburgers.
The lunch prix fixe is $39 and provides a first course of either Salad "Le Cirque," Gazpacho or Cheese Ravioli. The second course is Grilled Branzino, Ginger Chicken or Braised Beef Short Ribs. Dessert is Crème Brulée, Tiramisu or ice cream or sorbet.
Since Le Cirque has always been famous for its Crème Brulée, it was our dessert choice. Incidentally, the recipe for it is emblazoned right on the plate!
We left feeling that we had had a wonderful experience in dining and that all was right with the world!
With transportation by air becoming ever more difficult, lucky New Yorkers can take a bus, train or cab to Marseille at 630 Ninth Avenue at 44th Street (212) 333-2323. It is described as "French-Mediterranean" and the cuisine is delicious. In a spacious area with huge windows, diners can relax. Twenty people can be seated in the separate bar where the decor reflects the 1930s and '40s.
From the enticing list of cocktails we selected a Bellini Martini for me and an Elderflower Martini for my companion. Both were excellent and very different. Other cocktails include Le Pamplemousse, Rhubarb Margarita, East Street, Marseille Martini, Berry Cosmos, Pomegranate Cocktail and Rose Sangria. There is a lengthy list of bottled and draft beers as well as "big Bottles." In addition there are several non-alcoholic drinks. Cocktails start at $8.
There is a group of "mezze" bite-sized portions of appetizers, and we ordered Shrimp Beignets, Short Rib Cigars, Artichokes Barigoule and Panisses. A selection of these 'bites" with a glass of wine would be fine. However, from the more substantial "Starters" there is Soupe au Pistou, Crisp Sheep's Milk Ricotta Borek, Sardines Marinees, Sauteed Sweetbreads, Prosciutto Salad, Jardiniere Salad, Haricots Vert and Hearts of Romaine. Bites start at $3.50, hors d'oeuvres at $8.25.
For our entrees, with the help of Amy our charming server from the Poconos, we chose Sweet Pea and Crab Risotto with mascarpone and mint along with a salad of Grilled Veal Paillard with treviso, endive, arugula, raw mushrooms and asparagus with creme fraiche vinaigrette. Our wines were Gevrey Chambertin, Frederic Esmonin, Burgundy, France for me and Viognier, Domaine de Tiennes, Provence, France for my companion. The entrees we selected were wonderful and we cannot wait to enjoy them again. Other luncheon entrees include Tunisian Chicken, Grilled Salmon, Tuna Steak, Lamb Couscous, Steak au Poivre and, of course, Bouillabaisse Marseillaise. Entrees are $15.50 to $24 for the Bouillabaisse.
Our Veal Salad was fine, and there are others featuring Spring Chicken, Grilled Shrimp, Jumbo Lump Crabmeat and Mediterranean Lamb, $14.75 to $18.75. There are sandwiches of Grilled Chicken, Portobello Tartine, Hangar Tartine, Marseille Burger or Seafood Burger, from $9.25. A platter of cured meat with mozzarella, marinated vegetables and grilled bread is $14.25.
Our desserts were terrific. My companion's Espresso Parfait was done with mascarpone, sabayon, mocha cream and granite. My Meyer Lemon Chiboust was a marvelous chilled lemon soufflé with basil ice cream and peaches. There also are Chocolate Tart, Caramel Apple Ravioli, Classic Crème Brulée, Beignets and Mixed Berries. Each is $8. A cookie and truffle plate is $7 and a selection of farm house cheeses is $14. There are ice creams with flavors of Salted Caramel, Espresso, Honey-Almond; and sorbets of Blood Orange, Lillet, Passion -Mango and Banana.
Dinner adds such entrees to the menu as Golden Snapper, Goujons of Sole, Moules Provençal, Duck Breast, Veal Scaloppine, Lamb and Short Rib Daube Provençale. In the evening there is a Prix Fixe of three courses for $28.50 consisting of salad or soup, Tunisian Chicken or Skate or any pasta, with a dessert of sorbet, ice cream or mixed berries.
This is an exceptionally good restaurant both in food and service.
Hours: Lunch: Monday to Friday noon to 3 p.m.
Restaurant Notes Around Town
For almost nine years, Trattoria Pesce Pasta has drawn diners in search of good food at moderate prices at its restaurants. Although there are five sites, the most convenient to me is the one at 625 Columbus Avenue at 90th Street. No reservations are taken by phone, but if you come between six and seven p.m., it won't take too long for a seating. It is noisy and informal, but the food is good and the portions are generous. Manager Nuno De Sousa runs the place with good humor and efficiency. There always is a table of fresh vegetable antipasto. Among the entrees a variety of fish is done in several ways. A favorite is Striped Bass done with leek and capers in a white wine sauce. Linguini with tiny clams is excellent as are all the pastas. Veal Parmigiana and Piccata are popular. There is room for children and prices are a la carte. All meat and fish dishes are accompanied by pasta or vegetables. Spaghetti starts at $11.50, fish is $16.50. For dessert there are sorbets, tiramisu and chocolate cake. Carlos Tapia is my frequent waiter. Other sites are: 1679 First Avenue (59th St); 1562 Third Ave. (87-88th St); 262 Bleecker St. and 536 Ninth Ave. (40th St.) All are open daily.
After enjoying the cultural delights of The Metropolitan Museum of Art take some time to appreciate the food and service at The Petrie Court Café on the main floor. Nicely designed so that diners can gaze out at Central Park, lunch can begin with Carrot and Fennel Soup; Carmelized Sweet Onion Tart with Prosciutto and Baby Arugula; Warm Pepper Caponata with Goat Cheese; or Mesclun Salad at $8 to $10. Main courses include Garganelli Pasta with Roasted Baby Eggplant; Mediterranean Shrimp Salad with Chick Peas, Mushroom Relish, Applewood Smoked Bacon or Black Forest Ham; and Fontina Pressed Panini, $12 to $19. Desserts are Banana Cream Tart, Lemon Curd Cheesecake, Pear and Walnut Crostata, $9. Wines are available: a Merlot from Australia is excellent at $10. Cocktails are imaginative. Dinner is available Friday and Saturday nights from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. with an expanded entrée list including Roasted Chicken Breast, Braised Short Rib and Roasted Striped Bass. Dinner entrees are $16 to $24. There is a $35 prix fixe dinner. Afternoon Tea is served daily from 2:30 - 4:30 at $24.
The dollar sign indicates the approximate cost of dining for two persons, excluding beverages, tax and gratuity.