Le Cirque, Squared
If you ran the kitchen at Le Cirque, one of New York’s fanciest and most expensive restaurants, and the following words appeared in a New York Times appraisal of your joint, what would you do?:
In a series of meals since the late spring, Le Cirque classics like steak au poivre, Dover sole almondine and even the famous chocolate soufflé lacked conviction. New dishes lacked rationale. Nearly everything lacked seasoning. The kitchen gave the impression that it had stopped reaching for excellence and possibly no longer remembered what that might mean.
Beef carpaccio, the chilly maroon flesh stretched out below a scattershot application of radish and celery slices that had started to curl, tasted of refrigeration and surrender. In what was meant to be a salad, a white flap of flavorless squid was pulled over a length of octopus leg like a shroud; it sat next to frigid white beans that were crunchy at the center.
Roast chicken tasted the way roast chicken tasted in American restaurants 30 years ago (like nothing) and sat next to a muddy, shapeless swamp of porcini. A long log of Dover sole under a sheet of bread crumbs had neither the texture nor the flavor that might justify charging $49 for a fish stick.
Soft green bell pepper and watery peeled tomatoes had lost all memories of their days under the hot sun by the time they were draped like old newspapers over and around a chunk of striped bass. Summer corn soup was the color of winter squash, which may be why it tasted almost nothing like corn. Anyone with a bottle of olive oil and access to a supermarket produce aisle might easily prepare an heirloom tomato salad that surpasses the one I was served at Le Cirque in August.
If you asked these ingredients to speak for themselves, they would shrug and stare at the floor.
After one particularly dispiriting meal, a companion turned to me and said, “They’ve given up.”
Whole thing here. Kudos to new restaurant critic Pete Wells for having the stones to tell it straight.