During a business trip to Las Vegas, with my wife, I chose Le Cirque at the Bellagio Resort for one of the two nights.
We have dined at Picasso, also at the Bellagio, Guy Savoy, both Joël Robuchon Restaurant and L’Atelier at the MGM Grand, Michael’s at Southpoint, Andre’s at the Monte Carlo, Gordon Ramsay Steak at the Paris-Paris, AquaKnox at the Palazzo, Aureole, SeaBlue, Commander’s Palace, Michael Mina’s, Emeril’s, and several more. To this point, our favorite had been Joël Robuchon’s flagship restaurant, but its position received a serious challenge from Le Cirque.
I had also received several recs. for Le Cirque from Chowhounds, and greatly appreciate those.
Le Cirque is situated along the short side of the lake, with Bellagio’s famous fountains. One enters via a small, elegant, but understated door - one that’s easy to miss amidst the bright lights and busy promenade of the casino. Once inside, one is presented with an intimate dining venue, decorated as though you are dining in a small French circus tent. With the interior trappings, the noise level is very low, just as it should be in a fine-dining venue. The “windows” are really narrow, floor to ceiling, fully glazed French doors, looking out onto the lake. There is a view of the fountains, but the angles of view are somewhat limited, by the narrow nature of those French doors. However, we did not feel deprived of any “fountain view,” because of the lovely room, and the wonderful presentations of the food to follow. It was tough to tear our gaze from our table, when the fountains “performed.”
We had secured a first seating at 5:30PM, as we had dined long into the night before, and had an early flight the next morning. We were seated promptly, upon arrival, at a nice 4-top, set for two. My wife was given the more direct view of the fountains, and Maurice greeted us, with offers of cocktails, or wine to start. We launched into the evening with a half-bottle of Champagne, while we perused the menus. After a few moments with the menus, the Dégustation was chosen. Immediately, it was pointed out that the first course could be prepared just for my wife, omitting the bi-valves, with which she has problems - they remembered that issue, and had already made arrangements - nice touch.
Le Cirque offers three “levels” of wine pairings: the Sommelier’s Selections, a Premium and then a Prestige Selection, featuring some exotic wines, served via a Coravin, to allow for B-T-G glasses of wines that never make a B-T-G list, but at a US $425 premium. We opted for one of the regular, and one of the Sommelier’s pairings, giving us different wines, for each course. In addition to our initial Champagne, we added another glass, the Maury Pla du Font (think a Port-styled wine made from the Granache grape), to accompany the Maple and Balsamic Glazed Foie Gras, which was paired with a Royal Tokaji 5-Puttonyos Tokaji.
We basically ordered different Dégustation menu for each of us, and with slightly different wines for each.
Because we hang onto our wines, usually through most of a meal, we were glad that the table was a 4-top. This also worked well, in that I was able to substitute my dessert for a Cheese Course, and some of the sweeter wines from the Foie Gras Course worked beautifully with a slice of Roquefort.
There were no weak wines, and having at least two for each course added to the fun. Each pairing was excellent, whether from the Sommelier’s Pairing, or from the Premium Pairing. The Sommelier made one substitution, predicated on our previous wines, and our courses, and that indicated great attention, on his part, to me - lovely.
Our courses ran thusly:
Panko Crusted Farm Egg, Osetra Caviar, Lemon Créme Fraiche, Scottish Smoke Salmon, Fingerling Potato and Pepper Magnoette (Supplement $15), paired with Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label, NV Champagne.
“Le Cirque” Lobster & Avocado Salad, with Black Truffle Vinaigrette, which was paired with Ruinart, Blanc de Blanc NV Champagne.
Maple and Balsamic Glazed Foie Gras, Puy Lentils, Mirepoix Caramelized Apple and Duck Redution, with the 5 Puttonyos, Royal Tokaji, plus the Maury, Pla del Fount.
Carnaoli Risotto, Parmeasan Reggiano and Seasonal Truffles with the Périgord Black Truffles supplement of US $40, paired with the Puligny-Montrachet, Jean Charton, ‘11.
Paupiette of Potato Crusted Mediterranean Sea-Bass, Braised Leeks in a Pinot Noir Reduction, with the Pethel Heights, Willamette Valley ‘11 Pinot Noir.
Prosciutto Wrapped Atlantic Monk Fish, Turnip Purée, Lobster Mushroom, Jerusalem Artichoke, Roasted Peewee Potato and Sauce Poivrade, served with a Gevrey Chambertin, Vielle Vignes, ‘09, from Marc Roy.
Berkshire Pork Tenderloin, Soy-glazed Pork Belly, Chestnut Confit, Swiss Chard, Butternut Squash Purée and Marjoram Cider Cream Sauce, accompanied by Ch Giscours, ‘06 Bdx.
Red Wine Braised Veal Cheeks, Creamy Polenta, Thumbelina Carrots, Baby Zucchinin, Pearl Onions, Daikon, Haricots Verts and Herb Salad, with La Sughere di Frassinello ‘10.
A pre-dessert was scheduled at this point, but my wife chose the Camembert.
Here, I opted for the Cheese Course, and she the Dessert Fantasy, with the Ch Lamothe Guignard ‘10 Sauternes, and then the Le Tertre du Lys d’Or ‘05 Sauternes.
From the culinary side, the only slight disappointment was the Carnaroli Risotto with the Périgord Black Truffle, which was a $40 supplement - very good, but not quite great. Not much of a “disappointment,” but compared to the other dishes, it was noticed.
All dishes were served in unison, and always after each wine course (some restaurants get the food ahead of the wines, but not Le Cirque), and were beautiful presentations, and all with proper flatware. The portions were adequately small, allowing one to experience the six courses (plus the canapes and an amuse bouche), and not become stuffed, prior to the end of the meal. I deem the portions to have been perfect for us.
While not inexpensive, by any criterion, at US $650 for two (remember, we did have additional wines) is right in keeping with Guy Savoy, and a bit below what we spent at Joël Robuchon Restaurant, but there, we delved more deeply into the wine cellar, as we were a party of four - food-only costs were comparable.
The service was a perfect blend of fun, and professionalism, with just the right amount of familiarity. We felt that we were “regulars,” dining with old friends, rather than as first-timers at Le Cirque. The balancing of excellent service, with the lighter interaction with true professionals is difficult to achieve, but Le Cirque did so, and never missed a beat.
The only complaint that I had was the spacing of the tables in the intimate dining room. Our table was just a bit too close to a 6-top, behind my chair, and the servers brushed the back of my chair, while serving that larger table. I was about to request that the staff move our table, just a few inches in the other direction, when the party of four, at that table left, and it was quickly converted into another 6-top - I understood why our table was placed, where it was, but it was still too close to the table behind me. For wanting about 8" more space, a perfect dinner had this little glitch.
If one is doing the Dégustation Menu, I would allow a full 3 hours for the evening. We finished in just under 4, and did not feel the least bit rushed, at any point, though the dining room was full. The staff understands fine-dining, at a very high level.
Everything considered, the evening was great fun, filled with great wines, refined and friendly service and a very good value. We will return to Le Cirque to dine again.