Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Family-Style Dining

Michael and I watched the HBO documentary "Le Cirque: A Table in Heaven" the other night, and like the restaurant itself I thoroughly enjoyed it. If you're not familiar with Le Cirque it's the high society culinary institution where the beautiful people go to see and be seen (oh, and I guess eat). The film documents the famed eatery's move from the Palace Hotel to the Bloomberg building on East 58th Street in 2006, which Neil Genzlinger called "a major gamble, an attempt to re-energize a restaurant whose celebrity-studded glory days were in the last century." Capturing the best parts of reality television with a dash of cinema verite, we get to know the charismatic owner and patriarch Sirio Maccioni and his three heir-to-the-throne sons, who don't seem to do much that impresses Dad.(The squabbling is hilarious and Sirio wife's is a keeper!) While Sirio commiserates with the likes of Henry Kissinger, Joan Collins and Woody Allen, the boys are busy running around trying to figure out a way to make Le Cirque relevant in the 21st century and, thus, our story is set.

My one experience there took many years to get off the ground -- and not because the reservation book was filled for years in advance. You see, I received a $250 Le Cirque gift certificate from an old boss back in 2000. But being the T-shirt and jeans copy editor that I am, I really didn't even have anything appropriate to wear to go there (jacket required, cue the Smiths' "This Charming Man"), so I figured it was cheaper to waste the 250 bucks than shelling out the money for a new suit and whatever else it might take to make me look presentable. By 2002 I was in a serious relationship (with a slightly improved wardrobe) and had planned to finally use the gift certificate for my birthday dinner with Michael, thinking it would be a romantic way to spend my first birthday with him -- until I contracted a nasty case of giardia. (Which, while never proved, we'll just assume for the sake of shits and giggles was the result of some birthday-week buttmunching activities.) Before I knew it, another two years had gone by and Le Cirque announced that it was closing at the end of 2004 (see film above), which meant if I didn't use my gift certificate it would be lost forever. After several more aborted attempts at going, I finally invited my friend Jay as my guest and made a reservation (I think it was around his birthday that December). I still didn't have many decent things to wear, but I was able to throw together something that my cat hadn't ripped a hole in and to the Palace we went.

Stepping into the joint really did feel like entering another era, one in which you'd expect to see Truman and Jackie O whispering on corner banquette. Instead, with our table "not quite ready," Jay and I found ourselves in the bar where Jay became all teeth when he announced that Dominick Dunne -- of course -- was holding court at a huge table around the corner. It was so predictable and exactly what I would have expected that I just knew Jay was pulling my leg (BTW: I LOVE Dominick Dunne!). But just to humor him, I turned my head and sure enough there he was, with about a dozen elderly women hanging on his every word as he talked -- VERY LOUDLY -- about the Scott Peterson trial that was in full swing then. I don't remember too many details about the meal except that it was REALLY DELICIOUS (I had very rare steak as I recall), but in some ways that's the whole point. The food is reliably good, but you really go there for the whole experience of of it all (be on the lookout for Cindy Adams, Tony Bennett, Robert De Niro, Rudolph Giuliani, Billy Joel, Regis Philbin, Nancy Reagan, Liz Smith, Martha Stewart, Donald Trump and Vera Wang) . Light on food itself, "Le Cirque: A Table in Heaven" captures this Studio 54 quality of the place perfectly, yet you won't walk away feeling empty.

1 comment:

Timmy said...

I was channel surfing the other day and saw this listed but didn't read the description. Now I wish I had! I have only eaten at Le Cirque in Vegas and it was yummy!