September 13, 2006 2:02 AM | By Adam Roberts | 62 Comments

Only A Jerk Would Eat At Le Cirque

Dear Readers,

I am writing you, on behalf of the human race, to inform you that a famous restaurant, a restaurant whose name still carries great cache, is a danger to humanity. Never have I been more outraged by a restaurant than I was on Friday night when my parents, who came to town, took me--unwillingly, I might add--to that bastion of flash and dazzle, Le Cirque on the Upper East Side.


Le Cirque is housed in a futuristic glass building owned by our mayor, Mr. Bloomberg. The building is shaped like a hug which implies that when you enter this building you will be embraced. But don't be mistaken: unless you are old and rich or rich and famous or old and famous you will not be embraced. You will be mocked, ridiculed and ignored.


We all know the Ruth Reichl story, don't we? How she went there two times when she wrote her famous review: once dressed as a wealthy woman and once as an old clueless biddy. Well the old biddy got treated badly, got a bad table, got smaller raspberries. Wealthy Ruth (who was recognized, I believe) got treated like a Queen. This is the allure of Le Cirque: you will be judged and how you are judged will affect how you are treated. If you are judged poorly you will dine poorly; if you are judged well you will dine well.

Ladies and gentlemen, this week and last week have been rough weeks for me in terms of being judged. I've been looking for an apartment and all the Realtors I meet want to evaluate me as quickly as possible: "What do you do? What's your income? Do you have a guarantor?" Withstanding scrutiny is a tough enterprise and call me crazy but when I go out to recreate, the last thing I want to do is withstand more scrutiny. I want to relax, kick back and enjoy myself. This is a bad idea for anyone headed to Le Cirque.

I entered Le Cirque and found my parents at the bar. They were drinking their drinks and admiring how pretty the building was, how pretty the restaurant. It is pretty, in a gilded, corporate sort of way. Then I saw him, out of the corner of my eye, Sirio Maccioni, the legend--the man who weighs your worth the way a doctor might weigh you at fat camp--and I felt a chill in my bones.

"That's him," I told my parents.

"Who?" they asked.

"Sirio," I said. "He's the one who will determine our worth."

My parents eyed him and then my mom, a sprightly creature, a woman with great energy and pluck approached him.

"Excuse me, Sirio," she said in her charming New York accent, "I just want to say how excited we are to eat here. We're very big fans."

He lowered his eyes upon her and sniffed. He nodded his head and whispered something to a man in a sharp suit.

The man in the sharp suit said to us, "Right this way."

We were led past the host stand and into the main dining room. How spectacular it was! The main dining room is a giant tent, aglow with orange and yellow, and filled with flowers and mirrors and framed pictures.

"Look at this room," said my mom as we were led through.

And then they kept leading us through: past the suited men toasting over champagne; past the Upper East Side mink coats with poofy hair and glittery diamonds; past a slinky woman with her stout husband. We were ushered into the back, the very back, the room of shame and we were given the very worst table. There was no question: it was absolutely the worst table in the entire restaurant. There was no table worse. To give you an idea, here's a picture:


See that room with the bright tent? That's the main room. And then there was our room. Our backs were to a wall and so were our spirits.

"No one puts Heidi in a corner," I said to my mom who, for as long as I've known her, never accepts a bad first table. But mom was defeated.

"There's nothing I can do," she said. "This is the only table they have for us, I guess."

A dark cloud descended on our meal and we felt ourselves unwelcomed and unloved. Our waiter was nice enough but we'd been judged poorly and he knew it. He must have been in the lower rung of waiters, the ones the Main Room waiters give wedgies to in the waiter locker room. We were all in mourning for our status in Le Cirque Land.

So what to make of a restaurant that makes you feel bad about yourself? What might redeem it? The food, I suppose. Perhaps humiliation is the price you pay for eating divine food. But the food at Le Cirque isn't so divine and it's damn expensive.

They gave us an amuse bouche of Lentil soup that tasted two steps away from a Campbell's can with cream on top:


My appetizer of baccala ravioli was fine enough,


and you can't say that it's not a pretty presentation, but mom--who ordered an artichoke--declared her artichoke to be uncooked.

"This isn't cooked," she told our waiter.

Our waiter, a bit startled, looked down at the artichoke and brought it to the kitchen. When he came back with ravioli for my mom (she didn't want another artichoke), he said to her, pointedly, "Ma'am, just so you know, you were correct about the artichoke. It wasn't cooked."

The feeling was like a scene in a movie where some hapless victim is trapped in a cruel plot that the audience is aware of but that the hapless victim isn't aware of when somebody, who's supposed to be a part of the plot, whispers in the hapless victim's ear, "This is all a set-up. Get out while you still can."

But we were stuck and then our entrees arrived. I ordered Langoustines because they were the most exotic (and almost the most expensive):


They tasted fine, that's all I can say for them. You might accuse me of allowing my Le Cirque bitterness to cloud my judgment, but I feel strongly that if I'd eaten these Langoustines in a paper bag at the sea shore surrounded by friends and loved ones I'd still feel as indifferently about them. Mom and dad enjoyed their lamb chops, which they ordered enthusiastically, but when I took a bite I thought they were bland.

The only part of the meal that dazzled us, ever so slightly, were the desserts. Le Cirque is famous for its dessert artisans--Jacques Torres worked there, I believe--and the presentations were, to say the least, dramatic. Mom had the chocolate oven:


I had the floating islands:


And dad had the most dazzling of all, a towering napoleon:


But dessert did not redeem this restaurant from the lowest rungs of my estimation. I hated this meal in a way I've never hated a meal before: I felt a violent emotional reaction to what this restaurant stood for. What kind of madness is this? Who would tolerate such poor treatment with such mediocre food at such high prices? I'll tell you who: philistines.

Nabokov defines a philistine as "a full-grown person whose interests are of a material and commonplace nature, and whose mentality is formed of the stock ideas and conventional ideals of his or her group and time." This perfectly describes the people who dine at Le Cirque: their ideas and ideals, though, are of a different time, the 80s, the decade of greed, when Le Cirque rose to power. Now Le Cirque, like the people dining there, is no longer relevant. You could feel its lack of relevancy in its quiet, its lack of buzz, the lack of people cuing up outside.

So what to make of our experience? I don't feel that my review will somehow reach Le Cirque's target audience. Most of you reading this would probably never even consider a meal there and I congratulate you for that. New York is filled with wondrous restaurants, restaurants with food and hospitality that rival all of the world's major cities. Why anyone would waste their money at a place as unwelcoming and uninspired as Le Cirque is baffling. Lucky for you we wasted ours; don't be a jerk and do the same.

Ever your humble servant,
Amateur Gourmet


How very unpleasant and humbling, in the most awful way. I'm sure everyone has had a bad restaurant experience, though none as bad as an intentional snubbing. It would do Le Cirque well to revise how they treat their clientele. Thanks for the heads up!

I hate being judged like that. There is nothing worse than somone making you feel like you are unworthy of their attention. And I can't believe your cute Mom didn't get you a better table! Down with Le Cirque!

No offense intended, but it's common knowledge how Le Cirque treats people it considers "nobodies." You even recited the infamous Reichl story. Not sure why you're so outraged that you were identified (and thus treated) as such.

That's horrible how they treated you and your family! Food is supposed to be about comfort and this was definitely not. I'm not sure that I would have been going there anyway, but if it ever becomes an issue, I'll make sure to stay away. I have the feeling they have some bad karma coming at them now.

Lump me into the I'd "never even consider a meal there" category (well, if someone else was paying I'd be there in a heartbeat... you know, for research purposes.) But thanks for the heads up. Duly noted. Can't believe that didn't know who you were... don't they realize that stoggy old establishments like themselves are dying a slow Death by Blog?

I feel for you, man. I had a frightfully similar experience a few years ago at Le Jerque 2000. A friend was visiting and wanted to take me somewhere "really nice" and that was what he chose. I was familiar with the infamous Reichl review and was trepidatious, but also curious. From the moment we arrived til the moment we left, we were treated with utter disdain while all around us the portly old men with their bleach-blonde companions laughed rich laughs and clutched the fat wine list (we, on the other hand, were not deemed worthy of a wine list) The bisque was bland, the seared foie gras was cold, the rest of the food was utterly unremarkable. I gave into the allure of the chocolate stove too, simply because it was THE Le Cirque dessert, and because I felt I needed to lighten my somber mood. How could I feel bad about myself while eating a stove made of chocolate? I did. It was actually a really boring dessert. Sooo eighties. And the waiter told me I was eating it wrong. (you're supposed to lift up the stove and set it aside to get at the boring cake underneath). Since then I have wished for ruination and failure for this weirdly antiquated evil restaurant. Incidentally, when this newest incarnation of Le Cirque opened, I read an interview with Sirio that I thought might make me think he was actually warm and wonderful and I'd misunderstood my whole experience there, but instead it just made me realize he's an even bigger ass than I thought. But, I guess the sequin-wearing Upper East Siders still need somewhere to flush their money, so the empire lives on.

I'm so glad you reviewed Le Cirque. With every trip I take to NY, I keep NOT choosing Le Cirque as a restaurant to go to (mostly because of the Ruth Reichl story), and then I feel bad because it's supposed to be this big classic thing. Now I feel validated!

come on man. . .what did you think was going to happen? this is their shtick, intentionally treat non-celebs poorly and perpetuate the aura of the gaudy UES dinosaurs. you should have known better and advised against it. go to Jean Georges or Per Se, and get the stellar service that this price point deserves. I do thank you for posting though. . .hearing about this kind of posturing is mildly humorous and makes me feel great about myself.

If you want an exquisite meal where the staff treats everyone the same, try WD-50. Wylie Dufresne has no TV show, no cookbook, no food-product line, but you will see him every night in the kitchen actually preparing food. And it's a perfect place to take the parents cos it's not cheap, but they won't belittle you if you're not listed in the social register and/or have never had fois gras. Blue Hill and Cru are also great down-to-earth places to take the parents for a delicious and expensive meal without the bad attitude.

what jerks! maybe i'll just go there order food and wine and then leave before the food comes out (but after the champagne is open). then release a family of mice! yeah that'll get them.

bastards. I went to their baby sister restaurant osteria del circo in vegas and it was pretty sucky. the chef commented on the post some time after though offering for me to come back for a free dinner some time. I have never taken him up on it, vegas is a bit of a trek you see.

maybe they'll offer you a free dinner too, but somehow I can't see it happening. And anyway, who would want to go back?

perhaps you should have told them you are friends with Ruth. They wouldn't have believed you, but that's their problem.

Stories like yours make me sad. Do people no longer take pride in their work? Do people only care to please those who they deem "important" instead of feeling the satisfaction of putting your best foot forward every single time? It's maddening!

Aww...I'm sorry you had a crappy experience. Honestly, that's one restaurant I never wanted to try, thinking that the food could never measure up to the hype OR the prices.

I saw Jacques Torres make the chocolate oven thingy on an episode of Dessert Circus.

That sucks! I know (from your blog only, of course) how much your mom enjoys the fine dining experience. It kinda broke my heart when I read what she said about the table. I hate seeing my mom disappointed. :-(

I've never understood that philosophy in a restaurant. If you only want a certain "caliber" of client, then only take their reservations. Don't let the other people in. That's fine.
But to accept a reservation for waht will be an exhorbitantly priced meal, knowing that the customer will not be getting their money's worth is insane. The only reason to pay that much for a meal is if the entire experience will be wonderful - food, service and ambience. To give their customers anything else is frankly ourtrageous.
New York has changed drastically since Ruth Reichl wrote her book, and I know that a lot of the horrible 80's attitude has disappeared. Apparently there's still one hold out. What I can't understand is why.

Nabokov defines a philistine as "a full-grown person whose interests are of a material and commonplace nature, and whose mentality is formed of the stock ideas and conventional ideals of his or her group and time.

So, basically…Republicans. And starfuckers.

I've enjoyed reading this in the past, especially the delight you seem to take when dining with your loved ones.

What a jerk he was to you :(

I'm sorry that people may feel this way when they come into our family restaurant. I'm almost in tears listening to people mock us in this piece. My take is that although we are not at the very top of our game since the restaurant just opened, our reputation proceeds us and we are prejudged even before you step into our home. Alot of effort, compassion and pride have gone into this project and I am at a loss for words. i'm sorry people resent us so much and label us like this. People like me do read blogs and I am very human. You don't know me so how dare you pass so much judgement and resent towards us.

Sincerely, Mauro Maccioni

grrrrr! That makes me so mad!I'm so sorrry (but not so surprised) you had a bad experience there...snobby, evil Le Jerque! They had no right to treat you and your family that way? Who so they think they are, anyways!

Oh. Wait. They think they're the biggest and most important restaurant in NYC, but they are soooo not.

I'll do my eating at the smaller restaurants who care.

Sorry you had such a disappointing experience! Places like this one are soooo "Emporer's New Clothes". If you look past the hype, you'll see the Emporer is indeed naked (and his food isn't all that good either, apparently).

The sad thing about this joint, and others like it, is that they know they can get away with treating some clientele like dirt because if you get up and leave because of anything they've done (or not done) they know there will be someone else who will fill your seats before they've even cooled off. And they're right. At least for now.

Oh, and on a related note, you know what cracks me up? Snotty waiters! Ha ha and WTF?? Ummmmm I'm pretty sure you're A WAITER. You know, the person who brings the food and whose rent depends on the generosity of patrons. Where exactly do waiters get off being snotty anyway? (I feel the same way about the holier than thou ladies at the fancy department store cosmetics counters too, by the way)

And before you flame me to a crisp for being insensitive or callous, understand that I waited tables for a lot of years (I'm talking a LOT), and in some very nice establishments. The difference is that I had the sense to be friendly, kind, genuine, super-competent and knowledeable, rather than being self-important and acting as though my job was rocket science.

ok, i just HAVE to ask. is that really a post from the owner? or someone having fun? because if it is a post from the owner i feel bad for him. not because of the review--because of his poor typing skills. it's hard to take someone seriously when they can't even write a decently punctuated, capitalized rebuttal...

and if it's not actually him, then the same goes for the schmuck who wrote the piece. get yourself an "elements of style" immediately!

ZZZINNNGG! Well said, AG -- no matter how (in)famous Le Cirque may be, it still stings to get shoddy service (like that crazy bad place Orchid!). Your poor mother! I actually cringed when her bold, celebrity-seeking demeanor was squashed cold! Damn! As Jenn said, the upper class still needs places like this to feel important and waste money...hmm, just like the Oval Office! ;)

And if that comment really *is* from Mauro Maccioni, I would have thought being in the "hospitality" biz you'd have developed a thicker skin...especially to barbs from the great unwashed online masses, who, it seems, are not exactly your target market anyway.

I will have to brush off you mean spirited review and press on. You know how many our family has endured from unfounded resentful people. I have a very human family and 13month old daughter that needs me to make Le Cirque a wonderful place. You talk about being offended to the core. You offended me to the core cause you really just don't know us. Come back a few times, like the regulars (who are all not the snobs you think they are) and maybe we'll get to know you and you could become the 'regular' that you so seem to so much despise. Take the chip off your shoulder Mr. Amateur gourmet!

I'm sorry I did not puncuate. If I was such a good typist, I would be working in an office and not 'selling soup'. I apologize miss for not having puncuated for you.

Yes this is really me. I don't hide behind a blog psuedoname.

Wow. That second comment by Mauro is one of the funniest things I have ever read. Remove that chip now Adam!

Get 'em AG! I'm really not usually one to eat in super fancy restaurants, although it is certainly interesting to read about experiences that folks have who do. This is one restaurant I will certainly avoid until I hear that they have changed their ways. for shame. People deserve respect regardless of fame, social stature and/or wealth - especially if they are paying top-dollar for mediocre eats. Cheers!

Sorry, but I had to respond to "Mauro".
Why would he come back to a restaurant that he hated?
He already feels that he payed too much money for subpar service - that's not exactly motivation to do it again. I don't know about anyone else, but I tend to only become a regular at places that I like - i.e. they treat me well the first time I visit, and then it gets even better. Paying huge sums of money 3 times in a row before I get a decent table doesn't really strike me as a good plan to maximize my happiness.
Bottom line: If you would like Adam to give you fair shot, your restaurant should have done the same, instead of writing him off when he stepped through the door.

The second comment by "Mauro" reads like a line straight out of Anchorman! You know, the scene where Ron is talking to his dog Baxter?

"Baxter, you cut to the core of me."

Moving on..

If "Mauro" is such a sensitive and concerned person, he should try and invest some of it into his restaurant. I have read several reviews (from reputable sources, including the AG)commenting on his family's restaurants and their elitest practices. I think the bottom line is, people pay a lot of money to come to his restaurants- whether they are wealthy/famous/vip's or not- they are all entitled to a great overall experience.

PS- I can't believe he told AG to get the chip of HIS shoulder.. talk about hypocritical.

I usually like the amateur guy's reviews...I actually have no opinion of le circque, and honestly I've never been.

I thought it was the case that commotion-causing celebs get the back room, and the ign'ant plebians get the front seemingly-busy room - I know this the case at Nobu.

About the artichoke, sucks they f'd up, but I f up artichokes all the time. If you want to f them up too, try that artichoke sunflowers recipe on freshdirect, and watch the disaster unfold.

But to the point of this post: what was that about getting all agitated about getting "the worst table". Every restaurant has a worst table. Maybe it was actually the celeb room. Either way, someone has to sit there. Why are you so upset it was you? Are you better than everyone else?

As upsetting as this evening was, It is less awful than many restaurant nightmares because the waiter was on your side.

"So, basically…Republicans. And starfuckers."

You are wrong about Republicans. That is a place that Bill Clinton would LOVE! I'm sure he's been there often.

You will never catch George Bush there. He just isn't into snobbery.

i feel for you, b/c it sucks to be disappointed when you're spending big bucks. but it's not clear why you're so angry with le cirque. from where i sit, it seems you're miffed because you got a bad table. happens to all of us a time or another. but ultimately, i suspect you're so angry b/c your mom's charm didn't work with sirio. hey, it was worth a shot -- maybe he wasn't in a good mood, maybe he was put off, who knows. point is, the food wasn't bad, your waiter wasn't bad, only your table was bad.. and really, that's subjective. it's okay if you don't want to go back, but it's not fair to paint a picture of "these types of restaurants" as if they all belong to the same category (i.e., high-end, expensive, snooty). isn't that diversity, both positive and negative, what makes the NY dining scene so unique? i think so. i ate at the old le cirque. i'm not anybody famous, but i got what i thought was a decent table. who knows, maybe everyone else in the restaurant was laughing at how we got the loser's table. but i had a good time. it was expensive, but we were treated fairly and professionally and i was happy. it's all about how you look at it, and i think you started the meal with a bad attitude b/c you weren't happy with how you perceived your mom was treated. in my opinion, you took it way too personally.

For those of us who are not New Yorkers, can you explain what makes the table you got a bad table?

And, OK, the artichoke should have been cooked, but was the rest of the meal really bad? It all looked gorgeous.

AG, do you think your mood affected your impression of the meal and the restaurant? You have a lot on you at the moment, with getting the book finished, sort-of looking for a job but wanting to do nothing but write, trying to find a new place to live, etc. Maybe you can go back when things are more stable.

I'm not trying to be mean or critical. I just don't see what was so awful about that table.


You. Better. Work. Good food is good food and should be enjoyed pleasurably, not as some sadistic, judgmental ritual catering to rich housewives and their corporate raider husbands.

I'll go with you for dumplings in Chinatown any time (just don't tell my boyfriend).

Adam, thank you for sharing your experience with us. Sad to hear that it was such a horrifying and irritating experience. If that is really Maccioni responding, then he should just own up to the fact someone in his restaurant, his dad Sirio especially, treated paying customers like they were asking for handouts. Forget them, they have their heads so far up their own asses they don't even recognize a new clientle base when they see one. Duh.

"You will never catch George Bush there. He just isn't into snobbery."

oh boy, i aint even touching that one.

on with the food talk folks, let's leave politics elsewhere.

from the nearest designated freedom zone,

You don't want to be prejudged and think you're entitled to be treated like a high roller at Le Cirque simply because you share the same skin color as those who are. You think you had it rough because you've had to endure two seconds of constantly being prejudged and evaluated. Your whining rings rather shallow to the ears of black men who are constantly avoided on the sidewalk, let alone having to constantly deal with (illegal yet pervasive) housing discrimination and unfair and improper treatment at TWO-STAR! restaurants, let alone four or five star restaurants.

Surely, whining about your privileged white life is a joke, right?

I find you blog quite amusing, and read it quite frequently. Perhaps too frequently, as I noticed myself cringing everytime i read something like the "my mom declared this" or "so-and-so thought that" because I know what follows is your worn out (in rags, really) follow through joke. I know this request is extremely selfish, but please heed the request of a "regular," drop, or use sparingly, the above described joke.

Let me know what you think of the following (perhaps you can assist with one?):

Hello, I have just skimmed through this blog and find some of the comments unjustly deserved. I have been to Le Cirque twice already and have found the service cordial, warm and inviting.

I should also accentuate the fact that I am (and proudly admit it) a NOBODY. I work in a back server room in technology and there's absolutely nothing flashy, famous or hip about me. Yet, I found the service excellent and both my meal and my girlfriend's were superb.

With regards to table placement, I am sure that what you considered an unacceptable table was probably superior to a "desirable" table in other restaurants. I have been to places of far less repute and have been seated in some of the worst tables ever. That's the luck of the draw situation.

Its most unfortunate that you found your experience lacking. I, on the other hand, can only offer the highest accolades and kudos to the Maccioni's!


An Extremely Satisfied Patron!

P.S. Those of you that so choose to criticize an individual's capitalization or punctuation should be less petty - particularly, those of you that caustically replied with even worse grammar! Have you ever heard of the "glass houses" metaphor?

Oh man, washu2002, get a life. The Amateur Militant blog is the next one over...

Emily, sorry you can't stomach the truth. You really wouldn't know what I'm talking about as a white woman in a society that worships the ground your precious little flip-flops walk on, okay?

Ranting is fine – but at least get the facts straight (and maybe be original?). Ruth review was not poor vs. rich, it was unknown tourist vs. a regular vip dinning with the NY Times critic. That idea had been copied to death. Bloomberg doesn’t own the building; the company he owns is in the building. Beacon Court, is owned by Vornado Realty. Jacques Torres left Le Cirque over five years ago.

You’re clearly not shy - why didn’t you just ask for a different table before you sat down? When you sent back the artichoke – they seemed to make good on that. I bet they’d have given you another table. But by then it was too late. Actually it seems it was too late before you even walked in the door. Seems your real estate rejection gave you indigestion.

I couldn't tell from the picture, but it looked like the main room was pretty full. And that most of the tables in the "bad" part of the restaurant were also occupied.

Yes, I can understand if Sirio actually sniffed in response to your mom - I would have properly insulted him and then left. Why you chose to give them your business after that is beyond me.

But that said, who sits at the "bad tables"? Should there be a cushion of bad tables in every restaurant that is never occupied so that people will know that they are sitting at the "good tables"?

I read this site regularly, and am glad that some other readers are calling the AG's post what it is -- a tantrum by a pretty spoiled young guy. I really don't think the family was treated all that poorly. And I get the feeling that something is being left out of the story. (Parts of the story also have a fictional feel to them.) The AG's mother is typically quite aggressive about getting a table she deems "good." Not sure what Sirio did to change her usual behavior. I'd be surprised if a "lowered eye and sniff" would have stopped her in the past.

And, to be honest, Sirio probably made a good call. I'd guess most of his "regulars" wouldn't want to be next to a table that's taking flash pictures of every dish and will run up to any half-baked celebrity in site to take even more pictures.

I enjoy reading this site, and am glad we got to see another side of the AG. Life's not always wine a roses. A good lesson to learn when starting pull your own weight in New York.

First time reader, probably last time reader. So I grant you that since I'm not familiar with you or you're writings that I probably just don't "get it".

The way you feel about Le Cirque is the way I feel about hoity-toity food blogs.

From your own description, I can't see what all the drama is about. Do you know how many people in the world will never get to see a view as glamorous as the one you took from your "bad table"?

Apparently you're quite fickle if you think that corner table + uncooked artichoke + okay food = danger to humanity. Step aside, Bin Laden.

I'm trying my best to hold back on the vitriol for fear of sounding like a huge jerk. Let's just say that I think it's absolute BS for you to completely write off an entire restaurant experience because of an alleged slight at the front, while in other glowing reviews you "forget" the name of foods you try because you're "bad about such things" (your words). That you can get away with such petty, careless food writing (and attract a following, no less!) is baffling to me.

And for the record, Mcp is right. If all we have to look forward to in your book is more of the same tired joke, then, well, good luck. The public has spoken.

"We have spoken," said the public.

Agreed, KSH. The twice warmed over borscht belt stuff is predicable. But that's his style. Surprised his editor hasn't told him the same.

Sorry for the hijack AG, but I just need to say "AHAHAHAHAHHAHAHHAHAAAAA!" to my new best friend, washu2002. Wow, you are so perceptive! Woman, yes. But white? Not so much. And flipflops? Please. This boricua foodie thinks the "oppression" perpetrated by LeCirque is all about class status, not race -- if Vernon Jordan, Russell Simmons, or Condi Rice walked in there, they'd get seated before a whole flock of white nobodies, I'm sure. Enjoy your rage-filled weekend...

AG, when you say, "We all know the Ruth Reichl story, don't we?" I have to ask what you're intent is? Do you mean to say that if she wrote about something that happened to her 20 years ago that we should expect every table in a popular restaurant to reflect whether the rest of us are important trendsetters who can make a restaurant or a frumpy tourist today? I ask because when you invoke her name I think it's appropriate to bring more than a single review into the conversation.

Ruth Reichl was a woman who owned and served as chef in a restaurant. She knew the ins and outs of what makes a restaurant work, the challenges they overcome every day, the gritty work in the heat of the kitchen and the relentless hours. She came of age along with the luminaries who have changed the way Americans think about food, itself, as well as an evening's entertainment in dining out. She is a woman of great integrity and that is why she became the NYT food critic. Not because she wore disguises or had a way with words.

I don't think she'd walk into a restaurant with a chip on her shoulder. I think she'd make a commitment to putting a 20 year old canard behind her and not letting it color the whole fabric of a new experience. I think she'd be very clear that who patronizes a restaurant and how they are seated is part of the decor that was so important to your family. Why, it's the very caché that makes people want to be at that restaurant! I don't think that could have eluded you. It's a hard practical fact and the difference between prospering and going out of business in a very volatile industry.

If RR wanted to write about two different experiences to make the industry rethink how that can work to their disadvantage too, hooray for her and the dining public. Is that what you had in mind when you invoked her spirit? Because I think she has too much integrity to be pulled unaware into a snit fit.

That's just my opinion.

Oh dear! You've stepped in it now, AG. =o

I think you went in looking to be persecuted and thats what happened. When you look for trouble, you find it. Stop trying to imagine that you were singled out.

I stumbled onto this blog quite by accident, but having worked at the original Le Cirque and then for a very short time at Le Cirque 2000, I read on with interest. While I would agree that you get better service overall if you are a "somebody", quite frankly I have found that to be true at most of the well-known NYC restaurants. This is not Le Cirque specific. And yes, Mauro is one of the Maccioni's, and my recollection of them, individually and as a family, is that they are all very nice, polite, warm and welcoming people who care about the experiences guests have in their restaurants. The fact that mauro had the balls to jump in and acknowledge should attest to that.

Just read the Le Cirque review. AG, the review of the food was not useful. Read a restaurant review from a proper food critic and at least one could come away with some insight into the food. What i got from from your rant was that you are a food snob in the worst way. You are not the the champion of the anonymous nobody. Rather someone who who aspires to be like the very people you seem to be attacking. Boo Hoo about the table. Are you so spoiled the not being at the table everyone trips over put you off? You are a spoiled self loathing New Yorker who hates not being A list. Is it that bad living in new york? I would thank god to have the opportunity to eat a meal that costs more than most peoples weekly salary. Get a job like the rest of us. Try taking the subway from Queens everyday for perspective. Oh, you live in Manhattan.

You know, for all these "entitled white boy" comments, you really have to consider the price you pay at such a restaurant. If you're going to a restaurant like that, it's not unreasonable to expect good service and a good meal. It's not bitchy, and it's a completely deserved response. You go somewhere expensive, you should get what you pay for.

Honestly, people. I suggest you shut the hell up.

RST - who do you consider "a proper food critic"? is AG's blog in any way intended as "proper" food (or restaurant) criticism? as any blog, i think it's just meant to be one guy's opinion - you read because you find the taste somewhat similar or b/c it's entertaining, etc. not b/c you find it obnoxious, non?

AG - i've been in the food biz for years - life's too short for bad meals (esp. EXPENSIVE BAD MEALS), even if somebody else is paying. i think that diners should be more assertive (hey, it's your $$) - with so many restaurants in nyc right now, insist on a table you are happy with and if it's not available - WALK, there are plenty of excellent restaurants where you will be treated properly, i.e. as a guest (not a nuisance) - one near Le Cirque would be Felidia. Another, BLT Steak on 57th. Or davidburke & donatella. Or Robuchon. I could go on. If your meal starts off on a bad note, it will color the entire experience. Cut your losses and either tell the manager you are not happy or leave. Life's too short for bad meals. (Dinner for 3 at a Le Cirque will take about 2.5-3 hours - is it worth the time, if not the $$ or calories?) As a diner, you have some power to control your experience - use it! :-)

55 comments. Damn! Does this mean this becomes a Classic Post?

but, you got to work a dirty dancing quote into your blog! so, a tiny sliver of sliver lining??

Dear Amateur Gourmet:
I read your recent review on Le Cirque. By the tone and language of your article, one would think you would feel better served by a dinner in Abu Ghraib prison. I believe you may have walked in with a pre-conceived dislike of the restaurant and definitely, as you said, "allowed [your] Le Cirque bitterness to cloud [your] judgment" and skew your review.

I have been frequenting Le Cirque both as a diner and patron of the bar/lounge for five years now and pop in from time to time. I am neither uber wealthy, old or "old and famous", but a young professional transplant from the Mid-West who likes to explore a wide variety of what New York has to offer. This can range from the Carlyle to Hogpit to African restaurants in Harlem. I first read about Le Cirque as an old school New York landmark where one wore a suit and tie, showed up with class and a good attitude, and got it right back in large doses, along with superb food.

Le Cirque is what it is, a larger than life type place, frequented by many rich and famous, that is supposed to be the pinnacle of dining and hospitality. With respect to your comments on the crowd, of course it attracts a lot of older rich and famous types as well as some wannabees. But fundamentally, what underlies Le Cirque, beyond money or celebrity, is excellent food, hospitality, and a refinement unavailable anywhere else. In all of my experience there, Le Cirque has lived up to its reputation one hundred percent. Besides the excellent dinners and desserts, I have always been treated wonderfully there by everyone. This goes for the Macioni's, the Bartenders, right down to the coat check, all of whom great me personally each time I am there. And I am nobody of great recognition, at least not in the terms you define.

Mr. Macioni knows who I am and even though we don't have extended conversations, I don't expect anything more and he has never snubbed me. Of course I am going to receive different reception from him than say, The King of Spain, but I would expect that and don't get my knickers in a bind over it based on the overall experience. All in all the Macionis are probably the most gracious individuals and hosts on the planet. If you would have seen them at the opening night party, they pulled out all the stops to host several hundred individuals from all over the world. They spared nothing personally or materially in their hospitality and the outpouring of individuals was overwhelming. Few establishments could offer that kind of treatment or receive that kind of admiration and loyalty. And I might add that there were many not rich and famous individuals there who were not “mocked, ridiculed, and ignored.” Furthermore, Le Cirque offers a certain caliber of food, service, and ambience that are hard to find anywhere else in the city. Sirio and Le Cirque's reputation have stood the test of time, at least New York time where "it" restaurants are here and gone as quickly as snide reviews.

You obviously have drawn other conclusions from your experience there but I hardly believe you can label Le Cirque as "a danger to humanity." Maybe adjust your attitude, understand what it really means to snubbed, and give it another chance. Or just conclude it is not for you. But at least give it a fair review; something slightly better than your namesake, "Amateur."

Jake R. Bright

Jake Bright, you lost me at "Abu Ghraib prison" - maybe it's because I'm not American that I find this level of discourse repulsive...but you make light of serious human rights viloations, your comments are made in poor taste, and you what a bizaar thing to say!

I think that being treated well at a restaurant really does affect what you think of the food. No matter how good the food is, if you feel that you have been mistreated, you will not enjoy it for what it is.

I recently wrote about this same thing in my blog. Why do expensive upper class restaurants feel the need to act like snobs to ordinary people who just want to go for a fine dining experience. Shouldn't they try to treat every customer the best they can so that people will want to go back rather than feel alienated by the experience.

What most people giving AG a hard time are missing is that despite the bad table - which they've had to deal with before - the FOOD was not justtified by the price. Please re-read the review - the Campbells'soup, the unmemorable lobster. Whether someone is treating you or not money is money and it should be well spent if the price is high. If the food was sublime AG and his mother would likely have forgiven the table. And if you don't like the blog in general, by all means go read something else, it's a big blog world out there. And yes, you can and should judge a restaurant on your first experience and it's directly correlated with the price - a little diner can be visited more than once because to do so would not break the bank, but a place of Le Cirque's caliber better put out every time. I look forward to your book AG, you are SO entitled to actually post YOUR opinion on YOUR blog.

I have dined at all three Le Cirques. For attitude, all three versions are identical. My favorite Le Cirque tale belongs to the first establishment. I dined there with my wife and another couple. The greeting at the door was typically lackluster. Sirio looked through you then as he does now, his nose tilted north as if avoiding an odor. When our friends arrived, we were shown to Le Cirque's Siberia, a table dangerously if not insultingly near to the kitchen. The food was indifferent, as was the service. At the end of the meal, however, something magical happened. One of the staff materialized on my right, a different Sirio, eyes gleaming, hands clasped to his chest in an almost effete manner, head bowed in a kind of reverence, and, sotto voce, whispered into my ear, "Your car is waiting, Mr......." In that moment, we were transformed into, well, royalty. The ladies were eased out of their chairs, literally helped into their gloves. Our coats were carried from the checkroom, as those woven of Chincilla rather than wool, and held for us as our arms were guided into our sleeves. We were led--nay, escorted--to the door and all but carried to the car, our driver waiting patiently to open the doors for us. Of course, the car, a stretch limo, was very much rented along with the chauffeur, compliments of the wife of one of our dinner companions, the head of PR for a Fortune 500 company. She was play acting. Once a season, we went to a fancy pre-opera dinner and then to the Met, by limo, a wonderful tradition she adopted a few years before. For this treat, I was tasked with researching and then lecturing at dinner about the composer and the opera. Nice quid pro quo. But it was the Le Cirque experience I'll never forget it. For I was transformed from a pauper to a prince by the illusion of wealth and privilege. It was, without question, a Le Cirque story for the ages.

Sign Up for the Amateur Gourmet Email Newsletter:

Follow Me: