The original Le Cirque in New York is an Italian-owned iconic restaurant that has been around for more than 30 years. The ‘marriage’ between Leela Palace Delhi and Le Cirque is a fortuitous one. The grandeur of the palace-like hotel is perfectly matched by the gravitas of a fine dining internationally renowned restaurant brand.
Approximately half of the short menu consists of Le Cirque classics and the other half Chef Mickey Bhoite’s own recipes, worked out for Le Cirque Delhi. Chef Mickey was born to Indian parents, left India when he was one year old, has lived in Tuscany, Italy all his life and has just returned to the country of his birth. Fluent in Italian, he has worked in the best kitchens all over the western world and Le Cirque is lucky to have him head their kitchen in Delhi.
Do not go looking for mama’s cooking in this temple of gastronomy with its multitude of rooms: bar, restaurant, private dining room, high-security meeting room for heads of state, tables near the open kitchen et al. About the only term of reference that has been kept intact is the flow of the menu: appetizers, first course and second course. Within that ambit, Le Cirque provides high quality ingredients (even the potatoes and spinach are imported) used effortlessly and unselfconsciously. So the marinated tuna on a bed of sesame tuille with avocado tepanade (Rs 1000) that I ordered for starters was composed like a flower arrangement. Finely sliced uncooked tuna with a vaguely citrus marinade was folded to resemble just opened rose buds. The garnish on the plate with micro-greens was zen-like in appearance. At the base of Chef Mickey’s oeuvre is the desire to give more than one taste to a single plate. Thus, if you mopped up the tepanade with a tuna rosette, you’d get a combination of smooth textures on your palate, whereas the second rosette with a bite of the tuille would yield a different palette of textures and so on.
It is a signature style that has worked well for him. His signature invention is the risotto Bollinger (for two) which includes rice cooked in Bollinger champagne, scampi, osetra caviar and mascarpone with roasted lime (Rs 8,000). Far from being sour or sharp, the risotto is creamy and every bite you take yields a different flavour profile because you scoop up a different ingredient with every spoonful. It is without doubt the single finest dish on the menu.
My companion’s wagyu Rossini (Rs 4,000) was a revelation: the meat was meltingly tender, the portion of foie gras generous and the chopped creamed spinach a pleasant, if unmemorable, counterpoint to the meat. I felt that the meat could have done with an initial grilling over charcoal to provide a more forceful contrast to the spinach.
My main course was lobster poached in olive oil with a potato and pea patty and lobster reduction (Rs 3,000). It was a Mickey Bhoite creation, so not surprisingly there was more than one element to it to give a panoply of tastes and textures. The patty (sadly, no different from an aloo tikki) aside, the lobster was poached sous vide and had a burst of flavour.
Desserts have their separate menu, complete with dessert wine suggestions. Espresso aficionados, do be aware that you will get a perfect cup of espresso (without milk and sugar) here.
The Leela Palace Kempinski
Diplomatic Enclave, Chanakyapuri
Tel: 011 39331234
Open from 7.00 pm to 11.30 pm
Alcohol served; credit cards accepted
Meal for two: Rs 9,000