Critics swear by its name, and the epicurean clan of the capital love to keep dropping at its door time and again—Le Cirque at The Leela Palace New Delhi has earned the cachet of a classic that always tends to stay in vogue. Speaking of vogue, the first Indian outpost of the iconic New York gastronomical brand has introduced its swanky Bite Size Menu that lists mini versions of the most loved dishes served in the famed tasting menu. The tempting menu takes you through eight different courses, plating one delectable dish for each. By Sushmita Srivastav
The moment the elevator’s door opens on the 10th floor of The Leela Palace New Delhi, you get it. The soft piano music ringing in the air, the play of golds and pastels in the milieu, the reds of roses and whites of lilies adding to the adorned wall-mirrors, and the sheer elegance of the place—Le Cirque, in a hushed modest tone, tells you that it is indeed the most sought-after French-Italian restaurant in Delhi.
Not that the food and wine connoisseurs had a dearth of reasons to call it a favourite, Le Cirque gave them one more—the ones who have tried it, have just the good things to say about its month-old Bite Size Menu. For Chef de Cuisine Matteo Fonatana, the idea was simple – to offer single diners in town a way of trying all the eight courses from the original tasting menu without actually having to stuff themselves. The catch here is even simpler— arrive on a Thursday or Friday (that’s when the menu is offered) and pick a seat at the bar. That’s all. Ask for the Bite Size Menu and you’ll be handed over a flashy metal plate with bite marks at the ends (fancy, right?) and eight delicious dishes listed in red bold. Before you get flummoxed about picking one to pair up with your food, ask for help and you will be offered a glass of wine that’d fit best to go with your bites. From the super strong-on-palate Chateau Domi Cours from Bordeaux to milder and sweeter Valiano Chianti—the wine list is quite impressive.
The culinary journey starts with Chicken Liver Pate’ with Black Truffle and Cognac. As Chef Fontana tells you how this one comes from his Nonna’s (grandmother) authentic recipe book, you spoon a bite of the pate-truffle, rather excited, dipping it into one of the four homemade jams it is served with. With the very first bite you know that Le Cirque always starts off with a dramatic opening.
Then, the Pan Seared Wild Scallops arrives pretty-in-salmon-pink on a bed of Puy lentils cassoulet and truffle goat cheese, and topped with beetroot caviar. The clams are cooked super soft, the truffle goat cheese melts on your tongue, and you melt away along with it.
But the bites are adequate, and the moment you feel like you want to dig in some more, the table’s already cleared and your cup of Chilled Heirloom Tomato Consomme is already placed before you. The little tomato salsa crostini placed on top adds to every sip of the tomato sorbet that comes with tomato and basil pearls.
The Braised Duck Leg Ravioli’s spice instantly mellows down with the sweetness of the creamy Pumpin veloute’ with rosemary morel mushroom, leeks strings that it comes smeared in, and what you get is a great balanced taste on your palate.
For risotto, Chef Fontana decides to ditch the regular short-grain rice and switches to barley! The Green Asparagus and Basil Pesto Barley Risotto comes sprinkled with tangy tomato powder and fits the bill for the perfect main course pick.
Next up, the Paupiette of Chilean Sea Bass is neatly wrapped in a crispy-potato layer. A pickled carrot on top, Barolo sauce below, and creamed leeks on side add to the taste.
Saving the best for the last, the Sous-Vided Pork Belly arrives only after being cooked for 21 hours and completing it with aged balsamic and pork jus, cabbage and apple puree, and some good old potato mash. Take a tip, and save the top crusted part for your best bite—it is an absolute delight!
By the time you realise you are about to end the gastronomic expedition, a dark chocolate sphere speckled with strawberry dust on a bed of almond custard at the table grabs all of your attention. What’s inside is Chef’s signature Tiramisu, which is sure to give the date of yours with Le Cirque the ending that it deserves.
Cost for meal
INR 1,800 Per Head (without alcohol; plus taxes)
7 pm to 11.30 pm
10th Floor, The Leela Palace, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi