A bit of New York iconicity came to town recently when famed Manhattan restaurant Le Cirque staged a pop-up restaurant at Orlando’s Citrus Club. The dinner, part of a traveling series in partnership with ClubCorp, operators of the private club, was a fundraiser for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital. It was a reprise, of sorts, of the pop-up restaurant Le Cirque staged in 2012, though it seemed to be carried out better this time.
I was invited to attend the dinner, which was hosted in part by Carlo Mantica, co-managing member of Maccioni Group, owners of Le Cirque, Sirio and Circo. I was a guest at the table of Andrew Gross, who is bringing Circo to Orlando next year.
The dinner was also a chance to try certain Le Cirque menu selections under the direction of Massimo Bebber, who was hired as the restaurant’s executive chef in 2014. The kitchens of Le Cirque have been a springboard to such chefs as Daniel Boulud, David Bouley, Terrance Brennan, Rick Moonen and Sottha Khun. A dinner I experienced at Le Cirque 2000 when it was housed at New York’s Palace Hotel and with Kuhn at the helm is still one of the top meals I’ve had.
Guests attending the Le Cirque pop up were served a four-course dinner with choices from a limited menu of Le Cirque favorites, all paired with wine selections from Feudi del Pisciotto Winery of Italy.
For my first course I chose the Lobster Salad, a Le Cirque standard. Not what most people think of when they hear the word salad, it featured tail and claw meat with a mix of fennel and pineapple, with avocado mousse. A 2010 Tirsat, a chardonnay and viognier blend, was the apt pairing.
For the actual salad course I chose Sirio Salad, named, of course, for the restaurant’s founder, Sirio Maccioni. A more traditional salad of mixed greens, it included chicories and arugula with asparagus lightly dressed with a hazelnut vinaigrette.
For the main course, I chose the Red Snapper, a pan-seared fillet with a ragout of wild mushrooms on a plate streaked with broccoli puree. A puddle of n’duja sauce was a nice grace note. Feudi’s Versace, a 2012 Nero d’Avola, was a perfect red accompaniment for the fish.
There were three selections under the Dessert heading but really only one choice, as far as I was concerned. Creme Brulee Le Cirque is arguably the restaurant’s most famous offerings. Maccioni didn’t “invent” the custard, but members of his team perfected it. (It's listed on the menu at Paul Bocuse outside of Lyon as "Creme Brulee a la Sirio.") The one served at the pop up was textbook perfect, with a room temperature vanilla-forward custard and a burnt sugar topping that cracked like thin ice. Those who ate to the bottom — and few could resist — were treated to the recipe, which is printed on the bottom of the plates that were brought in for the occasion.
The Citrus Club staff served ably. I’ve always found service in the dining room to be top notch. (The banquet service is another matter.)
The atmosphere, from the top floor of the BB&T building, was lovely, too. I might say even nicer than that of Le Cirque’s current location at the Bloomberg Building. But I’ll always look forward to experiencing a bit of Le Cirque wherever it is offered.