As we take a seat at a long table peppered with wine glasses of all sizes, in the private dining area of Le Cirque Signature at the Leela hotel, Chef Matteo Boglione walks in wiping the beads of sweat from his brow. He slumps into the chair and takes a deep breath.
“I am busy preparing the food for you,” smiles Chef Boglione, who has flown down from the flagship restaurant in New York to head the kitchen in Mumbai. Delhi saw its first Le Cirque two years ago.
The menu offers 40 per cent vegetarian options. “We even have three Jain dishes. Italian food without onion-garlic. Imagine!” says chef Boglione, throwing his hands in the air.
‘It happens only in India,’ we blurt out in our minds. Started by Sirio Maccioni in 1974, the Italian first opened Le Cirque as a French restaurant, Chef Boglione tells us.
“While French food is heavy, Italian food is lighter,” adding that wine, cheese, seafood and oyster are some of the common ingredients that crop in both the cuisine. “It is the butter and olive oil that changes the density. It is a ‘controlled-confusion’ cuisine.
My idea of food is delicate flavouring. An overpowering use of spice kills the mouth. But I did taste the Indian curry,” he quips, as he goes into the kitchen for last minute preps.
We are now joined by co-owner and son of Sirio, Mario Maccioni, along with his wife Maria at the table. The chatty couple has downloaded the Google translator and is picking up Hindi phrases beautifully. At a point, even we get confuse the ‘kata’ and ‘churi’. “Le Cirque, means the circus,” says Maccioni, Sirio’s son and co-owner of the Maccioni Restaurant Group.
We begin with a White and Green Asparagus Soup that comes with Brie fritters and Tuscan extra virgin olive oil. This lightly-flavoured soup is served as a puree. Each spoonful awakens our appetite for the latter.
The first appetiser is Pan-seared Foie Gras, served with caramelised peach, perigordin sauce and peach puree. Perfectly crisped on the outside, the Foie Gras is a melt-in-the-mouth on the inside. The duck liver goes beautifully well with the caramelised peach.
Folding tortelli is an art, and the next dish, Pumpkin Tortelli with butternut squash, amaretto cookies on a bed of pecorino cheese fondue and topped with fried sage looks like a masterpiece. Cut open, and a sunset chrome of pumpkin is waiting to be devoured. The sweet pumpkin, the savoury pecorino and the sharp sage perform a juggling act on the palate.
Then, an earthy aroma of black truffles wafts into the room. The taste of the buttery risotto rice and the truffle shavings is aheady experience leaving a light pungent-sour after taste forfirst timers like us.
The next dish is an uncomplicated Seasonal Grilled Vegetables on Polenta, which comforts the taste buds with simple seasonings; much needed after the flavorsome furor the truffle stirred. Pan-seared Tuna with eggplant puree, deep-fried artichoke and tomato confit. A chef’s specialty, this dish is definitely a must-try. Cooked rare, the fish retains its intense flavour.
For an aubergine fan, there is no greater pleasure than having the prized purple in different forms. And, I rediscovered it in the dessert, Mille Foglie. A fluffy white chocolate mousse and a sinister dark chocolate sauce is served with caramelised eggplant discs. We fall in love with eggplant; all over again.
When we come to the last dish on the set menu, Le Cirque’s signature Crème Brulee, Mario has a story to tell: “In Barcelona, my father was served a crème brulee in a deep tumbler, and the sugar coating was so thick that they served a mini-hammer to break it. A fellow companion almost lost a tooth trying to bite that sugar. At Le Cirque, he asked the chef to decrease the thickness of the crust to make it edible.”
As we crack the sugar crust with a spoon, we know that every Crème Brulee we have after this will be compared to this one. The only regret — there isn’t enough room for a second helping.
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