Day 87, April 2:
During our Grand World Voyage on the Amsterdam, we could send our taste buds on a holiday to Manhattan – so we did! We made reservations at a Le Cirque evening at the Amsterdam’s intimate alternative restaurant, the Pinnacle Grill. We had enjoyed a lovely, non-themed, dinner at this very special restaurant to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary in February, but when we heard about the Le Cirque dinners, themed to the restaurant of the same name in Manhattan – one of the Big Apple’s most legendary dining spots by charismatic restaurateur, Sirio Maccioni – we just had to return. The Pinnacle Grill is transformed for the Le Cirque occasions with festive ornamentation, including colorful curtains that give the illusion of a “Big Top,” and beautiful Le Cirque china decorated with monkeys vying for fruit. The special menu features “Maccioni’s all-time favorites, like the Lobster Salad Le Cirque,” said Kim, the Pinnacle Grill’s always-attentive manager.
Maccioni opened his restaurant at the Mayfair Hotel in New York in 1974. It was there that, with his wife Egidiana and his three sons, Maccioni presented to the Big Apple what quickly became a favored dining spot for the social set, politicians, artists, entertainers and other VIPs. The restaurant relocated to its present address, One Beacon Court, next to the Bloomberg Tower in midtown in 2006. A 16,000-square foot facility, one of Maccioni’s various successful worldwide ventures, it has a giant abstract “Big Top” light shade, an all-glass bar, a 27-foot tall steel and glass wine tower, and bent-wire framed art pieces by Alexander Calder’s magical circus installation. So the restaurant is a whimsical, visual treat, in addition to featuring its ample gustatory delights.
The most popular of those delights are featured on the Pinnacle Grill’s Le Cirque menu. Three appetizers listed are Lobster Salad Le Cirque (poached lobster on bib lettuce with haricots verts, avocado slices and citrus – Humberto pronounced the lobster succulent), Le Trio (caviar, smoked salmon and pate de foie gras) and Caesar Salad (Le Cirque’s interpretation of the classic salad with anchovies and accompanied by a poached egg and croutons, just delectable). Two soups include the Butternut Squash with Huckleberries (served with sage chantilly, and I found it to be a wonderful combination of tastes) and Chilled Yogurt and Melon with shrimps, a selection Humberto thought was both refreshing and flavorful.
Entrees include Seared Alaskan Black Cod (with leek and red wine beurre rouge – it was so tender Humberto did not need to use his knife); Rack of Lamb (with goat cheese panisse, artichokes and arugula); Chateaubriand (with horseradish flan, sweet and sour baby beets); Three Cheese Raviolis (with fresh basil tomato), and my selection, Chicken Under A Brick (delightful, with sautéed vegetables and ginger honey jus).
To start us off, the chef sent an “amuse bouche” consisting of foie gras mousse on a bed of rhubarb chutney made with port wine from Madeira – delicate and delightful! And when it is all said and done, it’s a must to leave room for dessert with such delectable temptations as Crème Brulee Le Cirque, Chocolate Souffle with vanilla gelato, Napoleon pastry, fresh berries and an assortment of sorbets. We could not make up our minds so we succumbed to one dessert each, and shared a third: the Crème Brulee Le Cirque, sinful and flavored with vanilla beans. My choice was the Chocolate Souffle, which one of our waitresses, Tina, told us was made with 70 percent chocolate and was flourless, and Humberto loved the Napoleon pastry with berry compote, very light and delicious! The desserts came accompanied by a silver tray bearing petit fours – everything from chocolates to macaroons to an exquisite apple-flavored confection. A special selection of Le Cirque wines is available including a divine Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino from Italy. My taste buds are still thanking me!
Freelance travel writer Georgina Cruz and her husband Humberto are currently sailing on Amsterdam’s 112-day Grand World Voyage and will be sending in cruise diaries throughout their time on board. She has logged 174 voyages to all seven continents and visited more than 100 countries.