Can I let you in on a secret? In the ten years or so I’ve lived in the region, I’ve never actually been inside the Ritz Carlton DIFC. Even when I was living across SZR and walking to the Gate Village, I never once stepped inside the sophisticated property. Fortunately, this oversight was remedied with an invitation for lunch at the recently opened Le Cirque last week (replacing the former terrace bar No. 5). Long time readers will know I care deeply concerning the fit out of a restaurant. Luckily, all is as it should be inside the venue. Soaring ceilings, a luxuriance of natural light, chic seating, and quirky artwork make this a much more finished version of what I think Bagatelle is aiming for… (Ahem).
Crossing the large branded rug on the podium level of the Ritz-Carlton DIFC, I am warmly greeted by the hostess and quickly seated at a stylish banquette near the bar. Although I’ve eyed the menu before arrival, my dining partner and I decide to put ourselves in the hands of the Operations Manager, Mr. Francesco Carbone (whose enthusiasm for the restaurant is contagious) for the Déjeuner avec le Chef, a semi-secret business lunch, well priced at AED125. With fresh bread (still warm from the oven – great detail, that), I have a quick glance at the cocktail menu, but decide to behave myself and make a note to return and enjoy a drink at a later date.
The kitchen first sends us my favorite dish of the day, a deceptively simple Sugar snap salad, with radish, mint, whipped feta, crispy quinoa, Dijon, and avocado dressing. We are also served one of the most unique platings of foie gras I’ve ever come across, the Foie Gras Parfait, with toasted oat granola, fig and date chutney, and brioche. With the perfect level of crunch and freshness, the sugar snap salad has a strong chance of snatching a spot on my Best of the Month for August. I can see a tendency for others might be to over dress the salad, but the plate was perfectly balanced. For the parfait, as someone who, admittedly does not like foie, I was amused by the presentation. My only note would be to add a touch more chutney with the dish — I can’t help but enjoy the savory and sweet combination. Both dishes are easily shared between two people, and I would happily order either again.
For our mains, we receive the Asparagus Risotto and an excellent preparation of beef, the Entrecote Grille, portioned for the Déjeuner avec Le Chef lunch. Like our starters, these were easy dishes to share. The protein was cooked beautifully and served with a moreish peppercorn sauce and just the right amount of potatoes. The Risotto was textbook in its preparation, elevated by the perfect amount of texture, a detail many seem to overlook. I sometimes find this dish a bit too one note, but Le Cirque side steps this by infusing a lot of flavor and vegetables to break up the creamy rice.
For dessert, we gladly welcome the Lemon Meringue to the table, as well as the traditional Creme Brulee (with the same recipe as the one in New York). As with the salad, on this hot day in the long summer months of Dubai, the light lemon treat immediately hit the spot. While the creme brulee could not be faulted, the texture combined with a perfect balance of sweet and sour made the lemon dish one I would definitely order again. We lingered for a cup of coffee (there’s something about this venue that keeps you there), and although I had planned for a 2-hour lunch, we found the time had quickly passed, such that my guest had forgotten all about a meeting across town. Can the food at Le Cirque be that good? I guess you’ll just have to stop by for a visit.
Would I go back? Yes! As much as I love nearby Roberto’s, there’s something a bit more intimate about Le Cirque. To me, this is a match made in culinary and hospitality heaven as the Ritz-Carlton and Le Cirque seem like such a natural fit together. If you wanted a classy venue for a business meeting, a place to stop for drinks before going out, or a delightful location for dinner, Le Cirque has you covered.
For international visitors, have you been to the original Le Cirque? How does this venue compare?
A to Za’atar was a guest of Le Cirque. Opinions are my own, just ask my husband.