Monday, March 11, 2013

Being Mr. and Mrs. Smith

The main highlight of the week following our last post, was our visit to Le Cirque. Deb had formed a mild obsession with the place after seeing it featured in the tango scene of Mr. and Mrs. Smith. As budding fine dining afficionados, we both were keen to go indeed. On top of this, in the coming weeks, there were live Jazz bands playing. Jazz music is another one of our part time interests, we needed no more a reason to go.

Like a fine wine...
 
I'd like to think you can tell a lot about a place by looking at the cars parked outside, but that's only because I'm an enthusiast. On the other hand though, I do believe they can help characterise a place. This little gem was parked right outside the door so I assume it's owners were dining inside. As a matter of fact, a more modern 7 series was also parked across the courtyard, it would have made a nice photo, but I didn't want to look like too much of a tourist, trying to arrange the photo, as I was dressed up for fine dining. That and it was a public roadway I should probably not be in the way of.

Ah yes, the restaurant...

We actually went to Le Cirque cafe that night, as that was where the Jazz was being played. It had a more casual atmosphere which fit in more with the music. The decor was quite quaint, with a dimly lit and romantic atmosphere, did I mention we brought our parents? With the hope that we could share what we enjoy with them anyway, as they were only here for another week or so more, and we were staying.

Enter... stage, uh, cafe right?

The Avalon Jazz band was playing that night, we'd only heard of them from picking out which night we wanted to attend, we sampled their music on YouTube and thought we would enjoy it. Their music was sweet, playful, cheeky, just very french. The only thing missing was an accordian and a mime, I didn't look in the kitchen for rats cooking. They seemed to have a large support group in tow though, as that took up most of the casual seating area with acquaintances drifting in through the whole night. It leads you to wonder how many people actually turned up on a whim like us, not invited, but that's the challenge really, getting a leg up in this densely populated city.

Being french of course they place a great emphasis on their wine, as is apparent by the backdrop of the last photo. Which neatly brings us to...

The wine tower, as opposed to the cellar.

This was at the centre of the cafe floor, a wonderfully eyecatching wine tower, with traditional library style revolving ladder. A few times that night the head waiter would climb up and select a bottle for their customers. A beautiful feature. Deb was so inspired that she immediately placed one in the dreamspace of our future dream home, but for books of course. One wonders how much the net contents of the tower is worth.

Ok, so with the scenery firmly set, I can finally tell you about the food we ate. To be honest we are at such a surplus for good food here that we've been a little spoilt. Mainstream food is just at a better quality than back in Sydney. So unfortunately we were not blown away by the food, but then again, this was only the cafe, so maybe Le Cirque just doesn't splash out on it's lower class demographic. Flavours were strong, but dishes were a little one-note at prices, but I guess I might be expecting too much of a two course dinner at $35+tax. The best illustration of this was the Lobster Bisque which, although smoky, and containing actual chunks of Lobster, ends up being quite rich, and heavy. We resolve to find out whether or not the restaurant is better, but that we can save for a date night.

 Monkeying around.

Aside from the front of the menu, and this specific piece of crockery, there is little else to create the atmosphere of whimsy that they would suggest. It's a little out of place to me, in what otherwise is a place that seems to pride itself on the finer things.

What did leave a sour taste in our mouth however, happened as the night drew itself to an end. Although the band was still playing, our adventures the previous day (the shopping trip to Woodbery) was just too draining, we were still tired, so we resigned ourselves to paying the bill, and retiring early. One of the nicer details about New York is that in restaurants you can (pretty much) throw a bunch of credit cards at the waiter taking your bill, give them some general instruction, and they will work out the rest. I think this has something to do with their compulsary tipping culture, a generally higher quality of service is expected of the waiters. Unfortunately the two dealing with us were asleep during that lesson. Everywhere else we have tried this at, this does not faze the waiters. I will forgive the first waiter we first addressed, as he looked young, and was probably new. Our directions were along the lines of, split the bill on these two cards, please, (ours, and our parents) and put the glass of wine on this one (our card)". You could see on his face that it didn't compute, but he assured us he knew what to do anyway.

It was abit of  wait, and then a more senior waiter came along. I think you know how the rest goes.

"So you want the drink on this card?" as he points to our card.
We confirm that yes, this is what we want, and he goes on his way.

This was the waiter that already insisted on giving us dessert menus, instead of asking, and didn't really seem on the ball when we told him we already had ordered one at the beginning of the meal.

This waiter then comes back with the bill indeed split. But with the drink only on our card, stiffing our parents with the rest of the bill, when we tried to tell him this was not what we wanted, he passed the buck telling us that he merely did what the junior waiter asked. No offer to fix it.

I feel like I need to mention this because otherwise, the service was very courteous, and friendly. So it is even starker the contrast, the level of service offered at the end of the night.

But I digress, there really are more important things in the world to worry about. Here's another photo showing the wonderfully diverse atmosphere present around this neighbourhood. I wouldn't have been surprised if one of the band members owned this.

You'd think there were more songs about little red Vespas