Le Cirque Returns with a New Chef, a $388-Tasting Menu, and a Revived Spirit
A 19-month hiatus pays off for the French fine-dining icon.
After a 19-month closure, the Bellagio’s seminal French fine-dining destination Le Cirque has reopened on the Las Vegas Strip, boasting a menu of globally influenced European cuisine, interpreted through a modern lens under the direction of new executive chef Dameon Evers.
"To reopen an iconic restaurant like Le Cirque is very challenging and ambitious," says Evers, who previously helped Angler earn a reputation as one of the best seafood restaurants in San Francisco before doing the same for the L.A. version as executive chef. "Everything on the menu is new for the restaurant and new for me."
Evers worked under big names like Michael Mina, Gordon Ramsay, and Thomas Kelller, who taught the up-and-coming chef the art of "working clean and being patient." That patience was tested while Le Cirque waited out the depths of the pandemic before once again welcoming guests. Everything had to be carefully managed from top to bottom with no room for missteps. The restaurant is about experienced, hands-on service as much as elevated cuisine—and in a testament to its stature, was able to retain most of its staff; many who have been in place for years, and some from day one.
Le Cirque arrived in Las Vegas with the grand opening of the Bellagio in 1998. The pressure was on to match the success of the original, a New York City status destination that hosted celebrities, presidents, and business power brokers throughout the '70s and '80s. By the late '90s, its reputation for drawing a high society crowd had cooled off, and the restaurant closed in 2018 amid escalating expenses and several rounds of bad press. Founder Sirio Maccioni—an Italian immigrant whose personal story of rising from maitre-d to restaurateur is forever intertwined with the identity of Le Cirque—passed away in 2020.
Meanwhile, the Las Vegas version of Le Cirque saw its trajectory move in the opposite direction, building its own reputation, earning loyal regulars, and shaping a legacy that is now approaching a run of 24 years. It's a remarkable outlier for the Vegas Strip, where restaurants are quickly replaced at the first sign of showing age. While other dining destinations at the Bellagio have wide-open layouts to attract patrons from the casino floor, there's always been a certain mystery and sense of seclusion to Le Cirque.
"You open the door and it's so special," says lead sommelier Sanae Halprin. "The people are so friendly. The warmness, the friendliness. Everybody in the front and back of the house is so skilled."
The dining room is a cozy, intimate space with just 16 tables. Some of the furniture has been moved around and the lighting improved, but the look hasn't changed much over the years. The wallpaper is still decorated with vintage circus imagery and the theme continues with the flowing fabrics of a colorful big top as the ceiling's centerpiece. The temptation of adding an outdoor patio was wisely resisted, allowing the Bellagio fountains to remain a charming backdrop that's occasionally noticed through the windows. It's better to pay attention to the wine and whatever happens to be on your plate at any given moment.
While the restaurant interiors retain a level of familiarity that fine diners will appreciate, the menu is where Evers’ skills and innovation are best demonstrated, featuring a slate of new dishes that have been in the planning stages since April. Old favorites like the Maryland blue crab with osteria caviar (a signature recipe by former executive chef Wilfried Bergerhausen) and lobster salad are gone, leaving behind a top-to-bottom reboot.
Evers draws on his experience at Angler to bring a renewed focus on seafood to Le Cirque. The chef uses a clean, fatty Hawaiian amberjack in place of Japanese hamachi in the traditional sashimi course. Sea bass has been replaced by turbot, cut into small pieces and seared to order underneath thin-sliced potato "scales" with a hokkaido scallop mousse. A delicate serving of kinmedai (Japanese golden snapper) is served with yogurt, swarnadwipa spices, and an herb called huacatay, or Peruvian black mint.
All three dishes are part of Le Cirque's signature ten-course degustation menu, which runs $388 per person. Other highlights include an osteria caviar course, creamy foie gras with duck confit, ricotta gnudi with white truffles, and a flavorful 45-day dry-aged Mishima ribeye. "This beef is an American Wagyu that's exclusive to Le Cirque," says Evers. "We work closely with the actual buyers and farmers."
Le Cirque also offers a six-course menu ($288 per person) and a three-course menu ($128 per person) that's geared toward the theater crowd attending performances of "O" by Cirque du Soleil at the Bellagio.
A six-course vegetarian menu (adjustable to be fully vegan by request) is also $288 per person and far from an afterthought for plant-based dinners. Celtuce, a stalk-like vegetable, effectively replaces the sashimi course; sliced thin and served with radishes, yogurt, and a buckwheat nori crisp, commanding its own presence and aromatics without feeling like a substitution.
A savory combination of sunchokes, sunflower seeds and spices is served with Indian-style flatbread for a bite so hearty and full, you'll never miss the beef. "It eats like meat, but it's not meat," explains Evers. "The flavors are very developed. There's no other restaurant in Las Vegas offering this type of vegetarian menu, I guarantee you."
Either way, you'll want to join the majority of diners who opt for wine pairings with their meal. Le Cirque is open for dinner Thursday through Saturday and is accepting reservations via Seven Rooms or by calling 702-693-8100.