Note: Ever in search of that ellusive “buzz”, in May 2011 Le Caprice hired a new chef, Ed Carew, a veteran of Gramercy Tavern, Craftbar, and Fiamma, and closed soon after. Sirio, from Le Cirque owner Sirio Maccioni, replaced it.
So Caring said that he would “hold back several [tables] each night,” but never fear: “If they are loyal,” meaning the customers, they might hope to be seated. “Several” turned out to be the whole dining room. In the early months, for the riff-raff like me, 5:30 and 10:30 were the only reservation times offered. Le Caprice dropped down, and eventually off of my list of restaurants to try.
Meanwhile, Caring learned that buzz cannot be manufactured. He was holding those tables for an A-list crowd that never came. Sam Sifton of the Times — who, unlike me, gets paid to keep trying to get into these places — found it perpetually empty, despite assurances that they were fully booked. He awarded no stars.
Nowadays, you can get into Le Caprice whenever you want. At 6:00 p.m. on a Wednesday evening, the only buzz is the sound of crickets chirping in a deserted room. By 8:00 there is a decent crowd, though it is by no means full.
From noon to three, 5:30 to 7, and 10 to close, the set menu is just $29, with three choices for each course, and it is not a bad deal at all. Even the à la carte menu isn’t overly expensive, for a restaurant in a luxury hotel on Fifth Avenue facing Central Park. If I were in the neighborhood again, I would go back. It is certainly far preferable to the disgusting Harry Cipriani down the street.
The Smoked Haddock and Quail Egg Tart (above left) is wonderful — excellent in its own right, and I am not aware of any other Manhattan restaurant that serves it.
Swordfish (above right) tasted like generic hotel food. One of my dinner companions had the Chicken Milanese (below left) with parsley, lemon, and garlic, which he seemed pleased with.
Scandinavian Iced Berries with White Hot Chocolate Sauce (above right) is one of the best desserts I’ve had in a long time, and like the haddock tart, not available anywhere else that I know of.
The room is a real stunner, a perfectly civilized place for a catch-up dinner with old friends. The staff are eager to please, and they generally manage to do so.
Le Caprice (795 Fifth Avenue at 61st Street, Upper East Side)