A foie gras torchon with honey-and cognac-poached pears is part of a menu that reaches for luxury. Photo by Kevin Marple.
Today, we learn from Brian Reinhart at the Dallas Observer that Circo Dallas, the splashy Le Cirque family spin-off in Uptown, has closed. His lengthy exposé—he has admitted that he developed a “morbid fascination” as he observed, over months, the imminent train-wreck—sheds light on the closure, a seeming combination of image-pandering and most of all, wildly irresponsible management.
I was as unimpressed with the restaurant as Reinhart was when I reviewed it in January of this year.
There was the glitzy, gaudy décor; a glass-bottomed pool and dazzling bead curtains; food that had me making comparisons to wedding banquet fare. My mostly-dismal dining experiences glammed things up with truffles and foie gras, but failed to deliver on the basics. I was baffled by the collision of gaffes and high price point. The people in charge of this arm of the Circo brand did not seem to understand fundamental principles, like the vision. (“What is coastal Italian?” I asked. No one seemed to know.) My appraisal was one of the most negative reviews I’d written in a while.
The glossy-surface reason Circo TX CEO Lauren Santagati offers for the closure involves noise complaints filed against Circo Dallas by residents of One Uptown, according to the Observer. Guidelive reports “urine-throwing incidents, among other things.” But Reinhart’s interviews with a variety of sources—former employees and contractors—reveal bounced paychecks and debts to contractors, a maelstrom of incompetence behind four executive-chef quittings and firings. This is the water beneath the surface.
Santagati comes off as delusional and desperate. “We spent millions of dollars on the build out…we have a 4.5 Star Reviews,” she writes in a letter to Reinhart, criticizing him for questioning the surface story and instead digging for the facts.
The management at Circo Dallas is revealed to be obsessed with image and celebrity, more appearance than substance, more bravado than bite. There is, too, the collateral damage done to its former employees.
Perhaps Reinhart’s piece is itself a form of damage control. We need this kind of reporting. Read his story here.