Welcome to The Gatekeepers, a monthly feature in which Eater roams the city meeting the fine ladies and gentlemen that stand between you and some of your favorite tough-to-get tables.
Las Vegas certainly has its share of big tops in town among the seven Cirque du Soleil shows, Absinthe at Caesars Palace and even a resort with a circus theme, but the real show goes on at Le Cirque, the New York import from the Maccioni family. Here find, decadent French dining under a circus tent designed by Adam D. Tihany. And Ivo Angelov serves as ringmaster of it all. The general manager worked at Aqua, Michael Mina's now defunct restaurant at the Bellagio when the resort opened in 1998 before moving up to assistant general manager of Michael Mina. Now he runs the show at Le Cirque. Here he shares some of the strange requests at the restaurant along with the most-requested dishes.
So, what's the busiest time right now?
To be honest, we are busy almost every night. For people who go to shows, there is early seating. We have something that is in and out for those who want to go to show. By 5:30 we usually have a full dining room, then after the show around 9:15, we have another seating there.
As one of the hottest restaurants in Las Vegas, you've surely been offered gifts or cash in exchange for reservations or a table. What have people tried?
They've tried everything, to be honest. Here are MGM Corp., one of the core values is honesty. I don't jeopardize that. That's actually the opposite reaction, it will not get you anywhere.
A good maître d' always try to get you a table rather than accept cash. You should always have some solutions available. Come later, come sit at the bar. You always have ways to accommodate them.
Tell us about your favorite customers.
I have a huge following. I have overseas regulars who visit on a regular basis. They want the truffles. They want the experience. They tell stories and I enjoy those. We share common interests.
Our customers are always welcome to call me any day or time. That is one of the things that I really enjoy — keeping that personal relationship.
How do you deal with VIPs when there are no tables to give?
We have to improvise in a matter of minutes. Usually with VIPs, we have advance notice. But if something comes up at the last minute, we keep one or two tables in case of these situations. A maître d' always has these solutions. They can have a cocktail at the bar. Being a typical night, we always have someone who is going to come in, who's important and we're prepared for it.
So, what's the strangest request that you've accommodated at Le Cirque?
One time we had one of our routine guests who requested a ham and cheese sandwich. We served it on brioche bread. It was probably the best ham and cheese sandwich he ever had.
On another occasion, a gentleman wanted his food served in a blender, all seven courses. We go above and beyond to accommodate.
What was the first thing that shocked you in Las Vegas?
The first day I walked in the airport, the amount of electricity in the lights.
In a city that's 24/7, there are so many glamourous people and celebrities. To accommodate them is best part of the job.
Smoking in the grocery store, that was really something. I guess it's Las Vegas.
Do you ever get any requests for vegetarian dishes here at Le Cirque? How do you accommodate them?
Yes, we do. We actually we do have people who are very conscious of vegetarian and vegan. We're very accommodating, of course. We have offered many options for vegetarians even though they're not on the menu.
What's the most popular dish right now?
Definitely the truffles. I have to say this is the best time of year for us. The amount of truffles we go through. I think something there's something about it that just gets everyone excited. We have a seven-course truffle menu and dishes every day.
So, when you're not at Le Cirque, where are you eating these days?
It depends on the situation. Bouchon.
Ferraro's after work. They have a great meal for locals. I enjoy visiting them.
Were there any reviews that led to significant bump in service, or a change to the type of clientele?
We have made quite a reputation in the last 13 years. Something we have achieved in Las Vegas and we're keeping as a tradition is the AAA Five Diamond rating, one of the highest achievements a restaurant can get. We carried that for the last 13 years. We're rated by Forbes and Michelin.
We were named the No. 1 restaurant on TripAdvisor. Those are people not in our industry. We're ranked No. 3 in the world. People look at those reviews and decide which restaurant they're going to.
At the end of the day, what's the one Gatekeeper tool you need to get the job done?
You pretty much have to be very open minded. You have to read people and understand their needs. You have to be very good at staying calm at all times and make very quick decisions all the time. You have to be courteous, always accommodating and portray professionalism. If you bring this to the table, you will be successful in any profession.
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Ivo Angelov [Photo: Bellagio]