Cyrus - Healdsburg, CA

Dinner - Monday, April 18, 2011

Cyrus seems to fly under the radar. Sure, it has a perennial 4-star review from Michael Bauer and it's one of only three 2-star Michelin restaurants in the Bay Area, but it generates very little buzz in the online world these days. We had been interested in visiting Cyrus since it first opened, but it's location in faraway Healdsburg and the wealth of other Bay Area dining options have constantly conspired against us actually making it there.

We had made reservations to try Chris Kostow's tasting menu at Meadowood, but changed our minds at the eleventh hour. Given that we would be visiting Napa again in July, we put off Meadowood until then, finally deciding to pay our dues and visit the old guard (Cyrus is a matronly 6 years old this year). I hastily contacted Douglas Keane to arrange an extended tasting, giving him carte blanche with the menu composition, and he promised to whip up an appropriate progression. The timing of our meal was especially opportune, as I was very curious about what he had learnt from his recent culinary fellowship in Japan. What followed was a veritable whirlwind of food and alcohol.

Poularde cuite en vessie at benu - San Francisco, CA

Dinner - Saturday, April 16, 2011

"Hi, this is Corey Lee, chef at benu," said the youthful voice on the other end of the phone. It was noon on the day of our scheduled meal, and he was calling to hash out the details of our dinner - a tasting menu incorporating the poularde cuite en vessie, which must be ordered at least two days in advance.

I had been impressed by Corey Lee's food during his time as chef de cuisine at The French Laundry, so when benu opened its doors, I knew that we had to visit. At his former position, he faithfully and purposefully executed Thomas Keller's vision - here, it would be solely his. I was curious to know how he would incorporate his Korean heritage into this new restaurant. In particular, would there be meaning to the liberal use of Asian ingredients?

I left the details of the menu to the chef, giving him free reign. Fast-forward 7 hours, and we were standing outside the restaurant, admiring benu's kitchen before dinner. Walking into the reception area, we noticed our dinner companion (the erudite Gary Fine of Veal Cheeks) already seated, and we promptly joined him. Gary is as engaging and convivial a dining partner as one could ever hope for, and four hours flew by like the blink of an eye.

Ubuntu - Napa, CA

Lunch - Sunday, April 17, 2011

When Jeremy and Deanie Fox left Ubuntu last year, there was mild panic in the food world. The yoga-studio-cum-vegetarian-restaurant had achieved significant acclaim with them in the kitchen, and people wondered whether Ubuntu would ever be the same. Sous chef Aaron London was promoted to the top position, and there've been some conflicting reports about the food since he assumed the mantle. We made it a point to stop in for a quick bite, to see how the restaurant had evolved. To my surprise, I found the experience much more Fox-esque than I had anticipated.