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.
Upon arriving at the restaurant, we were greeted by maitre d' Nick Peyton and escorted to our table. Champagne and caviar were proffered but we declined, having just come from Schramsberg (which, by the way, makes superb American sparkling wine using the traditional methode champenoise). While we looked over their cocktail list, the canapes arrivéd.
|Canapés - Five tastes|
Next, the bread basket made its way around. Cyrus bakes 4-5 breads in house for each service (not pictured), and they were decent, but I didn't find any of them particularly compelling except the brioche. At this point, we also settled on drink choices. One of the reasons Cyrus has been on our to-visit list is their strong cocktail program, originally developed by Scott Beattie. We ordered a number of cocktails throughout the night and enjoyed them all - very seasonal, with emphasis on using local spirits and products (where allowed - I'm glad to see that taste is not sacrificed for the sake of locavorism).
|Amuse - Ike jime tai, pickled sea bean, cherry blossom|
|Chilled cucumber-galangal water|
Avocado, hearts of palm, Fresno chili
|Asparagus, ponzu, ito gaki|
|Chilled oxtail-umeshu consomme|
Kindai tuna, myoga, battera kombu
|Artichokes 'a la barigoule'|
Corona beans, arugula, green garlic
|Foie gras torchon, brioche bread pudding|
Quail egg, rye, foie gras-black truffle jus
|Bay scallops, poke, turnip, passionfruit|
|Tasmanian ocean trout|
Hickory-smoked soba, mitsuba, oolong broth
Maitake, spring onion, radish
Before the final savory course, we were served a small guava sorbet "popsicle" (not pictured) as a palate cleanser. Very refreshing - it did it's job at resetting our tastebuds after the strong flavours from the trout and chicken dishes.
|Wagyu strip loin, bone marrow flan|
Lotus, shiitake, pear, ginger
|"Milk and cookies"|
Soft-baked chocolate chip cookies, Valrhona syrup and homemade seltzer
|Vanilla bean fontainebleau|
Strawberry, lime, yogurt
Before the final desserts, we were brought to the kitchen to meet with Douglas and his team. According to him, the kitchen had a lot of fun preparing the menu. After some small talk (during which he expressed dismay at still not having made it out to Ubuntu), we returned to our table, thankful for the small opportunity to stand and stretch our legs.
Vanilla, rum, chocolate soil, popcorn tuile
|Peanut butter gianduja bar|
Honeycomb yogurt parfait
At the end of the official menu, a large mignardises cart appeared. We were as stuffed as Thanksgiving turkeys, but somehow managed to make room for two choices that turned out to be superb - (1) a decadent jarred chocolate panna cotta, and (2) some amazing sudachi macarons. Nicole Plue really redeemed herself with these macarons - they were the best I've had outside Paris. Our server packaged more macarons and a selection of other sweets for us to take home. Finally, the check was delivered... together with a serving of fresh house-made doughnuts, still dripping with molten glaze. They were light and airy, and only mildly sweet - a delightful, if messy, end to the evening.
Service was uniformly outstanding throughout the evening. I can't say if this was because we had pre-arranged a special tasting, but everyone was extremely friendly and knowledgeable about the courses (only one of the servers seemed on the raw side). Importantly, Nick Peyton seems to have done a good job at training them to be unobtrusive, and they materialized only when needed - kudos to him for that.
|Gift - Chocolate brownie|
Since this was our first visit (in fact, this was our first time tasting Douglas Keane's food), I'm not in a position to comment on how Cyrus has evolved over the years. Based on this visit, I was more than pleased - while I didn't encounter anything that changed my perceptions (as the very best meals do), the restaurant operates at a very high level. Our dinner actually felt like a little time warp - American fine dining before molecular gastronomy, or uber-regional cuisine, or cooking with primitive techniques, etc. For that, it was almost refreshing in its classicism.
29 North Street
Healdsburg, CA 95448
Phone: (707) 433-3311