Quite a few reviews that I’ve read compare Cyrus favorably with The French Laundry, so given my imminent visit to the French Laundry, I thought I’d go check out this Cyrus upstart.
We had a bumpy start. Just a couple hours before, we’d wandered around Foppiano Vineyards, which leaves shoes looking like this…
I wiped them off as much as I could, and felt that it would be okay walking into “business casual” dress Cyrus for dinner with jeans and mostly clean shoes… Except that the moment we walked into the elegant restaurant, I saw that everyone else was in much fancier and cleaner dress.
As I tried to blend into the dusty peach paint on the walls, we were led down a hallway to the dining room, where the hostess stopped at a table with a phone. She picked up the receiver, and informed The Chef that we had arrived. So, yeah, apparently, it’s a direct line to the chef (EDIT: that is used to introduce every party as they arrive). I was so tempted to try out this line to The Chef (who was referred to often during the meal as such; his given name is Douglas Keane) myself during the evening, but I figured my shoes had already used up my Get Out of Jail Free card for the night.
Anyway, we were seated, and a Caviar & Champagne Cart was immediately docked at our table and accompanying menus placed in our hands. Would we like to start out with a bit of champagne and caviar? Hmm…. champagne was sold by the bottle, 4 oz glass, and 2 oz glass (even that was about $25, I think), and I don’t even remember how the caviar was served. So… Uh, no.
At this point, we were a little bewildered and uncomfortable. I thought that the phone call to the chef was a little over the top. I suppose that it would okay if he were to personally come out and greet us, but he didn’t do that for anybody (and normally, of course, wouldn’t be expected to) — instead, everyone got Amuse Bouches (which are great in any case). But then, to be set upon by the outrageous cart, I felt like it was a bad way to start off the night to have to refuse something.
But then… things calmed down and ascended… We enjoyed a wonderful meal — one that Chad said was among the best of his life. Basically, they have a very flexible prix fixed menu, from which you choose courses out of such categories as soups, foie gras, poultry, pasta and risotto, dessert, etc. You can have any number of courses between a three course meal for $58 to the seven course Chef’s Tasting Menu for $95. Edit: We were told that they adjust the portion size depending on how many courses you get.Â Faced with so many alluring options on the menu, we deferred our choices to The Chef for the 7 course menu.
The food was fantastic. I’ve spoken of the Craveworthy Test before in which I try to think whether to highly recommend a restaurant based on whether I’d crave dishes, but there’s also the Perk Up Test, which Cyrus also passed with flying colors. For all of the dishes I had, the tastes and textures made me perk up and enjoy how wonderful food can be. So, I highly recommend it. And as far as comparisons to the French Laundry go, I can’t speak to that completely, but I know that it’s about half the price of the French Laundry and much easier to get a reservation. So, if you can’t get a reservation at the French Laundry or just don’t want to pay the price, consider Cyrus instead. The French Laundry has a 9 course tasting menu, but Cyrus gives so many extra dishes that I don’t you’ll feel deprived of those roughly two courses (though I’m sure TFL gives extra courses, too).
And just looking back at that last paragraph, you can tell that I’ve given a lot of thought to the French Laundry recently, and after having read a bit of the cookbook, I couldn’t help comparing them during the beginning of the meal… but that wasn’t fair to Cyrus, so I weaned myself off with references to the “Spanish Firehouse” before I just concentrated on the experience as it was.
Also, our servers were also fantastic — very accommodating, efficient, and friendly… and there were no more disconcerting maneuvers after the bumpy start. There was just good food, which I think mostly speaks for itself… (I was told that I’d be given a transcript of our menu at the end, but it was vaguer than I would have liked for some courses, so excuse the vagueness with some descriptions since I didn’t try to memorize anything at the time)
Amuse bouche with Asparagus Tartar and Rabbit.
Lobster Amuse Bouche.
Green Garlic and Buttermilk Soup. This — the third amuse bouche — was one of the best courses of the meal. I couldn’t believe how well the flavors came together. Genius.
Bigeye Tuna and Uni with Daikon and Carrot.
Thai Marinated Lobster, Avocado, Mango, and Fresh Hearts of Palm.
We had a course of Seared Foie Gras with Crispy Endive and Gingered Rhubarb, Vermouth Reduction at this point, but I must have forgotten to take a pic in my zeal to eat it.
This was my second drink of the night. The Waverly Place Echo had Hangar One Mandarin Orange Blossom Vodka, Chinese Five Spice Honey, Lemon Juice, Pixie Mandarins, Orange Flower Water and Seltzer.
Before that, I’d had the Thai Boxer with Charbay Tahitian Vanilla Bean Rum, Thai Basil, Spearmint, Cilantro, Lime Juice, Thai Coconut Milk, and Ginger Beer. It went very well with the Thai Marinated Lobster course, and made me wish that restaurants did cocktail pairings as well as wine pairings for courses.
Rice Flake Crusted Soft Shell Crab with Fingerling Potatoes, Thai Red Curry Sauce.
Poached Local Egg with Fresh Grits, Asparagus and English Peas, Bourbon Verjus Sauce.
Strawberry Verjus Ice Lollipop.
Veal Loin with Sweetbreads, Leeks and Black Trumpet Mushrooms, Madeira Sauce.
Artisanal and Farmhouse Cheeses with Bread, Panforte, Grapes, and N. Cal Dates. Our server brought the awe-inspiring cheese cart to our table, and talked about each cheese as she selected them — after having first asked what types of cheese we like. We said every type, so we had a wonderful array of cheeses. She said that since I’m a student at CIA, she tried to pick interesting West Coast cheeses as well as some from further afield. As she placed the this amazing plate on the table, she said, “I may have overdone it.” Granted, we didn’t finish it all, but I’ll regret that for the rest of my life. Unfortunately, I can’t remember any of the cheese except for the leaf wrapped cheese from Sally Jackson and an amazing goat cheese from Petaluma that was made by Dante Creamery (or something similar…? Aldante? I can’t find any info about it online)
Mojito Soda intermezzo, which didn’t have alcohol, but instead a mojito syrup that the server spritzed with seltzer tableside. I love the metal straw.
Caramel Soup with Kettle Corn Sorbet and Chocolate Filigree and Crepes “Suzette” with Strawberries, Caramel, and Whipped Creme Fraiche. The Caramel Soup is a brilliant idea that I loved at the first bite, but got a bit weary of as I ate more. It basically makes the caramel sauce the main player of the dish, garnished with popcorn, chocolate, and sorbet. It was good and fun, but I think a bit too all out sugary. It needs more depth.
The crepes were a little odd. I didn’t really like having to navigate my spoon to multiple places across the plate to build a perfect bite. The strawberry component was good, but after the sorbet and caramel of the Caramel Soup, I wish that the crepes had different components than the whipped creme fraiche and caramel sauce; there could have been more contrast. Also, the crepes themselves were rolled into rather dry little spirals; I liked the moistening elements between crepe layers at Terra a bit more.
Mignardise. I know that’s Gewurztraminer Jelly on the bottom, but the other two, I can’t remember the details. They were all very good, except the jelly was a bit too cloying for me.
With our bill, we also got a cute little gold bag with some treats for later, but they were a little odd: Ginger Tootsie Pop, A Mini-Palmier with Hazelnuts, and an Apple Hard Candy. The ginger was way too strong and the palmier was boring and looked sloppy, but the hard candy was great.