Restaurant Review - April 18, 2008 - Joanne

Interior of Cyrus Restaurant in Healdsburg, California

Visited February 13, 2008 - Dinner

Location: 29 North St., Healdsburg - about a block and half NW of the Healdsburg square, in the same building as the Le Mars hotel.

At Cyrus, Nick Peyton and Chef Douglas Keane's intent was to create a top echelon restaurant in the Sonoma half of Wine Country and they've certainly succeeded. Cyrus is the most expensive table and has the most elaborate menu in Sonoma County. It is also the place to wear your finest dining apparel. The food sets the highest mark in the county - and has been awarded appropriately: two Michelin stars and obtaining the status of Relais & Chateau Gourmand Restaurant. It was time for us to return...

Since Cyrus’s opening almost three years ago there have been subtle changes. We are still told that the chef is "informed of our arrival," for no apparent reason (albeit no longer on the black phone). The Champagne and caviar cart, which starts the dinner off, remains omnipresent. And, the orchestration of each course still requires one waiter per dish (six plates, six staff members). The cheese cart has been joined by the mignardises cart. (Watch for the addition of a bread cart sometime in 2008.)

Upon being seated, the caviar and Champagne cart arrive. Its special menu is presented and while the waiter stands upon attention you may peruse it. If there is no interest in caviar or Champagne the cart retreats and the main menu plus wine list are presented. At this time of year, a cigar box arrives holding the fresh Black Truffle (tuber melanosporum) for us to examine.

Setting up the dinner is a negotiation of likes and choices, made simpler by choosing the chef’s tasting menu. It tends to be difficult to settle in until the second course (or fourth dish) arrives. After dinner is decided, a three-tier affair of canapés arrives and then Della Fattoria bread is delivered (with two butters and two salts). Then the complimentary amuse from the chef and followed by the first course.

Canapes at Cyrus
Canapés: Five to delight the senses of sweet, salty, sour, bitter, umami
My favorite of them was the grapefruit and Campari gelée. The runner up was the banana flower fritter.

Miso & Meyer Lemon Soup with Japanese style salad with Enoki Mushrooms at Cyrus
Amuse: Miso and meyer lemon soup
Japanese style salad with enoki mushrooms

The salad was fresh and palate cleansing. The soup was as well but almost too much so. The quantity of the soup was far more than one would want to start a multi-course meal. A few sips were all that you needed.

Roasted Beets with Mandarins and Pistachios
Roasted Beets with Mandarins and Pistachios
Chioggia, Golden and White beets with Mandarin oranges, pistachios and a golden beet fritter

The pistachios were a strange element. The flavor was good but the texture seemed wrong. The fresh chives were very fragrant. Jack was very pleased to receive this as a bonus – he almost ordered it, and really enjoyed it.

Gnocchi with Escargot, Persillade and Veal Jus
Gnocchi with Escargot, Persillade and Veal Jus
The gnocchi were lovely light dumplings. The escargot were nicely done, and took on a mushroom-y flavor. I did not like the persillade and did not think that the sauce was the right choice to hold this dish together. Nice in parts.

Winter Vegetables Trio  - A tasting at Cyrus
A Tasting of Winter Vegetables
The vegetables were presented as a trio of three tastes. These three tastes didn’t mesh their elements to come together as one dish, which was disappointing, as there was obviously great care taken with each taste.
Greens - Winter Vegetables at Cyrus
Greens – very good balance of flavors. The creamed greens (spinach?) were lovely. The cake atop was deep-fried making the otherwise not so exciting inside of tougher greens palatable.
Turnips & Sweet Potatoes
Turnips & Sweet Potatoes - The Tokyo turnips atop the sweet potatoes were nice but the sweet potatoes were turned into another vegetable entirely. Very silky and sweet, I did not like them. The accompanying mushrooms could have been a bit crispier.
Winter Vegetables Onion Tart at Cyrus
Onion tart - The foam had a nice onion-y flavor but this was a one-biter for me.

Scallop with Red Lentils, Uni and Olive, Cara Cara Orange Reduction
Scallop with Red Lentils, Uni and Olive, Cara Cara Orange Reduction

Nice crust. Really excellent scallop…the soy salt added a wonderful element.

Black Bass with Leeks and Artichokes, Bay Leaf Nage
Striped Bass with Leeks and Artichokes, Bay Leaf Nage
Very good. Jack quite enjoyed it and would order again. About 1/4 of it was slightly over-cooked… yet this is strongly positive compared to most upper echelon restaurants.
Thai Marinated Lobster with Avocado, Hearts of Palm and Mango at Cyrus
Thai Marinated Lobster with Avocado, Mango and Hearts of Palm
The sauce overwhelmed the perfectly cooked lobster but the flavors in this signature dish are so nice, one almost ceases to care. The marinated mango was wonderful.

Seared Foie Gras with Ginger-Carrot Pain Perdu, Tumeric Emulsion
Seared Foie Gras with Ginger-Carrot Pain Perdu, Turmeric Emulsion
Really, really good. The debate has always been seared or torchon. Go for seared. The grilled brioche added a mesquite element which was love or hate (Jack thought it was more coconutty).

Kiwi and Cara Cara Orange Ice Pop
A tiny, nice refresher.

Three Presentations of Duck at Cyrus, in Healdsburg, CA: Thighs with pickled napa cabbage, Breast with bok choi and beech mushrooms, Rilletes with Cashews, Buddha’s Hand Citron Gelee
Three Presentations of Duck
• Thighs with pickled napa cabbage
• Breast with bok choi and beech mushrooms
• Rilletes with Cashews
• Buddha’s Hand (Citron) Gelée

After tasting all three I wanted duck just one way: The wonderful medium-rare crunchy crusted slices of breast (thankfully, the biggest portion of the three). The Buddha’s Hand gelée rocked, yet did nothing for this dish; we hope/wish they move it to another dish.

Strip Loin of Kobe Beef with Scallion Rice Cake and Ponzu at Cyrus
Strip Loin of Beef with Scallion Rice Cake and Ponzu
Dubious about the $35 up-charge, Jack was in raptures over the flavor of this meat, and will order it again. Alas, the accompanying rice cake was a miss.

Hibiscus Flower Soda
Hibiscus Flower Soda

I love the little metal straws and the tableside soda siphon.

The Cheese Cart at Cyrus in Healdsburg, CA
Artisanal and Farmhouse Cheeses, Presented Tableside with complementing breads, fruits and accompaniments

A very nice selection of about 15 cheeses, many from the U.S. All looking in very nice condition. The accompaniments were Paneforte, nice walnut bread, and lovely cinnamon sugar coated nuts, preserved apple and dates. Jack thought it was an almost unadventurous selection, yet, he thought, why shouldn’t they serve many of the great cheeses of the world in prime condition? Not to be missed!

Cheese Plate at Cyrus - Elk Grove Red & Gold, Epoisses, Vacherin de Jura, Big Woods, Petit Agour
We chose:
Elk Grove -  Red & gold
Vacherin de Jura
Big Woods (WI)
Petit Agour (coated with Paprika)

Dessert Trio from Pastry Chef Suzanne Popnick
Pastry Chef Suzanne Popick has designed dishes with A Trio of Tasting Desserts Based on the Following Theme: (choice of 3) I chose:
Chocolate: A trio of chocolate
The quality of the chocolate shined in this trio:
Butterfinger Bar - part of the chocolate dessert trio at Cyrus
Butterfinger Bar: Peanut butter and chocolate bar with banana chips. Nice but on the heavy side.

Malted Milk and chocolate ice cream with honeycomb
Malted milk and chocolate ice cream with honeycomb: The wafer of chocolate covering the bowl was wonderful. The honeycomb was too leaden and the malt too subtle.

Chocolate Almond Croquette
Chocolate Almond Croquette: Chocolate truffle with citrus panna cotto
A slightly risky pairing worked beautifully here.

Mignardises Cart at Cyrus
Mignardises Cart
Blue Raspberry Suckers, Caramels, Chocolates, Chocolate Mint Truffles, Fruit Gelees, Apple Blossom flavored Marshmallows, Torrone
Mignardises at Cyrus
The hit were the Chocolate Mint Truffles.

Take Home Box (with Brownie inside) from Cyrus
A take home box is delivered at the end of the meal and contained a delicious chocolate brownie.

NV Rene Geoffrey Brut Rosé
Lingering hazelnuts as it warmed up.

2003 Movia Veliko Bianco 2002 Mas de Daumas Gassac - Languedoc
2003 Movia Veliko Bianco
Rich and minerally but with some elements of flowers and ripeness. Despite it being an 2003 (very warm year), the acids were aplenty, and it paired well with the early dishes.

2002 Mas de Daumas Gassac Haute Vallée
A great choice, drinking well now and not too heavy, but lots of red fruit.

Sparkling Water served is VOSS.

Note on the Wine List:
The Wine List has grown considerably. There are quite a few interesting choices, but most (yet not all) are at the lower price range for a Michelin 2/3 star restaurant. But this is still higher than other restaurants in Sonoma Country. In general, the pricing is not a turn-off. Having Movia Tocai Friuliano by the glass says there’s a real clue here.

Older reviews here.

Note from Jack: This great meal exceeded my expectations and makes Cyrus my top choice in Wine Country.

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