Alright we finally found an occassion that merited a trip to Cyrus (anniversary)... and we got out there last night. Overall, its at a whole other level compared to the John Ash & Graffiti's of the world (I haven't been to French Laundry yet)... but it has its Pros AND its Cons.
First, lets start with the food. We both had the tasting menu (7 courses for $120); I ordered the Grand Wine Pairing ($185) [you could also get a cheaper 7 course pairing for $85]... and the wife ordered the ONLY Sonoma County wine by the glass... she of course shared in my flight. (more on the wine disappointment later).
> Canapes... these were very nice & tasty. One was a rift on Mexican Empanadas the other was simply roasted tomato in pastry. Both nice, neither memorable.
> Heirloom Tomato Gazpacho with Hirame & Basil. Not a gazpacho at all... maybe a cross between a Deconstructed Gazpacho & a seafood cocktail. It was a clear cucumber "broth"... with a Hirame sashimi wrapped around a cherry tomato. The flavors varied from resort spa water to very subtle Thai lemon grass soup. It was refreshing, tasty and fit what we tend to think of as creative Calfornia cuisine.
This was paired with the Francois Cotat - Culs de Beaujeu - Sancerre 2004. It was an okay French style wine, well structured with good silky texture but plain, minerality that would be nice with a Chicken Kiev but completely mismatched to a dish of this delicacy. The table next to ours were some recognized wine people... and they were served (with a different dish) a Sake that they kept raving about... causing the Sommelier to explain how small batch Sakes were really taking off etc., THAT is something I wish I could have tried with this dish.
> Seared Foie Gras wtih Hazelnut Crusted Doughnut, Apples and Cinnamon. This was very nice... carmelized exterior, buttery interior, excellent doughnut, sauteed apples.. heavenly for three bites thats when my tongue instinctively begged for a mouthful of some sharp, gamey Chevre.... and I realized the dish - while well executed - was unbalanced and a surprising misstep for a chef of this caliber.
Paired with Heidi Shrock - Furmint Sauvignon Blanc - Ruster Ausbruch 2001. A sweet Austrian wine with flavors that reminded me of nail polish remover. It of course only added to the sweetness of the Foie Gras... a terrible pairing imo (but maybe with the Chevre.... )
> Langoustine with Sweet Corn, Mussel-Saffron Sauce. This was one of our favorites... perfectly cooked, tender, light helped us recover from the overly sweet Foie Grass. The sauce was really a foam that really evoked a coconut curry. Very nice.
Paired with the Guy Amiot - 1er Cru Maltroie - Chassagne-Montrachet 2004. Again the insistence on pairing such delicate Thai-ish flavors with such a plain French wine seemed wrong... and was not particularly enjoyable.
> Cyrus BLT (Pork Belly, Pancetta, Heirloom Tomato, stroke of aioli) This was one of our favorites... the pork belly was succulent & carmelized with some kind of red wine reduction.
Paired with the Williams Selyem - Bucher Vineyard- Pinot Noir 2005 (Russian River valley). The wine selection really started getting better here. It was well structured, luscious wine with very nice black cherry that melded perfectly with the "BLT".
> Rib Eye of imported Japanese Wagyu beef with Bamboo Rice, Matsutakes & Ponzu Sauce. The beef...all 1 ounces of it... was wonderful. The rice was a disaster however it incorporated preserved limes & lime oil... and was way too bitter and clashed with the red wine pairing.
Paired with Gaja - Pieve Santa Restituta Rennina - Brunello di Montalcino 2001 (Tuscany). A very nice red that seemed very similar to the previous Pinot Noir.... structure, luscious, less black cherry, a bit more tannin.
> Cheese Cart (French style service). Unfortunately the cheese monger read us incorrectly because he ended up selecting mostly young cheeses and we prefer aged... but it was still very nice. I can't remember all the cheeses... half were European, half were American (Indiana, Washington and a single local cheese). Our favorites were a French double creme Camembert, a Portugese "spread in cheese cloth", and the Indiana manchego like cheese that was wrapped in Grape leaves.
Paired with Alta Gracia - Eisle Vineyard - Araujo 2004 (Napa). Another nice red. However, I don't understand the insistence of red wines with cheese.... the pairing just doesn't do much for me.
> Chocolate Egg Cream with Chocolate-Hazelnut cookies. (Complimentary for special occassions). The cookies were great, the egg cream was like ovaltine... they do something with a balloon and a hookah looking device to blow sprinkles over the cookies. I thought they were about to bust into a choreographed number as well.
> Green Cardomom Ice Cream with Lychee Granite, Chilled Rose Soup. Nice & refreshing. The ice cream was a perfect, silky texture. Not particularly memorable.
Paired with Chateau D'Yquem Sauternes 1997 (Bordeaux). An okay dessert wine... also had a bit of that nail polish remover essence. I don't think the sommelier has ever heard of the virtues of a nice Moscato.
> Mignardises (Basically assorted, homemade candies with French Style Service). They had a spicy Raspberry-Guava sugared jelly... that is as much as I had to hear... wonderful, I let the wife choose the other 5 as she didn't eat much of the previous dessert. I enjoyed mine a cup of extremely fresh tasting, smokey black coffee.
> For breakfast this morning I had two exceptionally dark brownies the pack for you in a cute little box.
That was the food... now the PROS & CONS:
> Ambience.... very disappointing at this price range. A very plain dining room with a borning scheme of beige walls, black accents & drapes that look like one of those bad 1980's wedding dresses. Music was mostly 1950's style swing & bastardized jazz... its almost like Holidays in department stores.
> Service.... started out poorly. The first guy was aggressively trying to get us to purchase something from the Champagne & Caviar cart... I was slightly tempted than decided it was worthless since they don't do anything to either... I would rather buy it myself & have it in my backyard. Then the various team members were very uptight & snobby... insisting on delivering their rants on what was special about each wine etc., independent of whether we were interested or not.
BUT... then to their credit... and this was impressive. They started to read us and adapt to our style. It became a lot more casual & relaxed... and the few times I had questions about something they politely & honestly responded to them without going into their scripts.
As the evening continued... I noticed the amazing choreography in the team. At some point we almost thought they had a microphone near the table because they would perfectly anticipate our wants. The was truly decadent, attentive, courteous service.
The one thing that I would advise is that the food naturally comes very quickly. If you ask them to slow it down... they seemed perfectly happy to do it. Although it seemed to throw their rhythm slightly off.
> Identity. This is Cyrus' main weakness in my opinion. I feel the place is kind of in no man's land. Its not casual & relaxed like other favorite upscale California restaurants... its very uptight & French like.. but at the same time it doesn't go all the way. There is no dress code so the dining room was fool of a bunch of geeky looking, middle age people that really undercut any glamour. Had they insisted on a more strict dress code, had better music... and brought steam towels etc., it would have been more congrous.
My other issue with Cyrus is that it is not very Sonoma County. The wine list was unabashedly anti Sonoma County. While I REALLY appreciate that they didn't try to BRAND the ingredients... like some less classy restaurants that feel compelled to tell about each & every special local ingredient... I would have like if they said once... we use sustainable, local produce whenever possible or something like. With the bad foreign wine list, snubbing of local cheeses & no mention of local ingredients it creates the feeling that they don't really care to use any of them.
> Food. Everything was impeccably executed... but conceptually some dishes just weren't balanced. The food was great but not any better than my Calfornia cuisine benchmark (Joe's in Venice which provides a 7 course tasting menu for $55). With that said I really appreciated the Asian accents to the food... because they did deliver a credible California Cuisine experience unlike other Bay Area restaurants that are content with plagiurizing French & Italian dishes and simply adding a few locally ingredients.
> Presentation... I really like their presentation style. It was earthy & simple not too molded or high. Some modern elements with a few foams & jellies etc., (enough to get Michelin starred) but not really the essence of the style.
Our final bill was $585 with Tax & Tip... and I feel it could have easily been $1000 if we would have gone with the Champagne & Caviar so this place is not cheap.
Would we go again? Absolutely.... its a very decadent, 1st rate experience.... and I am sure we will make it our go to special occassion restaurant (the wife made the reservation 2 weeks in advanced & only the 7 PM time slight was already filled... so really no hassle as compared to that other place in Yountville).
However, when we asked ourselves... money & distance is absolutely no issue... if we had to choose between Joe's & Cyrus... we would choose Joe's 9 out of 10 times... unless its a real special occassion. So if you prefer really prefer a more casual take on fine dining... Cyrus isn't going to be on the regular rotation.