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Restaurants & Bars 10

Eating at the Bar: Cyrus in Healdsburg

Melanie Wong | Jun 30, 201201:12 AM

Glued to our seats at Maison Lameloise in Chagny for what turned out to be a four-hour dinner service, my traveling companion and I noticed some patrons, presumably locals and regulars, who came in for just a cocktail, a course or two and coffee service. They were more casually dressed, accompanied by their dogs, and had an easy familiarity with the house staff. At the time I mused that living nearby with Lameloise as one’s go-to neighborhood hangout would be a glorious thing.

With the countdown to the final legal foie gras, I dawned on me that I could approximate this with a la carte service at the bar at Cyrus in Healdsburg. On Sunday I dropped in at 7:15pm, no reservations accepted here. The two two-tops were occupied, as well as one of the two four-seaters in the bar area. The bar was being cleared off and I had my choice of solo stools.

The bartender, Adam, explained that the portion size on the a la carte menu is bigger than the servings on the tasting menu. The bar menu is available whenever Cyrus is open, including lunch on Saturdays. He suggested three or four selections per person for a full dinner. Here’s the current bar menu (.pdf), http://www.cyrusrestaurant.com/pdf/me...

Ordering the foie gras was a must, and when I asked about the sweet wines on the list, he suggested pairing it with the 2003 Kiralyudvar Tokaji Aszu 6 puttonyos. Priced at $38 for a 3-ounce pour, I explained that was more than I needed to accompany an appetizer and asked if a half pour might be possible. Done, and here’s what $19-worth looks like. This Rare Wine Company import turned out to be outstanding.

Service in the bar still merits an amuse-bouche. Presented in an overly sturdy tiered carrier, the amuses were an inch-wide tamarind-glazed okonomiyaki and a hot yuzu dashi chaser. No Kewpie mayo on this okonomiyaki, I’m not sure I really tasted it on the way down. The citrusy tart and briny dashi made for a great palate cleanser to tee up the next bites.

Besides the amuse-bouche, the other nice thing about Cyrus is the basket of housebaked rolls served with Spring Hill organic butter from Petaluma. I pointed out to Adam that I’d received two of the same, a whole wheat seed-studded roll. He said that meant that the kitchen was starting to run out, but he was able to replenish me with a garlic bun and a miniature epine from his bar stash.

Hudson Valley humane foie gras torchon and Bing cherry, $19, featured a thick disc of creamy torchon upended on one side of the plaque facing off across a brush stroke of cherry “paint” with the cherry “roulade” of pate de fruit. The cherry theme continued in the very thin sheet of cherry “glass” balanced on the curve of torchon. A base of finely ground pistachios secured the torchon to the plate. A slightly coarser grind of pistachios coated the roulade, and a few whole nuts and microgreens detailed the paint stroke. And behind me, another server slid a warm brioche square onto the plate. I overheard one of the other diners say, “what’s this supposed to be, a gummy bear?” To me it was softer than that, just a couple clicks firmer than the buttery torchon. But more importantly, the fruity tone was exactly the level of natural sweetness and tartness to highlight the rich foie gras. This added up to about ten bites worth, and there was more foie and cherry than accompanying brioche. But that let me make each mouthful a little different. Combined with the intense acidity and honeyed tones of the Tokaji, this was everything I wanted in a final foie gras course.

Sweet corn, Taleggio, black truffle risotto, $18, was my main. I’d declined the black truffle supplement and was perfectly happy with this dish as is. Very creamy and buttery rice with the bite of bone at the center of the grains was flecked with ground fresh corn, chive and black truffle. A core of silky Taleggio custard was hidden under the black truffle espuma. The risotto course had been my favorite dish the one time I dined here, and this was even better.

I had expected to stay for dessert, but I was more than full from these two rich courses and nibbling at the bread basket. No challenges or risk-taking in my short meal, but high touch, well-executed cuisine that satisfies. This was a great way to enjoy Michelin-star cooking on a limited time and dollar budget. An hour and 15 minutes and $70 later, I emerged from the Cyrus cocoon feeling pampered and sated.

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