Saturday, February 6, 2010

Cyrus: 5 course Tasting Menu

During a recent trip to Sonoma, we decided to dine at Cyrus in Healdsburg, CA. I was particularly excited about the vegetarian tasting menu. Not only was the Season 6 Top Chef season finale held at Cyrus, but Chef Douglas Keane has been a guest judge on the show a number of times. Cyrus is a Michelin two star restaurant, and The French Laundry is the only SF area restaurant with three stars.

We had reservations for Thursday night, but I was not feeling well. We called the restaurant and without any hesitation they accommodated us for dinner Friday evening.

Upon being seated in the beautiful dining room, the champagne and caviar cart rolled by. When we declined, the server did not make any comments or change his expression. That's excellent service.

We opted for the 5 course tasting menu over the 8 course menu. Here is a picture of the dinner menu.

Canapes to stimulate the different taste buds, sweet, sour, salty, bitter, umani- gingered cranberries, grapefruit gelatin, gougères, some sort of tart, mushroom shiu mai. The canapes certainly warmed up my palate for the five courses ahead.

The bread basket was excellent- french baguette, sourdough, brioche, feta and kalamata olive rolls, and multigrain. The feta and olive roll was delicious. We were offered two different butters- one cow and one goat- and salts. The goat's milk butter was amazing.

The servers were almost acrobatic... performing their roles without being obtrusive or even noticed. Everything was well orchestrated. Below is a description of the 5 courses from the vegetarian tasting menu.

Amuse bouche- chick pea fritter with acidity and subtle spiciness.

Silken tofu with tasting of miso- made at the table and finished with a dusting of soy salt which is freeze-dried soy sauce. Very molecular. Kombu seaweed with cream, served cold. The miso broth highlighted salt and umami notes and was rich-feeling in my mouth.

Steamed bok choy, honshimeji and watermelon radish, matsusake broth- Acidity and umami from the honshimeji, pepperiness with slight sweetness from the watermelon radish, and pungency and savoriness from the matsusake broth. The umami flavor in the dish was pronounced, almost meaty. Each component was well reprsented without overwhelming the other ingredients' flavors. The aromatic dish lacked texture but the flavors left me in awe.

Pumpkin Tagliarini with pecorino and steamed bantam yolk- this was beautiful. The pumpkin was enchanced and balanced by the runny yolk. The pecorino added a nice saltiness to the dish. The texture was intriguing. The dish was sublime.

Palatte cleanser- a "popsicle" of citrus

Pot pie with black truffle- Ridiculously delicious. With every bite, the flavors came together and became more intense. I made such a mess trying to get through the puff pastry on top (which was much larger than expected). It was a wonderful melange of textures and flavors. I wish I could have finished the bowl.

We were tempted to order a cheese course but we could not possible eat another course so we declined. For dessert I had the chestnut souffle with passion fruit and green tea. Rich, intense, bitter, sweet, tangy. Surprisingly delicious. Consistent with the theme for the evening, the components all came together wonderfully.

To finish we were presented with delicious mignardises, a cute box containing a brownie for tomorrow, and a customized menu from the evening.

I really enjoyed Cyrus but I don't think it was one of the best meals I've ever had. I felt that the dishes lacked focus. There were so many competing, albeit intense, delicious flavors.

The progression of courses was not overwhelming and was well-timed. There was good acidity and balance and the flavors were distinct across courses. The service was very professional. The attention to detail was commendable. Cyrus was a wonderful experience from start to finish.

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