I really wanted to try fine dining in Sonoma Valley or Napa Valley area – the area is very well known for its food. The obvious choice was to go to French Laundry in Napa Valley, however if I am perfectly honest, my travel budget didn’t quite stretch that far (we were travelling California for 2 weeks and wanted to squeeze in a variety of food experiences!).
So we decided to try Cyrus instead. I had read positive reviews for it on chowhound.com (fantastic resource if you are a travelling foodie!) and wanted to see what this 2 Michelin Star restaurant would offer. The menu is inspired by Japanese ingredients and the chefs enjoy pairing ingredients to highlight complementary tastes.
We arrived at 7pm to a nondescript hotel with a confusing entrance but eventually made our way into Cyrus. We were seated in a darkened restaurant that was already packed with diners at various stages of their meal. Our assigned waiter patiently described the menu to us and happily arranged for our dietary requirements to be accommodated (my brother is lactose intolerant and I cannot eat anything raw at the moment).
Our meal started out with 4 hors d’oeuvres. A little puff pastry filled with parmesan cheese, followed by a ball filled with grape puree topped with crystalized ginger, a little spoonful of grapefruit jelly with yuzu, and finally a small serve of dashi. It was a pleasant introduction to our dining journey for the evening! The ball filled with puree was especially unusual and once you popped it in your mouth it burst with tart flavour.
This was followed by an amuse bouche – a little parfait of squash puree layered with yuba puree, topped with rice crackers and nori. Under the layers were pickled mushrooms. The mixture of textures was the highlight more than the actual flavour – the crunch of the crackers with the soft puree, and the bouncy mushrooms. After all, yuba doesn’t really have much flavour. The mushrooms were lightly pickled which didn’t over power the dish.
There was an endless supply of fantastic artisan bread. Oh the bread. Now really, bread is just a filler at dinner time, but Cyrus really had some lovely choices. My favourites where the pretzel croissant and the brioche. The bread was accompanied with both fresh cow and goat butter, and salt from Scotland as well as Hawaii (a shame they didn’t have any Fleur de Sol). I think I went overboard with the bread – thankfully I ordered the 5 course meal and not the 7 course!
For my first course, I ordered the chestnut and sherry soup. It had a smooth and creamy consistency, however if I am honest, the flavour was forgettable. Perhaps it was simply not to my taste.
My second course consisted of roasted lobster with cauliflower cream and uni emulsion. The lobster serve was generous and perfectly cooked, and the cauliflower cream was very creamy and smooth with a good balance of flavour. The uni emulsion was slightly sweet, but it was more the novelty of the foam that interested me. I really enjoyed this dish.
Mr Ana and my brother both had the shima aji sashimi with oxtail umeshu consomme, quail egg and myoga. I’m told that the sashimi was deliciously fresh and the saltiness of the consomme went well with the fish.
For my third course, I enjoyed a little portion of john dory with braised romaine and yuzu butter. Now I’m not a fan of cooked lettuce of any kind, but the braised romaine was actually quite nice. The dory was very fresh and just cooked so it retained its bouncy texture and moisture. The yuzu butter went excellently with the fish – the yuzu flavour there, but not over powering. A nice touch (however I really am a fan of yuzu anything).
My main course consisted of crispy skin chicken thigh with truffled risotto, sauteed celery and parmesan froth. The chicken was not marinated with anything but a light spray of salt, however the punch of the truffled risotto offset that. The parmesan froth was true in flavour and I enjoyed the texture of the froth with the chicken. However if I am honest, I preferred the lobster dish to this one.
Prior to desert we were served a palate cleanser. Normally I get a bit of tart sorbet which I’m quite fond of, however this palate cleanser was in the form of a popsicle – a little ginger and guava flavoured popsicle served on a teeny stick. I loved it!
Now to my desert. Oh my gosh where to start. Firstly, it was not an overly complicated sweet confection, but rather a lovely textural delight. I was served a flat plate with a glass of vanilla bean fontainebleau – a lightly sweet cream cheese, which was topped with apple ice. Not sorbet, but ice. The ice had the natural sweetness of the apple, however retained some tartness. I wish I had more of that ice. To the side of the glass was a little concave filled with sauteed apples and farina fritters. Farina is a grain that I was not familiar with, but is very popular in a number of cuisines, including Greek cuisine. The fritters were freshly cooked and went excellently with the sauteed apples. I did not share my desert that night.
And finally, as with any reputable Michelin Star restaurant, we were served petit fours. My, the selection was large! I chose a little bit of everything – salted caramels coated in dark chocolate, coconut macarons, English toffee with a saltine cracker base, truffles, home made marshmallows and jellies, and a little pot of chocolate mousse. My eyes were clearly more hungry than my stomach, because I couldn’t finish them. My favourite was the English toffee. The salted caramel was a bit of a disappointment – which was probably my fault after eating a variety of excellent salted caramels from France.
And then when I thought we were all finished, we were served teeny churros with vanilla bean icing. They were still warm. And delicious.
When we were about to depart, we were each given a little box with a fresh pastry inside – for later. Yum yum yum! I didn’t eat mine until the next day, however it was still crisp and enjoyable. Sorry, no picture of the pastry as I ate it too quickly.
All in all, my dining experience at Cyrus was well worth it. The service was excellent and the courses were served at a good pace. The food itself was lovely. While I cannot compare it to the French Laundry, I can compare it to other meals I have experienced in this price bracket – including another 2 Michelin Star restaurant in Japan, as well as another Michelin Star restaurant we had dined in the night prior. Thankfully we saved this for the last night in the are, as it was by far superior.
The only downside I will mention is that I think the tables are too closely set up – I prefer not to be able to hear the conversations of fellow diners – especially annoying ones. They also have a strict cancellation policy so be very sure of the night you wish to dine there. However considering the reasonable price tag attached to the dining experience, these are small little things that are easily forgotten.
29 North Street