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Jun 30, 2012 01:12 AM

Eating at the Bar: Cyrus in Healdsburg

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),

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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  1. I only went once to the bar once, but I remember enjoying it as kind of a manageable Cyrus experience. I just have to say, I am amused to no end that you were served oknomiyaki. Was there anything on top of it beside the tamarind glaze? Was there sliced cabbage inside? And if so, how fine was it?

    1 Reply
    1. re: LikeFrogButOOOH

      Would that I had a bigger serving to answer your questions!

      I don't think there was anything else on top, such as sauce or katsuobushi. Couldn't say about cabbage. Remember this was about the size of a quarter coin and not much thicker.

      Chef Keane likes to incorporate Japanese ingredients and compositions, and he does a good job at it.

    2. That really looks yummy, we really enjoy the bar area at Cyrus and Adam is starting to make his mark there with some very interesting homemade cocktails..
      Can't think of a better way to enjoy your last supper of fois :)

      3 Replies
      1. re: tom246

        Thanks, Melanie. Great write-up.

        I've wanted to try Cyrus at the bar when I'm not in the mood for a big deal dinner planned weeks in advance. Your summary gives me the green light for this idea.

        1. re: cortez

          You're welcome. Yes, that's exactly it, I liked that this was not a big deal, much anticipated, dinner. Sitting at the bar, I could observe the dining room patrons coming in for their dinner reservations. They didn't look nearly as relaxed as I was, and in some ways, I suspect that I had a better night.

          Adam did say that I came in at a good time to get a seat. He said 8pm on Sunday is when the bar slows down.

        2. re: tom246

          I've loved dropping in to Cyrus for one of the special cocktails. But hadn't for a while since there are so many spots in the area to get a great seasonal cocktail now. I did mention to Adam that I'd heard about his brown butter cocktail and he puffed with pride of ownership.

        3. one evening in H-burg we just spontaneously dropped in to the Cyrus bar with coffee and dessert in mind and saw they were serving several champagnes by the glass. we'd eaten innumerable small plates in the middle of the afternoon at a Slow Food benefit, didn't have a meal in mind at all, but ended up sharing a delicious soup and pasta with two different champagnes before getting to coffee. they have very comfortable seating and excellent service in the bar section and one can't really expect more from a casual eating venue.

          3 Replies
          1. re: moto

            I'd love to stop by for coffee and dessert another time. Have my eye on the dessert trio.

            One service thing that I noticed is that sitting at the bar, the food runners are approaching from behind, so one could easily be startled. When Adam was behind the bar, he made sure to announce that my course was coming up behind me, and that certainly kept me from jumping out of my seat.

            Over the weekend I compared notes with some friends who had just been to Central Kitchen in SF. For the same money, we agreed that I got the better deal at Cyrus.

              1. re: MikeW

                Bad news for my visions of neighborhood dining at Cyrus, but I'm glad the situation's been resolved. Guess we'll need to step up eating there over the next three months.