Disneyland for Adults

Remember that feeling you got as a child when you walked down Disneyland’s Main Street? It was all there. Everything a child could possible want out of life. Nothing spared. You grabbed your parent’s hand and literally pulled them toward Sleeping Beauty’s Castle with visions of amazing adventures, rides and fun beyond.

Eating at Cyrus in Healdsburg, California brought me as close I I think I could get to that experience…only it was a Disneyland for adults.

Myself, my wife and two other couples had the 6:30 reservation at Cyrus on New Years Eve. The five course Prix Fixe was $175 per person….and it was a bargain. You expect a place that aspires to greatness to deliver creative and daring dishes. That’s exactly what came from their unique treatments of the Torchon of Fois Gras and braised Sea Bass to the marinated Duck and into the Waygu Beef Wellington. I don’t want to give the details of the meal only because I know my powers of description are not up the task and you really are best experiencing it on your own without any baggage packed by a wine blogger’s feeble attempts at a run down of the food.

And in any case, I want to focus here on what I think sets Cyrus apart from most restaurants and what makes any great restaurant great: service.

Yes, we have six waiters delivering each course and setting the plates down in unison "Laurence Olivier" style. It was quite a production. And the moment I moved from my seat I was greeted upon my return by a fresh set of silverware and napkin. And like with all great restaurants, the wait staff appeared to possess clairvoyance as a requirement of their position. I barely had to catch one’s eye and they knew exactly what I needed. But there’s more.

We were on a tight schedule and needed to leave the restaurant by 8:30pm. One of my table mates, in jest, told the waitperson, "we need to leave precisely at 8:37pm." After a cocktails course, a Champagne Course, an elaborate amuse bouche, a couple courses, an intermezzo, and three more courses including coffee and candies we got up from the table precisely at 8:36pm. And it was a perfectly paced meal. That’s pretty amazing. That’s pretty attentive to perfection.

But get this. After the second course a friend and I retired outdoors for a mid course smoke. As we stood outside and shortened our lives, the manager of Cyrus brought us each our intermezzo, outside on the sidewalk and informed us that, "your next course will be served in six minutes." We ate our intermezzo, set our watches, returned to the table with a minute to spare and smiled when the next course was delivered by six waiters one minute later.

The whole experience was topped off with the best brownie I’ve ever put in my mouth that was delivered in a lovely "Cyrus" box to keep for the next day.

Yes, a great restaurant delivers great, inventive food. But a REALLY great restaurant reminds you why you go out to dinner at all: to be served.

Posted In: Personal, Wine Places


5 Responses

  1. Alder - January 5, 2008

    Yes, but what about the food? I had a decent, but not phenomenal meal last time I was at Cyrus. I was struck particularly by how much better the appetizers were than the main courses, several of which disappointed.

  2. dfredman - January 5, 2008

    And what did you drink with your New Years Eve dinner?

  3. johng - January 7, 2008

    As somebody who has not only eaten out a quite a bit but served, managed, and cooked at some very good restaurants, I would say that on the one occasion I had the opportunity to dine at Cyrus everything was 100% flawless. Alder’s point is fair – the food is wonderful but perhaps not quite as memorable as French Laundry, but factoring in the service, the room, the vibe, the wine service – overall I think it’s a better restaurant experience and more fairly priced.
    BTW there’s a Screaming Eagle / Jonata winemaker’s dinner there next week. There might still be a couple of open tables…

  4. Fredric Koeppel - January 7, 2008

    Alder makes a good point, and that’s that restaurants have off nights, hence the occasional disappointment. Try reviewing restaurants for 20 and you’ll have that motto carved in stone.
    Service does make a difference. when the staff at a restaurant takes care of everything, including matters that you hadn’t even thought about, and does so quietly and unpretentiously, it just makes you feel so comfortable and taken care of. of course it helps if the food is great too.

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