NYE ’13 at Cypress, Walnut Creek CA
Everyone wants to do something special for New Year’s Eve. Maybe not a raucous party, but at least a nice dinner. We wanted to go out for a five-course meal, so we picked Cypress for their NYE menu. The menu was what drew us in – had we known prior about the ambiance, or the lack of attention put into our meals, we would not have gone here.
Walking in, August recognized this as the location of the old Steinway piano store (1388 Locust Street), one of her competitors back when she sold pianos fresh out of college. The layout of the establishment was virtually unchanged from its piano store days, only the colors and textures were updated. Right by the door was the dance floor and area for the jazz band; lots of people dancing, and the music was well performed which inspired even more dancers, but the noise was just too much. With the music so loud we had to shout at the hostess and she back at us, amidst much eye-rolling among the three of us.
We had done our research ahead of time and new what we wanted for our five courses, but we took our time perusing the menu anyway so that we could enjoy the wonderful cocktails. They were specials for the night, and sadly they were so good, August had two and she forgot the names.
We both started with the escargot and mushrooms caps; the presentation was clean but the dish was unsalted which was a small let down. August did not want to add salt and she gave the chef the benefit of the doubt that he had intended for the dish to taste that way, but Zach’s palate would not allow him to eat an improperly seasoned food.
For the second course we both had the forest mushroom bisque, which was amazing. It had a very smooth consistency, a broad array of mushrooms were used, and the truffle oil and truffled crouton were nice garnishes.
Things started getting questionable at the third course. There was endive salad for August, which she loved, and Zach had frisée au confit du canard – the taste was supreme and presentation was pleasant but he found a duck bone. One duck bone is acceptable, we suppose – it can happen once out of a thousand.
For the fourth course we each had our own dish, but we also shared a very meaty lobster tail with rich butter. August had the surf and turf (petite beef filet and seared scallops with lobster mashed potatoes); the proteins were cooked perfectly and had great flavor all around, but the potatoes were under-seasoned and bland. Zach had the roasted duck breast with duck fried rice. The duck was perfectly cooked and rendered so it was not greasy and the plum sauce was phenomenal, but… he pulled three bones out of the first six bites of the room-temperature fried rice. At least one of the prep cooks was not doing his job.
They offered us dessert coffee while we waited for the fifth course, from which Zach scooped out a half of a teaspoon of coffee grounds in the first stir; strangely, there were no grounds in August’s cup. Our dessert then arrived – we both got chocolate tortes with “After Eight gelato” and chocolate peppermint sauce. One slice was about 0.5″ thick and the other was over 1.5″ inches (very uneven) and the plates had no visual appeal at all. The gelato was frankly mint ice cream with chocolate shavings. But the biggest let down was the crust of the torte was burnt beyond edible. As an alternative, they brought three gelatos for us to share, which were decent but not an even trade.
The service was okay because our waiter did the best he could, but neither the manager nor the chef would come see us. It is not a good sign when the people running the place make the pawns shoulder the blame. They gave us two discount coupons for our next visit, which we very much appreciated.