José Andrés Brings Zaytinya to New York; Cyrus Returns to Sonoma in September

The famed chef has teamed up with the new Ritz-Carlton in the NoMad neighborhood, and Douglas Keane has reimagined the acclaimed wine-country restaurant he closed a decade ago. Plus, French restaurant Maison Close, from an Alain Ducasse alumnus, comes to New York's SoHo district
José Andrés Brings Zaytinya to New York; Cyrus Returns to Sonoma in September
In the eye-catching bar area, Ritz-Carlton guests and the public can enjoy creative Mediterranean cocktails along with a selection of more than 100 wines. (Jason Varney)
Aug 11, 2022

In 2002, long before José Andrés founded World Central Kitchen and became one of the world’s most recognizable and beloved chefs, he opened a Mediterranean restaurant in Washington, D.C., called Zaytinya. Now, Zaytinya has come to New York City, where it opened in July inside the new Ritz-Carlton New York, NoMad—one of several recent dining debuts in the Manhattan neighborhood.

Zaytinya, a play on zeytinyağı, the Turkish word for olive oil, offers a meze menu inspired by Turkish, Greek and Lebanese cuisines. The small plates, meant to be shared, are familiar yet innovative: don’t miss the taramosalata, a cured carp roe spread, or the imam bayildi, an Ottoman-era meze of slow-cooked eggplant, onions and tomato. The seafood plates—including grilled octopus with yellow split pea purée and sea scallops with chilled corn tzatziki—are also standouts. For meat lovers, there are plenty of lamb, beef and chicken options as well. Start the meal with a za’atar margarita or Turkish pickleback (chilled raki, a Turkish anise liqueur, served with pickled turnip juice), or take advantage of the extensive aperitif service, offering a range of Mediterranean liqueurs.

 The dining room of Zaytinya
Zaytinya's warmly lit, open dining room provides a welcoming atmosphere with views of the NoMad neighborhood. (Jason Varney)

The original Zaytinya, in D.C., opened with an ambitious wine program featuring wines from Greece, Lebanon and Turkey almost exclusively. (It has earned a Wine Spectator Award of Excellence since 2014.) Diners seeking classics from Italy, France, the United States and elsewhere were invited to branch out. The New York location retains a similar focus on these wines—fans of Chateau Musar will be pleased with the multiple vintages of reds and whites on offer—though more international bottlings have made their way onto the list. Still, with such fascinating offerings among the more than 110 wines on the opening list, especially those from Greece, there’s hardly any reason not to try something new.

Jordi Paronella, wine director at ThinkFoodGroup (the hospitality company behind José Andrés’ restaurants), told Wine Spectator, “Our goal is to remain authentic to the regions we want to highlight and help guide our guests into a wine they may have never even considered, and in doing so, hopefully introduce them to something new and exciting.” Helpfully, the list includes explanations of Greek wine regions, plus primers on the wines of Turkey, Israel and Lebanon and a glossary of wine and grape names (complete with nifty pronunciation guides).

The street-level space, on the corner of West 28th Street and Broadway, is ideal for a large meal with friends and family to celebrate a special occasion or for popping in to have a quick bite and people-watch through the restaurant’s large, street-facing windows. Designed by David Rockwell, the dining room feels breezy, intimate and relaxed (though not quite casual) and features warm lighting, light blue accents, gentle curves and a large bar. The friendly, open atmosphere is intended to attract younger guests to the Ritz-Carlton brand. Two live olive trees anchor the dining room, which seats 150 and is open both to hotel guests and the public. Several large wine towers sit at one end of the room, just conspicuous enough to pique an enophile’s curiosity but subtle enough to blend in.

A rooftop bar, Nubeluz, is set to open later this summer on the hotel’s 45th floor, where guests will be able to enjoy sweeping views of lower Manhattan in a Roaring Twenties atmosphere. In the fall, the new Ritz-Carlton will also become home to the first New York location of Andrés’ the Bazaar, which currently has an Award of Excellence–winning location in Miami Beach and will be coming to Washington, D.C., later this year.

 The exterior of Cyrus, in a two-story building that was a former prune-packing plant
The new iteration of Cyrus will occupy two floors of a 9,000-square-foot building, with diners moving through multiple rooms over the course of an evening. (Courtesy of Cyrus)

Cyrus Reborn in Sonoma’s Alexander Valley

With an official opening announced for Sept. 9, following a 10-year hiatus, wine-and-food lovers’ anticipation for the return of one of Northern California’s most celebrated restaurants has reached a fever pitch.

Chef Douglas Keane first divulged in 2020 that Cyrus would officially return, reimagined from its previous iteration inside Healdsburg’s Les Mars Hotel, where it held Wine Spectator’s Best of Award of Excellence from 2006 until it closed in 2012 after a landlord dispute.

Reviving Cyrus, at times, felt like a labor of Hercules for Keane and co-owner and maître d’ Nick Peyton. “The journey is almost as crazy as the amount of time it took,” laughed Keane, citing several failed starts and stops at other locations before they landed at the current location in Alexander Valley, just outside the tiny town of Geyserville. “Part of what took so long was finding the right space.”

Cyrus will occupy a 9,000-square-foot building, originally a Sunsweet prune-packing plant before it was repurposed by its previous owner, art collector Steve Oliver and president of Oliver & Co. construction. The modern, barn-like structure is fashioned out of concrete, steel and glass, sitting 10 feet above the earth amid six acres of vineyards. Seattle-based architect Tom Kundig of Olson Kundig put the finishing touches on the space, including kinetic partitions that can alter the restaurant into different configurations.

Keane and Peyton needed all 9,000 square feet to fulfill their imagined concept, inspired by formal kaiseki restaurants in Kyoto. When the duo began plotting the revival of Cyrus in 2014, they meditated on fine dining and realized that traditional experiences were becoming tired, forcing guests to endure hours upon hours seated in one spot as a barrage of dishes came and went.

“Do people want to sit at the same table for four hours? No, but dinner is the entertainment for the evening in wine country. I wouldn’t do it again if it involved sitting at one table for 15 courses,” said Keane of reopening Cyrus. He wants to provide a genuine and unstuffy experience to keep people energized, one that will wow in a subtle way.

Instead, guests will be ushered to various rooms for different experiences. Dining at Cyrus will be an intimate affair, with ticketed seatings ($295) available at 6 p.m., 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. accommodating just 12 guests per time slot, for a total of 36 guests each night.

The introduction to Cyrus begins in the bubbles lounge, which will feature a Champagne, Martini and caviar cart—an homage to the original Cyrus, as are the canapés highlighting sweet, salt, sour, umami and bitter flavors. Beginning in October, the lounge will also be a gathering space for drop-in guests, which Keane said was part of the success of the original Cyrus. “We like being accessible to everyone.”

The next room is an open kitchen with a U-shaped chef’s counter surrounded by Shou Sugi Ban wall panels, blackened through a Japanese technique for charring the surface of wood to preserve it. Here, the chefs are also the servers, preparing the first courses of raw or slightly cooked vegetables and fish, playing to Keane’s strength in California cuisine with Japanese underpinnings.

In the main dining room, looking out of the floor-to-ceiling windows, guests may feel like they’re floating above the surrounding vineyard as they enjoy an array of dishes tailored to their individual tastes. After seated desserts, guests then enter one last room before departing. As a farewell gift, chocolates are given out, bringing diners back to the beginning of their journey, each delivering sweet, salt, sour, umami and bitter flavors.

As for the wine, the aptly named Cyrus Schulz, who was most recently at Napa Valley Grand Award winner The French Laundry, has curated an opening list of 600-plus offerings (20 by the glass), with particular attention given to Sonoma County. The wine list should continue to expand as Cyrus grows into its new home. Peyton said one of the things they did at the previous Cyrus was invest in the wine every year. “We grew by $100,000 yearly, and whenever we had the opportunity to add more, we would. Our eventual goal is a cellar of over 10,000 bottles.”

Because of the bubbles lounge, Champagne will be a big focus of the list, as will a wine-pairing option ($250). “We’re huge proponents of a pairing program,” said Peyton, “For us, it’s one of the most exciting ways to go and offer things that pair well and add interest.”

When asked if he had any doubts about opening a high-end restaurant during a troubling economic time, Keane didn’t flinch. “Ever since I graduated in ’93, I’ve heard that high-end dining is dying,” he explained.—A.R.

 The dining room of Maison Close, with mirrors on the walls, exposed-bulb lighting on the ceiling, brass accents and blue, cushioned, curved banquettes
The dining room of Maison Close is designed to evoke France in the early 1900s. (Courtesy of Maison Close)

Maison Close Comes to SoHo

As of July 27, New York’s Soho neighborhood has a new French dining destination: Maison Close, led by executive chef Geoffrey Lechantoux, an alumnus of Grand Award winner Le Louis XV – Alain Ducasse in Monaco and Best of Award of Excellence winner Benoit in New York, among other leading restaurants.

“Growing up immersed in French dining culture, we dreamt of translating that distinct experience to our home in New York City,” co-owner Theliau Probst told Wine Spectator via email, noting that plans for Maison Close began in 2020.

On the menu, Lechantoux offers his take on French classics, including Dover sole meunière, côte de boeuf, coq au vin, crème caramel and crêpes suzette. Ossetra caviar is available, along with Maine lobster, Alaskan crab and Beausoleil oysters. Lechantoux explained that he is aiming to bring elevated French cuisine and expert culinary craftsmanship to dishes that are approachable for New York diners.

Co-owner and beverage director Thibaut Castet has put together a France-focused list of more than 50 wines, featuring Champagne, Loire whites, Provence rosé, Bordeaux, Burgundy, Châteauneuf-du-Pape and even Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Well-known names abound, including Château Cos d’Estournel, Gruaud-Larose and Jacques Prieur. Several Champagne and rosé selections are available in large formats for celebrations.

“We worked closely with chef Lechantoux to ensure that the wine experience at Maison Close, in combination with the food, makes our guests truly feel like they've been transported to France,” said Castet. “Diners can find a wine pairing to complement every course.” Maison Close will be adding about 25 more selections to its wine program by the end of summer.

New York–based DMDesign has conceived Maison Close as an open-space restaurant that recalls Europe at the start of the 20th century. The 125-seat dining room features exposed bulbs and brass and gold elements reminiscent of historic French theaters, such as the famed Moulin Rouge. Lechantoux said the space is meant to offer an “intimate yet communal” atmosphere, where New Yorkers typically in a rush can ”take their time with the food, the wine and one another.” Outdoor dining is available on Maison Close’s terrace.

“I hope that Maison Close shows New Yorkers that true authentic French dining can be delicious and fun,” said Lechantoux.—C.D.

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