How Sweet It Is

Cyrano's is back -- dessert lovers everywhere, rejoice!

Back in the day, you didn't go to Cyrano's just for dessert. You went to Cyrano's to impress your date. Or, at the very least, to practice being romantic and cosmopolitan. Back then -- meaning anytime between 1960 (when it opened in a basement location on DeMun Avenue) and 1996 (when it closed, long after moving to Big Bend Boulevard in the space that's now occupied by Harvest) -- Cyrano's combined the charm of a cozy atmosphere, small plates of food (before they were known as "small plates," or, as they're dubbed at Cyrano's, "little plates") and big, decadent desserts that made most people swoon before lapsing into a sugar coma.

But by 1996 Cyrano's was as flat as a crêpe, so flat that then-owner Frank O'Donnell decided to sell the business -- and its name. The purchaser, restaurant consultant Charlie Downs, ran the place for a while with his wife, Carolyn, then transformed the space into the restaurant Harvest (which they operated for a few years, and sold). All the while, Carolyn, a pastry chef, was hankering to re-create the whimsy of Cyrano's in a new venture.

After a prolonged search for an appropriate location, the Downses reopened Cyrano's in October. The eatery's new home, near the convergence of Big Bend and Lockwood, is a massive space that was once home to a De Soto dealership and, later, to the Alpine Shop. It must have been an overwhelming task for designer Joan Colgrove to redecorate: How to create a cozy Cyrano's in a big open space with a cavernous ceiling? Colgrove has transformed this hulk of a room into three distinct yet interwoven areas: a coffee bar (which opens at 7 a.m.), a dining room and, anchoring the two, a comfortable lounge, complete with fireplace. The screaming pink, red and yellow walls in the dining room (and the pink lounge furniture) and the colorful broken-tile mosaic walls in the coffee bar are toned down by a harlequin-patterned wall (very de Bergerac!), warm-looking stone flooring, exposed galvanized ductwork and subdued lighting.

A nose for success: Cyrano's woos diners with an extended menu and decadent desserts
Jennifer Silverberg
A nose for success: Cyrano's woos diners with an extended menu and decadent desserts

Location Info

Map

Cyrano's

603 E. Lockwood Ave.
Webster Groves, MO 63119

Category: Restaurant > American

Region: Webster Groves

Details

Clam chowder $3 (cup), $4 (bowl)
Bruschetta trio $6.95
Rare seared tuna $7.25
Herb-roasted chicken $9.95
World's Fair Eclair $8.95

314-963-3232. Hours: 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Sun.-Thu.; 7 a.m.-midnight Fri. & Sat.

603 East Lockwood Avenue, Webster Groves

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In short, the resurrection of Cyrano's is a call to once again wallow in massive mounds of whipped cream, to ogle wide-eyed at the towering flames shooting from chafing dishes, to relish the thick meringue of baked Alaska, all in a coolly retro yet contemporary atmosphere.

But while dessert remains a focus, it's Cyrano's dinner menu that shows the most evolution. Back in the '60s, if you wanted a light meal you were hard-pressed to find much beyond finger sandwiches, Cobb salad and a bottle of red wine encased in wicker. For the new Cyrano's, restaurateur Mike Johnson (Figaro and BARcelona) was brought in as a consultant to create an eclectic menu that combines old with new -- and leaves room for dessert. Head chef Ryan Maher, formerly of Figaro, executes it well.

The sandwiches are still here: the roast beef, mortadella and Swiss cheese on small rolls; the smoked turkey with cucumber; a grilled chicken salad with grapes and walnuts; and a creamy egg salad with a tasty herb mayo dressing. But now there's a grilled portobello and goat cheese sandwich, too, as well as a four-cheese grilled panini sandwich (a hit with the three nieces and a nephew in tow one night).

The real evolution comes in the form of appetizers, those "little plates" priced between $5 and $10, which are supplemented with nightly specials that top out around $13. Four of these shared by two people make for a nice European-style repast -- while tricking the mind into thinking that eating a sundae the size of one's head is perfectly okay.

The bruschetta trio and a cup or bowl of soup is a good place to begin. The bru-schetta consists of three long slices of toasted dark bread topped with three spreads: a deliciously creamy salmon mousse with capers; shredded rare roast beef with a red-wine reduction sauce; and a mayonnaise spiked with crab meat. On the soup side, clam chowder was chock-full of meaty chunks of clam, potatoes, celery and smoky bacon, all in a brothy base. Odd to go without the cream, but perfect on a snowy winter's eve with a gas fireplace flickering nearby. (And again, no cream means more room for dessert.) The soup du jour, a thick, vegan-friendly sweet potato with leek, was flavored with a touch of spicy heat but otherwise bland.

Putting a rare seared tuna with wasabi aioli on your menu is just a step away from offering sushi (in keeping with local trends, perhaps). At any rate, this "little plate" was wonderful: five chilled, seared-around-the-edges slices fanned out on a small plate with aioli dotting the edges, accompanied by a vegetable slaw. Keeping with seafood, I also tried sea bass, offered one evening as an entrée special ($12.95). The fish, a small portion about an inch thick, had been pan-seared to seal in the juices, then drizzled with a smoky paprika beurre blanc. On the side, bacon and smoked fennel added depth to the mild-tasting fish. Also satisfying and wintry was the herb-roasted chicken entrée, a boneless breast cut with the wing drum bone intact for a more dramatic presentation. This dish was made especially delectable with a side of grilled mushrooms, pancetta, pearl onions and roasted garlic.

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