Terry’s Lounge welcomes dog owners for drinks and dishes.
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Some places just feel right. The Cypress Inn is a case in point, with three connected environments – a lobby, bar and patio. On a recent Friday, the right place to be was the lobby, where one of the best jazz pianists around was hitting the right notes, literally. Dick Whittington delivers jazz that appeals to both aficionados and listeners who don’t want to work to meet jazz halfway. If you’re lucky or smart, you’ll happen to be there when Rob Fisher accompanies on bass.
The lobby is more like a great room in the home of your wealthy, cosmopolitan aunt. I don’t have one, but if I did she would insist on this room’s simple geometry, comfortable furniture, crackling fire and grand piano. This is an ideal spot to enjoy a before-cocktail cocktail, before moving deeper into Terry’s Lounge, where low lights and smooth libations bring out the delightful, the strange and the true in the characters ringing the bar.
The Inn provides an unusual night out that offers refinement and also welcomes dogs. Busy weekends can bring on a kooky carnival atmosphere with owners and dogs on parade. You’ll get your look-alike dog and owner, your opposites (e.g. burly men with dainty pooches), your striking twins of the same breed, and more.
Doris Day is Cypress Inn’s co-owner along with multi-hotelier Denny Levett. The bar-restaurant, Terry’s Lounge, is named after Day’s late son, the performer and music producer Terry Melcher, who was also a partner in the Inn.
The Lounge is cool. Studio posters of Doris Day movies add camp and festivity. Dogs are allowed in one of two seating areas, so no one is forced to commingle. There were clues that led me to suspect the restaurant might be a service intended for guests, not necessarily endeavoring to support us local hangers-on. There is no prominent sign or menu posted, no reservations taken, and much about the experience is more extravagant than the prices seem to justify. Food and beverage manager Drago assured me the public is encouraged to attend.
Costly flourishes graced each plate coming out of the kitchen of chef Hector Reyes. The $8 Milano salad featured well-chopped radicchio and endive, plus pine nuts and cranberries, and crostini with shallot confit. The labor and ingredients that went into this dish simply cannot be had for $8 at comparable local restaurants.
My burger was accompanied by much more than the typical pile of raw vegetables: the onions were caramelized, the salad was dressed and tossed with tiny sliced tomatoes, the cheese was Gruyere, and the fries were sprinkled with garlic and herbs. This 8-ounce baby does cost $15, but it’s a complete meal and one of the best burgers in town. The Milano salad was superfluous.
The trio of gelato was also superfluous but I ordered it anyway. Garnished with mint and served in a beautiful, oversized art glass dish, it was a tasty bit of fanfare for $4.
Small and large plates are common features on menus, but a smart construct here is the addition of medium-sized plates. For $10, you can have ahi tuna with ginger-cashew crust, soba noodles, snow peas and sesame sauce. For $9, chicken breast with honey, cumin, apricots, carrots and a mozzarella skewer. For $12, grilled lamb chop with Medjool date mint sauce and cous cous. The menu also includes five seafood dishes, four shellfish dishes, filet mignon, short ribs, pasta – some are medium, some large, $12 to $21.
I ordered the Milano salad on a slow Monday and again on a busy Friday. It was much better on the slower night – chopped finer, with more nuts and cranberries. That can unfortunately happen when the kitchen is taxed, but a hastily made salad is a small price to pay for the weekend fun.
Twenty local vineyards are represented among the approximately 60 wines. A whopping 24 are available by the glass. See how these people care for us? They have the bases covered pretty well with Cima Collina, Pessagno, Talbott, organic Heller Estate, Chateau Julien, Ventana, Bernardus, Galante, Joullian and more. Glasses cost $7 to $16; most bottles cost $26 to $50. The Galante Red Rose Hill Cabernet Sauvignon is pricey at $14, but it’s one of the finest local Cabs – well-structured, earthy, with cherry and berry flavors and approachable tannins.
The Cypress Inn is one of Carmel’s unofficial community centers, where strangers can be counted on to engage. Become a member of this congregation assembled to worship life and well-groomed dogs – if you dare.
TERRY’S LOUNGE AT THE CYPRESS INN Lincoln at Seventh, Carmel • Noon-4pm/lunch; 1-4pm/tea; 5-9:30pm/dinner; bar open until 11pm (midnight weekends). • 624-3871.