The staff at Cyros knows fish.
I mean really knows fish: Not only can they tell you what's hottest in the sushi lineup, they can also tell you who's fiestiest among the bettas - aka Siamese fighting fish - placed decoratively (and singly) in tiny cubes of glass on each table.
Now that's attention to detail.
Bettas should have considerably more room, said the aquarium experts I asked, so let's hope that part of the décor changes soon.
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That would make it easier to enjoy this sushi and sake bar that bloomed from the partnership of Cy Santos and Ro Lawsin. The two, both of Filipino heritage, had been providing sushi to other venues, then decided to venture out on their own. They fashioned a small spot near South Park into an eight-seat sushi bar, a prominent display of sake bottles and two dining areas, sparse but handsome.
The menu is equally sparse, equally handsome: sushi and sashimi, primarily, including lots of specialty rolls, plus a handful of salads, dumplings and fusion-ish first plates. These include ceviche, tuna nachos and even "sushi pizza": fish atop pita with edamame hummus and wasabi aioli.
Dishes arrive minimally garnished, generously portioned and lovely.
A yellowtail and tuna spring roll, an appetizer, wraps yellowtail (hamachi) and ahi tuna with lettuce, cucumber, avocado and asparagus in rice paper; it's handsome and memorable. So is the Tree Hugger Roll, a concoction with cucumber, mango, beet, carrot, greens and paper-thin-sliced asparagus in a delicate wrapper of soy paper and sesame-chile dipping sauce. Artful and delicious.
Nigiri sushi and sashimi can be had seared, for the fainter of heart, and it's a plentiful lineup - in stock on each of my visits, with the one-time exception of bluefin toro. When it was in, it was excellent: a buttery, beautiful cut of pale pinkness (for $12). Sweet shrimp fans, you get the traditional deep-fried heads, perfectly crunchy. If you like sea urchin, it's here. You can get a "signature" combo (for neophytes), a toro combo (for the more adventurous) or an omakase (chef's choice) for $45 or $75 per person.
There's plenty of less wide-ranging fare. The Nobu Fire Roll, named for chef Nobu (formerly with Nikko), is a winner for those who like a little heat applied: This pairs eel with cucumber, then adds tuna and tops the roll with a spicy kabayaki sauce (eel sauce, if you typically order unagi) and smelt roe and bakes it briefly. I find the Avante Garde Roll - which combines ahi tuna, crabmeat and avocado with a spicy aioli and fried garlic - excessively creamy but it's quite popular, I'm told. Skip the horribly chewy "Kobe Brazilian Roll."
My favorite was the hamachi jalapeno roll: Crab and avocado join the fish, and a puckeringly pungent wasabi citronette (essentially a vinaigrette with more than the usual citrus pop) sets it all off.
Other details I appreciated: Brown rice is an option for rolls. Miso soup comes in a lidded bowl, the better to revel in its delicate aroma when you open it. Green tea comes in a beautiful pot. Prosecco is offered, which I like with sushi more than most other beverages. Soy sauce misters - little hand-pumped sprayers that emit a mist of the sauce - are an interesting twist. (Finally! A way to add a little soy to gunkan-style constructions - like salmon roe - without soaking them!)
Cyros is also the first place I've heard a server ask a patron with a shellfish allergy whether it was a contact allergy - as in, does he react if he touches it, or only if he consumes it? She explained, and partner Santos confirms, that a separate cutting board is used when preparing sushi for those allergic to shellfish.
Santos says he's been pleasantly surprised by the growing number of Japanese customers, which he credits to chef Nobu, the use of more Japanese fish such as shima aji (a kind of jack), and the sake selection.
Spend some time musing over those: You can get yourself educated by sampling. Cyros makes it easy, and rewarding, to venture out.