Score another fine dining option for the west end of Chapel Hill's Franklin Street, which has proven to be fertile soil for new restaurants. The latest to sprout there is Cypress on the Hill (308 W. Franklin St.; 537-8817; www.cypressonthehill.com), which opened early this month in the old Trail Shop building, across the street from The Franklin Hotel. Judging by the early signs, this Cypress promises to bear some exceptionally tasty fruit.
One of those signs is the résumé of owner/chef Alex Gallis, who most recently worked for five years as chef de cuisine under the James Beard Award-winning Ben Barker at Magnolia Grill in Durham. Barker's influence is apparent in the Cypress menu, a weekly changing offering with roots in the South and tendrils spanning the globe from Asia to the Mediterranean. Gallis' imprint is also abundantly evident in presentations that, for all their inventiveness, seem almost restrained in comparison to those at Magnolia Grill.
Recent starter options, for instance, included grilled Georgia quail with cipollini onions and ham hock risotto; crispy fried oysters with spinach, Tasso ham and Sriracha aioli; and a salad of blood oranges, navel oranges and ruby red grapefruit with toasted hazelnuts in a citrus vinaigrette. Entrees included wild Chesapeake striped bass with littleneck clams, Spanish chorizo and Yukon gold potatoes in a smoked tomato chowder; duck "two ways" (pan-roasted breast and crispy confit) with pine nut polenta; and grilled Kurobuta pork chop with bourbon whipped potatoes, local collards and bourbon jus.
Cypress' sleek contemporary dining room and intelligently stocked concrete bar are in the capable hands of Gallis' partner, general manager Jon McCallus. The partners worked together at Magnolia Grill and at Acme Food & Beverage in Carrboro.
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Meanwhile, in downtown Raleigh, the forecast for Sundays is about to get brighter. Beginning this week, Poole's Downtown Diner (426 S. McDowell St.; 832-4477; www.poolesdowntowndiner.com) will serve Sunday brunch from noon until 4 p.m.