Brownifer Bites: February 2017

Friday, February 24, 2017

Sybaris Bistro - Albany, Oregon (Review)

Sybaris Bistro - Albany, Oregon

A Brownifer Review

An impulsive decision to have dinner out on our kid-free night of this week brought us to Sybaris Bistro.  We have been wanting to try this restaurant for some time now, always checking the ever-changing menu and wondering if we
could afford to truly experience what it had to offer on a budget.  Tonight we decided to throw caution to the wind and go for it!  Sybaris opened in October of 2001, why we've waited this long to visit is truly beyond us.

I'm pleased to say that we thoroughly enjoyed our evening and we can't wait to share it with you!

The first thing I noticed when we approached the building was how quiet it seemed.  Brownie wondered if they were even open, but when we opened the doors, the bustling of the dining room burst upon us. While we waited to be seated, we found a series of books on a table by the door with old photos of Albany over the past century and beyond, which we promptly snatched up and began exploring.  Not only was this space the infamous Anderson Sporting Goods where we bought our letterman jackets in high school, but exploring these books and the history of Albany taught us that it was also originally the site of a mechanic's garage!  Love our town.

We were lucky enough to be seated by the wood-burning fireplace, which was beautiful and set the mood for a special evening out.  We were even permitted to bring the photo books with us :-)

Sybaris has a unique menu that changes with the seasons.  The owners pride themselves on sourcing their ingredients from Oregon; what comes to the table is what happens to be locally available at the time.  This clearly showcases the bistro's identity in the straight-forward one-page menu.  Which is one thing that always made me nervous about this restaurant: I am not a fan of winter vegetables.  Silly?  Maybe.

Once we had ordered, we enjoyed our homemade bread (made in-house daily) and butter while we waited for drinks.  I scanned the walls and noticed that they showcase local artists and at this time, they have a variety of paintings by a local woman covering quite a bit of space.  It was beautiful.

Scottish cold smoked salmon,
traditional garnishes, rye crackers
We chatted and enjoyed the atmosphere while waiting for our appetizers, then enjoyed our salmon and a salad we'd ordered to share.  Our waitress, who just happened to be one of the owners, let us taste some red wines she recommended to pair with our menu choices and we each chose a glass.

Antipasti salad- mixed greens, marinated mushrooms,
salami, cheese, garbanzo beans and a hard-boiled egg

I will take this time to mention the service, as this is the point where I began to notice that I was impressed. Brownie will tell you I'm a service snob when it comes to dining.  Now, I can eat with my hands, man-handle a sloppy burrito from a food truck and gladly carry my own plastic utensils to a picnic table to enjoy a wide range of delicious food BUT...when I dine out and I'm expecting to shell out some Benjamins for an amazing meal, I do have my own expectations.  I like the experience to be thoughtlessly blissful.  By this I mean, I want to talk and sip my wine and enjoy the food and flavors and conversation and I don't want to have to think of a thing regarding my meal other than getting it into my mouth.  That being said, Sybaris is one of the good ones!  While we were finishing our salad, we were brought the silverware we would each need for our main courses.  And I fell in love. For the rest of the meal, I didn't have to ask for a thing.  My water was always full, she forgot nothing and I got to sit back and just enjoy everything from start to finish.

Veal chop parmigiana, bucatini, red sauce
& plenty of cheese
When the main courses did arrive, they smelled delicious. Brownie ordered the veal chop parmigiana, which turned out to be a monstrous bone-in chop that would make Fred Flintstone drool. Truly a man's delight.  He did let me taste it, however, and it was scrumptious. The sauce had one spice that Brownie couldn't quite pinpoint, I suspect he will be rifling through our spice cabinet tomorrow.  While we were discussing the plating of the food, I asked Brownie if his dish was visually pleasing.  His answer:  Is Italian food ever really plated with that in mind?  No, it really isn't.

Lentil cassoulet with duck confit, lightly cured pork,
garlic sausage, winter vegetables
I ordered the Cassoulet and with three kinds of meat and winter vegetables, it's pretty difficult to incorporate much color and variety.  But my dinner was full of flavor and and seasoned very well.  Upscale comfort food that incidentally paired amazingly well with the cabernet I had chosen.

Creme Brulee ice cream w/caramel

Dessert?  Why yes, please!  Brownie had the creme brulee ice cream and I had the chocolate souffle - both a perfect ending to our meal.  We shared a cup of coffee with dessert, which was piping hot and perfectly brewed.  We sipped away and looked through the books at the table next to the crackling fire, marveling at how Albany had changed over the years.  Our waitress made sure to let us know about a walking/driving tour available by map through the Albany Visitor's Association and even pulled it up on her phone to show us.  I truly felt like I'd had a local experience during my time in this dining room!
Valrhona dark chocolate soufflé,
red berry love potion

Sybaris offers Albany a Portland-esque dining experience without having to travel out of town.  With locally-sourced ingredients, fresh baked daily bread, the owners serving and befriending their guests and small Albany touches everywhere you look, this restaurant is a foodie's paradise.  I dare any Portlandia cast member to ask anything about any of the food on the menu.  I would bet money they knew the name of the duck that was served in my bowl.

If you're looking for a romantic evening out, a comfortable spot to dine and visit, or you've been curious about Sybaris but trepidatious about making a reservation ... it's time to book your visit now.  The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly, the staff is beyond amazing, and the food will surprise you in the most delectable ways.  Yes, the menu is pricier than many others in town but we went all out and when our check came, we were surprised that we hadn't spent more.  The portions are very generous and you will likely come away with leftovers when you leave.

With our scoring system, we gave this visit 4 1/2 out of 5 stars.  We can't wait to visit again in the spring during the height of seasonal fruits and vegetables to see what Chef Matt Bennett has in store! Brownie is also dying to try the seafood tower, which requires three days notice - so we'll have to make a reservation for that one sometime!  We love that Albany is becoming a foodie haven with so many options popping up everywhere.  All we can say is, more please!