Sydneys At The Forks
Neighbourhood: The Forks
Address: 215-1 Forks Market Rd
Entrées: prix fixe $48
At this point in the fine dining landscape it seems the white tablecloth may be going the way of the dodo bird. The opulent dining out fashions of yesteryear have been upended by a new wave of rabblerousing chefs swapping tableside flames for open kitchens, candlelit tables for communal benches, white china for rough-hewn wooden platters.
While Sydneys at the Forks was never among the old guard, it has led Winnipeg’s fine dining scene and guided our palates for more than a decade. Upon opening in 2004, owner/Executive Chef Michael Schafer’s table d’hôte restaurant was heralded as one of the city’s best places to dine; in 2016, after a recent revamp of the menu, format, and interior, we can safely say: Sydneys remains on top.
The trend toward rustic fare has been smoothly incorporated into the menu, with a selection that blends the mix-and-match spirit of small plates with classic table d’hôte elegance.
Until the recent changes, diners were served a 5 course prix fixe. Now, the meal has been pared down to 3 courses, though decisions remain difficult with 3-6 potential apps, entrées, and desserts from which to choose.
Regulars missing those extra two plates now peruse an hors d’oeuvres menu, a collection of flavourful bites that display chef Michael Robin’s prowess and playfulness, like the earthy coins of duck encased in a crisp fried crust that parade out under the winking name “McDuckettes”. Plump shrimp flavoured with garlic and chile are another sensational way to whet the appetite, languishing under a ribbon of melon and sliced jalapeños. These finger foods are available in the restaurant’s lounge, as well, for those try-before-you-buy types not ready to commit to 3 courses.
Diving into a full meal is easy, especially once presented with a plate of beets caramelized to complex depth by the char of a grill. A bright pesto-like spinach puree and a scattering of feta and candied walnut highlight the veggie’s sweet notes. Alternatively, a silky coral pool of lobster bisque amps up the indulgence. A bite sized croque monsieur topped with golden caviar completes the dish.
While hors d’oeuvres and appies give the kitchen leeway to play with wild flavours, quality ingredients and technical know-how shine in the entrée selection. Perfectly executed steak in a savoury jus is a prime example, as is the seafood ratatouille, a delectable twist on ‘peasant food’. Delicate fresh clams, pike, and lobster meld with spiced chickpeas and carrots in a smooth broth singing with floral notes of white wine.
Midday meals retain complex flavour and curated ingredients, but in applications decidedly down to earth. Comfort food cravings are welcomed, though you may find your burger smeared with foie gras.
The restaurant’s recent renos have seen servers trade starched white for mismatched business casual, while the previously understated walls now pop with bright hues. Local ceramics give a rustic touch to the kitchen’s pristine plating.
While the restaurant has made modern updates, there is perhaps no more classic end to a meal than tapping a spoon through perfectly glassy crème brûlée – a joy that even the most fad-focused diner will appreciate.
Sydneys At The Forks is open for lunch Tue-Fri 11:30 am-2 pm, for dinner Mon-Sat 5 pm-12 am.