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Neighbourhood: The Forks
215-1 Forks Market Road
Phone: (204) 942-6075
Entrees: five courses $51 and up

Blink and you might miss them. Two tiny salt and pepper shakers sit inconspicuously at the edge of the crisp, cream linens that decorate the dining tables at Sydney’s, the city’s premiere table d’hôte experience. When we politely refused ground pepper, our polished server smiled and said he wanted all diners to trust the chef—a nod of confidence in chef/owner Michael Schafer.

The beauty in Sydney’s five-course fixed price menu, offered for $51, is Chef Michael’s artistry and playfulness. His exquisite presentation and deliberate layering of flavours and textures have captivated diners since the restaurant’s inception in 2004. The world’s finest ingredients—from New Zealand lamb to East Coast Bay scallops—are sourced to create innovative monthly menus.

With stunning riverside views at The Forks, flickering oil lamps and a sophisticated neutral-hued dining room (allowing the colourful food to stand out), the table is perfectly set for a breathtaking meal.

The typical white round dinner plate is swapped out for enormous tableware in a variety of shapes. All plates are amply oversized to frame the restaurant’s edible artworks, like salmon roulade. This starter is a tasteful masterpiece of complementary colours and textures. Soft pieces of pink salmon are drizzled with punched up mustard crème fraîche and caper vinaigrette. Crunchy pieces of pickled carrot contrast against the delicacy of the salmon, while a light garnish of bright green sprouts completes the pretty picture.

Throughout the menu, influences from around the globe are fused together. In the French vein, Chef Michael re-interprets clafouti using goat cheese. This traditional flan-like fruit dessert is served here as a savoury appetizer replete with thick swirls of balsamic reduction, caramelized onions, juicy grape tomato relish and tangy goat cheese.

The kitchen’s artistic flair is showcased in a paint stroke of candied sugar that accompanies all desserts. A yellow candied spear juts out of layered lemon pana cotta and sponge cake that looks camera-ready. It’s served with lip-puckering lemon gelato.

There are plenty of imaginative options on the menu that have an air of refinement. For example, one night’s poached beet salad is served with an Italian twist. Crushed walnuts and creamy goat cheese accompany a mound of spaghetti-like beet curls, that requires some fork twirling to eat. They are dressed in light, pleasing vinaigrette.

Palate-cleansing sorbet is made in-house and gushes with freshness. Sprinkled with granulated honey, bold flavour combinations like citrus-mango-thyme and orange-cranberry hit taste buds in rousing waves.

Entrées are hearty and served with thoughtfully prepared sides. Butter lacquered chicken supreme draws its influence from South America with bittersweet mole sauce and picante prawns. Expertly grilled asparagus is crispy, yet tender.

Berkshire pork shank is fit for a king: the hulking piece of meat tenderly falls off the bone, offering just a slight taste of ale. Pour on some brawny au jus to up the bright pink meat’s moistness. Earthy fiddleheads, shredded potato and beets add a rustic touch to this medieval meal.

An upscale deconstruction of the familiar peanut butter sandwich is a great bet for dessert. Tiny cubes of grape jelly and sliced banana drizzled in honey are served alongside a rich peanut butter chocolate brownie. Luxurious cookie dough ice cream wraps up the meal in a velvety blanket of sweetness.

Sydney’s is open Tue-Fri 11:30 am-2 pm and Mon-Sat 5 pm-midnight.

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