Monday, May 31, 2010


We've dined at Sybaris in Albany a number of times since late 2007 and have always enjoyed the experience. Our most recent visit was this last Friday, May 28.

Located at 442 1st Avenue NW, it’s easily reached from Corvallis via Highway 20 (cross the bridge, turn right, down three blocks on the left). The décor is semi-formal, and the dining room features a wood burning fireplace (we were lucky and got a table adjacent to it). Although the dining area is acoustically live (brick walls, painted concrete floor), the low density of tables limits the number of patrons and this, combined with a high ceiling covered with acoustic tiles, keeps the volume down to a pleasant level, making it a good choice for a romantic outing. The ceiling is painted black, and small embedded spotlights are arranged to match well-known constellations.

The wine list has grown considerably over the last several years, and now lists 15 whites and 37 reds, many of which are moderately priced selections. Oregon wineries are well represented, and the 2006 Territorial Pinot Gris ($21) caught my eye. Having had the 2008 version on several occasions lately this provided an opportunity to confirm my belief that the 2008, though good, is not as good as the 2006, so we ordered a bottle. The good news is that I was right; the bad news is that I know of no place where one can still buy the 2006.

Bread arrived right away, served with butter actually soft enough to spread (thus avoiding one of the most common restaurant sins). There wasn’t enough for the amount of bread served, so we had to request more.

Entrées are changed monthly and are generally reasonably priced (only one exceeded twenty five dollars).

For starters, I ordered the queso fundido and Kathy the cream of asparagus soup with dungeness crab (each was $8). These arrived after about 7-8 minutes. Kathy's soup was excellent and artfully presented, with a mound of crab at the center and the soup poured in from a small teapot by our server. The tortilla chips that came with my order were warm and crisp and obviously freshly fried. I asked about this and was told that these came from a Salem supplier, delivered to the restaurant uncooked and fried there prior to serving. Unfortunately the queso fundido had been overcooked, the cheese having separated out into hard, inedible globs immersed in oil, and I had to send it back.

This was an interesting contrast to the queso fundido at Loca Luna, which uses several varieties of cheese and includes bits of chorizo sausage but which is served with chips fresh only from the bag. In an ideal world one could get Loca Luna queso fundido served with the Sybaris chips. Oh well.

Although we skipped salad on this occasion we've been pleased with the salads on previous visits.

For our main courses, Kathy ordered the pulled smoked duck on asparagus fried barley and I the asparagus-dungeness crab ravioli with a sauté of crab and asparagus. These arrived after 20 minutes. Kathy's duck was served warm, was very flavorful, and was a generous helping (being the entire duck). Wanting to save room for dessert we requested a box for what she didn't finish (unfortunately we experienced a senior moment at departure and left it behind). Likewise my ravioli dish was served adequately warm but was a little bland, so I accepted our server's offer of fresh ground pepper. The raviolis themselves were mostly flat pasta with a tiny pocket of crabmeat, and I ended up cutting them into strips and treating them like noodles. Fortunately there was a generous pile of crabmeat at the center of the dish, mixed with fresh asparagus and topped with crisp, tasty strands of fried carrots.

Being in a chocolate mood, for dessert we ordered the hazelnut chocolate cake and the chocolate lava cake, the latter served with a small dish of salted gelato. Both cakes were excellent (the former being a classic example of death-by-chocolate) but the gelato was way too salty.

Service was good, though not as attentive as it might have been. There were two servers for about ten occupied tables, several of which had parties of four.

Our bill came to $79. They left off the queso fundido (which they needed to do) and the lava cake (which they did not need to do, because it was fine without the accompaniment of the salty gelato).

All in all, it was another enjoyable visit to one of our favorite restaurants, and as usual we told ourselves that we should get over there more often. Albany may be ten miles from Corvallis, but we remind ourselves that in Tallahassee it was ten miles to the other side of town.

Sybaris web site.

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