the Refinery is a cozy little spot located in the heart of downtown on Granville street. On the weekend, this tapas restaurant transforms into a busy bar where you would miss having a personal space. We got there early enough before the rush and were able to score a fair size seating. The atmosphere was casual and energetic, a good place to go socialize after work. There are 2 menus; one for flatbreads, salads, bruschette and charcuterie and the second for tapas. We focused on ordering smaller and bigger tapas.
I have a thing for pork belly and runny eggs, so 'bacon n' eggs' for $12 was a given. Three slices of braised pork belly served over caramelized onions and apple compote, topped with fried quail eggs was a great starter. The pork belly was slightly sweet, tender with fatty pieces that melts in your mouth. Of course, I cracked the creamy yolk and let it coat all over the pork and paired with some apple compote.
The steak tartar for $13 was very well seasoned and a good portion. Usually, steak tartar is a hit or miss for me. I've had experiences where it would taste like it just came from the slaughter house, or it would taste like an exquisitely refined dish. I was pleased that the steak tartar at the Refinery is the latter. You get the tanginess and extra texture from capers and pickled shallots. It was topped with quail's egg yolk and drizzled with a generous amount of balsamic reduction. The crostinis were thin and crispy and great for spreading on the steak.
Arancini, or fried risotto balls, for $9 for 4 comes with a different flavour each day. Tonight's flavour was wild mushrooms topped with tomato sauce. This one didn't blow us away. The tomato sauce tasted pretty generic and the batter was quite thick. The risotto was not soggy so it was a plus, but other than that, there wasn't much more uniqueness to it. If you're really hungry, this would be a good filler.
Roasted duck breast with grape and walnut salad for $14 was a great value. The dish was good, but it could've been great. Instead, I spent my time figuring out what was missing from this dish. The seared duck breast, medium rare and tender, was lacking crispiness on the skin. The dressing to go with it was a bit too light and sweet. Maybe it should have more savoury factor, but I think that was the whole concept of the dish, something more refreshing and light. Nonetheless, the duck portion for the price is a steal!3
Okay, the last dish that arrived blew us away, mainly by its sheer size. The roasted lamb chops from the bigger tapas proved to be as big as they claimed. For $14, we got 3 very large and meaty lamb chops served over pesto and topped with pine nuts. At this rate, 2 hungry guys and 1 bear were politely offering each other more food and passing it. In the end, I am sad to report that we were so full that we could not finish the lamb. Although the chops were more cooked than how I usually like my red meat (more rare-medium), but it still had a nice charred and fatty-melt-in-your-mouth flavour. The pesto composition was great with the lamb. I would definitely come back for this dish again.
There is one dish missing from this collage and, unfortunately, it was the best of the night. The baja scallops were seared to perfection. They were large, plump, with golden crisp exterior and served over sweet carrot puree and wine syrup. An 'ingenious' combination.
I would definitely come back to the Refinery. Their tapas can pretty much make a completely meal or something light to nibble over drinks. The lamb and scallops won my heart and the ratio of portion to price keeps me coming back for more.
I paid a visit back to the Refinery on a Wednesday night and was mainly surprised by how much the food had changed from my first visit. The seared scallops were room temperature and rather soggy this time. The size also reduced by about half. The steak tartare was similar to what we had last time, but with less balsamic reduction. The biggest disappointment of the night was the lamb chops which had shrunk about 3 times and completely under-seasoned. Unfortunately, this visit was a complete opposite experience of my first. There were only 3 tables at that time, including ours so I'm not quite certain what to make of the quality control, if there was any. Certainly, the consistency was not there.