So, I finally made it to The Refinery after almost two years of lusting for their incredible food that everyone has been raving about. Each time I made a plan to go for dinner, something came up. Well, last Friday I made it happen with two of my friends and we had a delicious evening.
Unless you have been living under a rock, than surely you have heard of The Refinery which is one of Tampa’s hottest restaurants. Located in the eclectic Seminole Heights, it is like the Madonna of the restaurant industry in that the menu changes every week and their dishes are never duplicated. If I had to pick one place in Tampa that truly reminds me of some of my favorite spots back home, it would be The Refinery.
Converted from a house, The Refinery is truly a unique dining experience. As my friends and I walked in, we were warmly greeted and told we could go to the bar while we waiting for our table. We arrived about 45 minutes early for our 9 pm reservation in hopes of getting seated sooner. The bar was great and we enjoyed pre-dinner drinks and good conversation. At 8:45 we were seated and as I looked at the menu, I smiled. The top of the menu states: “We use mason jars, chipped plates, mix-match small plates, jailhouse silverware and we have a Jackalope in our dining room. Eat, Drink and Confabulate.” Yep, this was going to be a stellar evening. My only wish was that I had my camera instead of using my phone to take photos. I was so excited to go to dinner, I forgot it.
After a long day at the office, I was hungry and ready to dive into their unique menu. We started off with two small plates, the first being Pork Belly. Served with Anson Mills grits, Worcestershire gravy and red peas, it was a great dish to begin with. Slightly crispy on top, it had a nice smokey flavor and melted in my mouth.
The next small plate was my favorite… Tempura Sweetbreads a la PB&J-BLT. My love of sweetbreads began at a very young age and I order them when I can. This preparation was truly unrivaled. Paired with mizuna, tomatillo jam, pickled peanuts and a bacon buttermilk dressing, it was a symphony of flavors in my mouth. Wowzers! I enjoyed dipping the tempura sweetbread into the tomatillo jam and then scooping up some of the mizuna, which yielded a magical blend of sweet and slightly spicy.
Tempura Sweetbreads a la PB&J-BLT
As we moved onto entrees, one of my friends went with their Pan Roasted Pork Chop. With red curry souse, cane syrup-orange gastrique, watercress and roasted jalapeño vinaigrette, it was beautifully plated and she really enjoyed it. I am kicking myself for not trying it.
Pan Roasted Pork Chop
This next dish was something I spotted in the bar and told my other friend that he must order…..The Burger! As we sat in the bar, one of the patrons had ordered this and the smell was absolutely intoxicating!!!!! With maple chevre, bacon, ‘country sausage’ aioli and Yukon Gold fries, this was one beautiful burger. I had to sneak a taste and it was even better than I imagined. Thick and juicy, it was one of the best I have ever tasted. I really liked the maple chevre and country sausage aioli, which gave it another dimension of flavor. The Yukon Gold fries were similar to Sweet Potato fries, though not as sweet, and I could have easily devoured all of them. Delish!
For myself, I went with Lentil Cakes. This vegan dish absolutely took my breath away. Beautifully constructed with red curry, tarragon-caper coconut cream, radish, parsley, dijon strawberry vinaigrette and roasted cauliflower, it was a fantastic blend of unique flavors. I am always drawn to dishes that combine distinguishing flavors and this one was spectacular. Hearty and filling, I was unable to eat all of it, so my friend finished off my last lentil cake. The tarragon-caper coconut cream was a beautiful finish.
For our grand finale, we shared the Bread Pudding. It was so good that I actually dreamt about it that night. With tangerine, white chocolate, butterscotch almonds and fennel anglaise, it was a fantastic mix of savory and sweet. I loved the tangerine flavor and the fennel anglaise was a nice touch. We did not leave a crumb left and I wish I would have ordered one to go, as it would have been great with coffee for breakfast.
I had a fabulous time at The Refinery and am happy to say I am no longer a Refinery virgin! I am anxious to return for their brunch, which I have heard is outstanding.