Monday, April 26, 2010

Refuel Needs to Reconnoiter

I still regret that I did not dine at the original, unadulterated Fuel. The prices set by the cocky yet capable Alberta-bred ownership were too steep for Fourth Avenue, and definitely too steep for Fourth Avenue during a recession, so the restaurant was revamped in December, 2009. With a shift towards comfort food and charcuterie, Refuel has a diverse and undeniably original menu, but every dish that was ordered at our table was a bit "off".

First, the Aged Beef Burger was raw and cold in the middle, despite a request for a "medium" yet "cooked-through" patty. This was brought to our server's attention and she assured us that there were no health risks based on the way that the beef is ground and prepared in-house, but cold ground beef is never pleasant in texture or consistency. Second, the ingredients in the Seared Albacore Salad (which I ordered) were original and complementary, but my fish-to-greens ratio was off by a few degrees. The chefs were generous with the tuna, which I definitely cannot complain about, but I did not have enough blood orange and crushed picholines to tame these ginormous slices of fresh fish. I actually left some of the tuna (gasp!) because I sensed a seafood overdose coming on and really felt that I needed more greens to resolve this "f-issue". Third, the Hangar Steak Salad was elegantly presented (deep reds of rare beef juxtaposed against lush arugula like rugosas in an Italian garden) but contained an overpowering amount of blue cheese. A sprinkle would have tied the room together, but this downpour of Devon Blue left the room flooded and inhospitable. Lastly - and this only counts as a quasi-criticism - the Buttermilk Polderside Fried Chicken basically consisted of an entire chicken, with a teeny dish of slaw and a tiny jalapeno biscuit. Again, appropriate ratios would have been appreciated, by our palates and arteries.

Yikes. I hope I haven't been too mean to Refuel. Robert Belcham and company definitely have crazy skills, and the service was attentive, and the food was well prepared, but - like the mismatched and random decor - things didn't quite click. I don't think I will go out of my way to dine here again, but if I do end up at Refuel again I will focus on the playful and rare starters, such as the Roasted Bone Marrow and Foie Gras Croquettes (which I ordered as my appetizer and was highly amused by).  

* Keywords: Refuel Restaurant Vancouver, Alex Dawkins

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