05 August 2008

The Refectory

The Refectory is always recognized as one of Columbus' finest restaurants. It always makes the top rankings of the Columbus Dispatch, CitySearch, the Wine Spectator and other outlets. The Refectory is a magnet for Columbus diners with access to an expense account.

The atmosphere and presentation at the Refectory are exquisite. This is, however, a vegetarian dining blog. I will have to utilize this forum to log a few complaints (because after all, what else is the blogosphere for).

French restaurants are notoriously veggie-unfriendly. That not withstanding, I expected more vegetarian options than the obligatory vegetarian appetizer, entree and salads from one of the city's top eateries. While the food was delicious and the atmosphere was impeccable, perhaps a wider array of options for a more modern dining public could restore the Refectory and its menu to its former glory.

My other problem is that I believe that places like Rosendale's, M and Dragonfly have menus which reflect the changing tastes of 21st century diners more so than the classic offerings of old guard establishments like the Refectory. Chef Richard Blondin uses classic techniques, but his menu lacks the flair of new domestic French restaurants like Aigre Doux in Chicago, Alain Ducasse's restaurants or any of the other new guard French restaurants. Blondin has the skills--he just needs a few more bells and whistles to keep my easily distracted palate in the seats of the Refectory on a regular basis.

Now that I'm (mostly) finished complaining about the shortcomings of what is still a high quality restaurant, I'll begin to focus on the positive aspects of the experience. The interior is beautiful, with stained glass windows and high-beamed wooden ceilings. It is accompanied by friendly and capable service.

My appetizer was the roasted goat cheese with shallots and olive oil. It was served with finely cut beets and tomatoes. The presentation was nice, and the cheese was mild, complex and delicious.

The petite mesclun salad in a maple salad vinaigrette was plain and uninspiring. The greens were excellent in quality, but the salad was plain. It wasn't nearly as good as the first course.

The main course was a seasonal vegetable pasta. This is akin to the pasta primavera served in most steak houses, but the flavors were far more rich and complex. It was mildly seasoned with plenty of red pepper, zucchini, onion and squash. The egg noodles were piled in the middle of the plate. The portion was large.

The wine list is excellent. It is Franco-centric, but it has many selections from other parts of the world. It is a multiple time Wine Spectator Grand Award winner. I started with the Dagueneau Pouilly-Fume, which was crisp, showcasing apple and other tree fruits alongside subtle spices. The wine was brought from the cellar too warm for proper service, however, a problem that should never occur at a restaurant like this.

The by-the-glass selections were solid. The Lang and Reed Cabernet Franc and the Chehalem 3 Vineyards Pinot Noir were both good and served at the proper temperature. I also tried the after dinner Macallan sampler.

The desserts were well made and delicious. I'm diabetic and I shouldn't eat these things, but I did sample a taste. The dessert menu looked great, as did the dessert course on the table.

The Refectory is definitely a quality restaurant. Unfortunately, I rank it a little more second-tier than some other publications do. It has the tools and the talent to regain its former glory. But the Refectory also has room for improvement. Special note: There is also a special, inexpensive bistro menu--but it typically isn't vegetarian-friendly.

The Refectory

The Refectory on Urbanspoon

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