This isn’t a review so much as a place to record one of the most memorable meals of my year so far. We usually stay in for Valentine’s Day and try to cook ourselves, but after a few years of disappointing new recipes (like the $42 worth of Bluescreek filet mignon that we ruined by making steak au poivre), we decided that we wanted to spend one Valentine’s Day where someone else cooked for us.
There were so many options this year for Columbus residents, and this was one of the more expensive ones – so just a quick note about cost – yes, it was very expensive. So much so that we blew two weeks’ grocery budget in one night. But an occasion like Valentine’s Day is a great opportunity to splurge. And we at least knew that the food would be expertly prepared, which may not have been the case if we had tried to cook classic French food ourselves.
They were offering a 5 course menu (with 2 choices for each course) for $85, with the option of wine pairings for an additional $37.50. We each chose the opposite from one another for the courses. I got the wine pairing, but my husband did not.
The Refectory was definitely hoppin’ last night. Every table filled, with people in the foyer; but despite the popularity, there was no delay in being seated at our reservation time, and the pacing of the meal itself was spectacular.
You’ll have to excuse the quality of the pictures. I can never get really good pictures at The Refectory because of the fairly dim lighting, so the photos never really do the meal justice (the exception being the Slow Food Dinner this past summer, which had natural outdoor light). So while it will give you an idea of the presentation and plating, it doesn’t make the food look nearly as appetizing as it really was.
For the first course, we had a choice of either Lobster and Crab Marble with a lightly smoked bell pepper coulis, or Ohio Pheasant Rillette with a green peppercorn vinaigrette.
I opted for the Lobster and Crab Marble. I’ve always liked The Refectory’s terrines and pates, and this was no exception. Fresh, smooth flavor, and the coulis went so very well with the flavor of the Marble.
My husband really enjoyed his Pheasant. Said it kind of reminded him of slightly more gamey (not a bad thing) chicken salad in flavor. And one thing I really like about The Refectory is that when they garnish, everything on the plate is edible, and everything is there for a reason.
For the second course, the choices were either Pan Seared Scallop with baby spinach and a saffron sauce or Sauteed Salmon Chop with a red onion and caper emulsion and zucchini fondue.
Begrudgingly, I chose the scallop for this course (with the trade off being that I would be able to choose the lemon mousse for dessert). I made this choice with the preconceived notion that I was “meh” about scallops, because whenever I’ve had them before I’ve been underwhelmed. Let me just say that this scallop was a gastronomic awakening for me. I now know what is meant by “perfectly cooked scallop”. If all scallops were prepared like this, scallops would be my favorite food. Screw the other three courses, just give me more of these. Yes. Really. It was THAT good. Easily my favorite dish of the night.
Not to say that my husband’s salmon wasn’t good – again, perfectly cooked, nice browning from the sear, and served with a very complementary sauce.
For the third course, the choices were either Grilled Bison Loin with a confit of shallot Bordelaise, scalloped potatoes (although I think this was a potato mousseline instead), or Roasted Veal Tenderloin with a portabella ravioli and cardamom sauce.
I went with the bison. The combination of flavors with the bison, sauce, duxelle of mushrooms and potatoes was amazing. The meat, once again, was perfectly cooked and wonderfully tender. I was very happy with my choice.
Not to say that my husband’s veal wasn’t equally as good in its own way. Similar flavor profile with the mushroom ravioli, but I think my bison had the slight edge in richness and depth of flavor.
The fourth course was a cheese course, with the choices being either Baked Brie and Puff Pastry “canape style” with leek salad and champagne vinaigrette, or Ohio Goat Cheese Cremeux with micro greens and chive oil. This was probably our least favorite of all the courses.
I went with the Brie – while it was a perfectly tasty, and creamy piece of brie on puff pastry, as a followup to the previous courses it failed to excite. In other words, good for what it was, but a nice interesting artisan cheese I’ve never had the opportunity to try would have been a bit more up my alley.
My husband went with the goat cheese cremeux, which reminded us both of a really herby, really smooth cream cheese. We both feel that this would have been more successful if there had been something (baguette, cracker, etc) to spread this on. It was slightly awkward trying to eat it straight up with a fork or spoon.
For the fifth course, dessert, we could choose from either a Chocolate Trio with raspberry coulis and biscuit truffette, or Lemon Mousse and Vanilla Fleur de sel Sable with orange sauce and fresh raspberries.
I went with the lemon, which was the perfect end to a spectacular meal. I’ve been really digging lemon desserts lately, and this one had great texture and flavor to it.
My husband was just as pleased with his Chocolate Trio. A nice, smooth mousse and a fitting end to a good meal.
About the wine pairings. I’m not a frequent wine drinker, but enjoyed all of them, especially the dessert wine, Innocent Bystander Pink Moscato. It’s one I see myself adding to my collection, and one I’ll seek out through my favorite wine retailers. Pours were VERY generous (they were supposed to be 3oz pours, but all were definitely more, especially the red wine served with dinner).
I’m so very glad that we went, even though we balked a bit at the expense. It really is worth spoiling yourself from time to time, as these are the small things and the memories that make life worth living.
If you’d like to go: The Refectory, 1092 Bethel Road, Columbus, OH 43220, 614.451.9774