The Refinery- Tampa, Florida- 2.75- Stars
If you live anywhere in the state of Florida or read any of the following publications: Zagat, Southern Living, Conde Nast, Forbes, Esquire, USA Today, New York Magazine, etc. you have heard of The Refinery and the man in the kitchen, Executive Chef/Proprietor Greg Baker. Boasting 4 straight semi-finals in the Best Chef category by the renowned James Beard Foundation as well as a semi-final showing for Best New Restaurant of 2011, it's hard to ignore his accomplishments. I have had exquisite meals all over this country and as any loyal reader knows, several in the state of Florida, to say I was looking forward to sampling Greg's wares would be an understatement of the most egregious kind.
Not wanting to leave anything out, I wanted a good sampling from the menu and as such started with something off of their ambitious cocktail menu. I ordered their take on one of my favorite drinks, the Old Fashiond. Sadly, they were out of my first choice, so I went with a Camus Cognac Demonde Old Fashioned. This was a wonderful take on an ole standard and I thoroughly enjoyed the flavor, however, It was a very light pour (straight 1 oz.) and while cost usually doesn't concern me or play a factor in my reviews, that is a profit of $323/bottle of Scotch. I understand that most of the profit in running any eating establishment is found in the beverages, that seems a tad excessive to me. Sipping my cocktail I asked my delightful server, Chelsea, if I might have an order of Hominy Stew, Fried Chicken Biscuit, Meat Sweets and the Buffalo Sweet Breads.
Beginning with my soup (stew) I was pleasantly taken in by this bold take on the common fare, talk about layered, complex flavors! It really hits the mark. The stew was extravagant in its flavoring and beautiful in its presentation, the freshly chopped chives sprinkled on top lent an air of ascetics to the looks while adding a nice finishing note to the dish.
Moving on to the Fried Chicken Biscuit sandwich. I don't know what to say here, the biscuit was so hard as to be inedible and the pickle was depressingly flaccid. The chicken breast itself was dipped in a what I can only surmise to be a hush puppy like batter and then fried. Steeeeeeeeerike! You're out!
I was hoping the next sammich to be tasted was exponentially better or I would soon find myself seeing a Dentist for a chipped or broken tooth. The Meat Sweets was an amazing conglomeration of meats wedged into the cheapest bun known to mankind. I don't know what was going on here, but the bun was bland (think flour and water). The meat seasoning was uneven and lacking flavor. The Yukon Gold fries were fresh cut, fried to perfection and a delight on the palate, I love good fries and these were exceptional.
This brings us to the final item in my order, the Buffalo Sweet Breads. I was expecting something similar to the Buffalo Sweet Breads I sampled at Crush XI and I was not disappointed. The sauce was exceptional containing a wonderful mix of garlic, butter and spice and the sweetbreads were cooked to perfection having just the right texture and not chewy at all. I mention this as it is hard to find properly cooked sweetbreads. They are not supposed to be chewy, but should divinely melt in your mouth with the gentlest of bites as these most certainly did. They certainly beat the stuffing out of Buffalo Style Chicken Wings, that's for darn sure!
All in all, it was an O.K. dining experience and not one I was expecting in the least. I found the drinks to be excessively overpriced for the pour (make it cry, baby, make it cry) and the food, while ingenious in flavor combinations, to come off as average. I don't know if Greg gave up, he was off that night, or it was just a bad day. Whatever the case, I was assuredly let down.
Big Boy says, "Pass by The Refinery, there is much better food in Tampa." #iamthebigboy #bigboydiningout