The Refectory has a long storied past with buildings from the 1840s and 1850s which were combined to make it. The current dining area is in the 1853 church that was sided with walnut and served as the main building for a church, which unfortunately was only 75 yards away from some noisy railroad tracks. When the church bought 2 school buildings 200 yards away the physical church was moved to be adjoined with them around 1918. In 1954 a brick school was added to the structure but by 1969 the congregation was larger than the buildings could accommodate so they moved. In 1971 the original church was turned into The Olde Church-House Restaurant and in 1981 the building became The Refectory Restaurant, which is the name of the dining hall in a convent/monastery. The original schoolhouse became the Lounge and Bistro dining area and the church housed the Dining Room with its original hand-hewn beams and exposed wooden roof structure. Kamal Boulos, the present owner, has worked in the building for almost 50 years. He brought in Chef Richard Blondin from Lyon, France to run the kitchen, which he still does. Over the years they have greatly expanded the wine cellar to over 700 selections. Music was in the background, lights were lowered and the white cloth-covered tables are surrounded by lots of stained glass. They offer a 5-course Chef’s Tasting that also has a vegetarian option in addition to an a la carte menu. We tried the tasting with our own wines and the pacing was fairly quick with good portion control. The food was mixed with too many additions of microgreens, dots and smears of sauces. It is definitely an elegant setting but the flavor profile and repetition made me wonder if the chef really was in the kitchen.
Bread service was slices of country bread made with wheat, white and rye flours and a number of seeds. It came with a nice slab of butter. The bread was warm with a good crisp crust and very tasty.
An amuse bouche was a seafood terrine with champagne vinaigrette and chive oil, topped with a pile of micro greens. The sauces were good with the mildly flavored terrine but I thought it a very odd choice in light of the first course on the tasting menu.
French Country Terrine was made with veal and duck and came with a champagne vinaigrette and chive oil topped with micro-greens. Inside were quail eggs, alongside was sliced cornichon and it was wrapped in smoked bacon. The smokiness really penetrated into the terrine giving it a much better flavor than the seafood terrine. Once I scraped off the strings of carrots and greens it was quite enjoyable.
Pan-Seared Loup de Mer was with a basil vin blanc sauce on a bed of Beluga lentils (small black lentils) with chopped tomato on the side. The fish was nicely cooked and great with the buttery sauce. The lentils were fabulous – cooked to a perfect tenderness. This plate had lots of different flavors and textures that I found it fun to pair in different combinations. It was good.
Pistachio-crusted filet mignon of beef had a green cardamom sauce. The server had neglected to ask how we wanted our beef cooked but luckily I caught him midway into the fish course and specified rare. I’m pretty sure that’s why there was a longer gap in getting this course served – in that they re-did the usual cooking. The beef was plated with a wedge of purple and gold potatoes and some shitake mushrooms and sitting on some shredded cabbage. The beef was tender and dull. The sauce was not heavy enough to carry it and I didn’t care for the pistachio topper.
Roasted Montrachet cheese was with olive oil, shallots and beet coulis alongside some sliced roasted beets. The goat’s milk cheese was on a slice of toasted baguette and then topped with micro-greens and the plate was dotted with chive oil. By now I’ve had enough chive oil and micro-greens. However the roasted beets were well-seasoned and wonderful and the cheese was fine with the baguette, minus the greens.
Warm chocolate bread pudding was with salted caramel ice cream. A couple of raspberries were on top that also got covered with the sauce. The pudding had very mild flavor and the scoop of ice cream was too small for the large slice of it. The caramel sauce turned into some crispy bits with a result more resembling vanilla ice cream with caramel accents. For a dessert that sounded great this was a disappointment.