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Refuel: Vancouver

  • fmed Dec 10, 2009 01:57 PM
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(I thought I'd start a new thread to reflect the name change)

Finally had a chance to check out Refuel's hand-chopped (currently - they are getting a coarse grinding plate soon) 28-Day Dry Aged Burger. Like the others have said....it could be the "best" burger in town right now. Today it was a bit oversalted (and I am a salt fiend)...but it tasted like a one-off. It was still very good. The texture was loose and light. They cook it to medium-rare so it was juicy. I also had the toast and "preserves" and 3 out of their 4 desserts...the standout: The grown-up version of Dairy Queen's Peanut Buster Parfait.

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    1. How did you find their PB Parfait? As in my post on the Fuel thread, while I found it very tasty, it was too sweet half way though...

      6 Replies
      1. re: CdnLifeguard

        It was very sweet for sure when you got to the peanutty crumb layer. The peanut butter (?) ice cream in the bottom was also very sweet. I was having an espresso while eating it which offset the sweetness. By itself, I could definitely see how it can be too sweet.

        1. re: fmed

          It will be interesting to see if they can knock the consistency issues on the head, which was by many reports a problem during the Fuel days. But what I really want to know if how you got those pix, fmed -- mine looked like they were taken in the bottom of a well!

          1. re: grayelf

            Strangely enough, I bought a new camera (Fujifinepix F70EXR) that is known for its low-light capabilities....but it ran out of juice at Fuel! I had to use my iPhone to take these pics. Were you there over dinner time? I was there over lunch and the ambient lighting seem to be OK with the iPhone's built-in (but crappy) camera.

            1. re: fmed

              Whoa! I was sitting having dinner at ReFuel tonight with friends talking about their soon to be purchased Fuji F70EXR for a trip to India!
              Didn't realize this model was particularly good with low light compared to some other Fujis though. Be curious to hear what you think about the camera overall.

              I had the PButter Parfait and sure it's rich (especially depending on what you may have had before) but a good Americano helps it go down (or a nice bourbon would have been even better).
              To take it up a notch I would have put the cold chocolate top on the bottom and poured hot fudge on the top!

              1. re: eatrustic

                Grown-up versions of the Hot Fudge Sundae and the Banana Split will make the dream complete for me.

                Not to take the thread too far OT:
                So far the F70 EXR has been great and it is on sale at London Drugs right now. I have tested it under low light conditions - the "Pro Low Light" mode is impressive. The other camera in the running is the Sony TX1 which has remarkably similar features and low-light image qualtity to the F70. Both these cameras make great food-blogging cameras.

                While I have the F70 now, I have time to return it if I'm not happy with it. It is bigger and bulkier than my old camera (which was damaged when I dropped it recently). The Sony TX1's form is almost perfect for food-blogging - slim and small and it doesn't have a long retracting lens (but it is about $200 more expensive than the Fuji).

                1. re: fmed

                  I was there at dinner time, which explains the difference. Thanks for the camera tips -- I see a birthday present request coming up from me :-). Not that I'm going to food blog anytime soon but it does seem that many of my pix are either of food or my niece in less-than-optimal lighting.

      2. Yes, it will be interesting to see if they can get rid of the inconsistency bug as I am really looking forward to my dinner there. Can't wait, practically drooling now after looking at the pictures.

        1. How is the atmosphere and noise level? Is it a good place to catch up with friends or an eat-and-go kind of place?

          1 Reply
          1. re: pepper_mil

            Atmo is very nice, low key but not boring. I've been there when it was really full at a long table and still haven't had to raise my voice. Deffo not "eat and go" even at the new lower price points :-).

          2. Made it out to Refuel last night. I think even with the change from Fuel, it's still my favorite restaurant in the city. Tried both the carbonara and the tuna. A word of warning, the carbonara is very peppery, so much so that not everyone at our table could palate it. The pepper was explained as being a very traditional interpretation of the dish. I liked it, but it is pretty peppery. And no, they won't make it with less pepper (I like chefs who will stand by their menu). Tuna was delicious too.

            I think my favorite thing of the night though was a pint of R&B cream ale and a few of the croquettes. They really are liquid, and as chef Ted told me as he passed them over to the bar, "these are one biters". Absolutely delicious, but then again, I rarely ever have anything with foie so it was a bit of a treat.

            If I lived in Kits, I would have a hard time staying away.

            12 Replies
            1. re: peter.v

              I'm certainly looking forward to a return trip soon. I'm eyeing the Sloping Hill pork with fennel.

              As an anecdote, I went to Havana on Commercial Dr recently and had some terrible food (I don't know what got into me - I thought I boycotted this place) at a price point that is around the same as Refuel. The burgers are both around $14 and there just is no comparison in quality - Fuel just kicks Havana to the curb. (I'm starting to sound like a fanboy....wait....maybe I am).

              1. re: fmed

                Unless you're at a fast food joint it seems like burgers are priced at about $14 (db Bistro's bar menu has a burger for $13!). Interesting variation in the level of quality from place to place. I'm a little scared to try Refuel's because burgers at that price point might be ruined forever!

                1. re: fmed

                  sorry in advance for a very quick threadjack, but always had my eye on havana as a place i wanted to try, so was it just an off day or is it always that bad

                  1. re: vandan

                    It has always been bad for me. I had stopped going years ago. We were having a family stroll that day and one of my daughters wanted to try it out. I thought I'd give it the benefit of the doubt. Mistake all around. She hated her Fish and Chips which cost an astonishing $18.

                    1. re: fmed

                      Ditto on fmed's comments re Havana -- plus I really hated that they continued to allow smoking after the ban. Avoid.

                      1. re: grayelf

                        i kind of suspected that the wannabe, hipster quotient made it waay more about being seen on the patio than actually eating there

                    2. re: vandan

                      Some people think Havana's is good - to be blunt, those people are wrong and are confusing "good atmosphere/patio" with "good food". I've been there at least a dozen times in the last x amount of years, and am always disappointed.

                      If it's sunny out and you feel like drinking the afternoon away, then the patio is a great place to people watch. But, besides that, I would give it a big pass.

                      1. re: Cancuk

                        Yes - it is fine if all you do is drink - one of the best patios in town. (I had Chambar's new ale there....very nice)

                        Took this thread way off topic now.

                    3. re: fmed

                      The Pork with Fennel is ok but didn't blow my socks off. The night I had it I found it to be a bit on the bland side. The fennel tasted like it was poached and reheated vs being nicely caramelized which is how I would do it. The sauce as well was a bit too subtle, especially when there are so many starters on the menu with big flavour.
                      I'd prefer it if they used a nice braised shoulder cut instead of the loin.

                      The side of mashed potatoes with the cheese mixed in is totally addictive.

                      1. re: eatrustic

                        Thanks eatrustic. I make a pretty good salt-fennel seed crusted roast shoulder myself. I may opt for another main then. I have not ever had seafood at Fuel...maybe one of those mains.

                        1. re: eatrustic

                          The spuds were the most interesting item we tried because of the way the texture morphs as they cool. When they arrive on your table, the curds are melted right in and stretch way out like mozzarell when you lift your fork. Then the curds gradually coalesce back into squeaktastic curdiness. Very cool to a curd lover like myself but might be off putting for someone who wasn't expecting the texture change...

                      2. re: peter.v

                        I enjoyed the croquettes. The liquid foie was really interesting. Have to say, though... I found the crispy outside tasty, but a bit distracting from the foie gras flavour.

                        I'll have to go back to Refuel to try some other items on the menu. I didn't get a chance to try some of the more unique items unfortunately.

                      3. Let me know if anyone trys the "scrapple" and what you thought!

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: ck1234

                          I fought with myself over whether I should have had that last night. It's near the top of my list for next time!

                        2. Went back today. The Humbolt Squid was the standout: perfectly lightly deep fried, very tender. Tossed with jalapenos, cilantro, and lime. Simple and great (and well priced at $9) The "spicy pork ribs and bits" as an appetizer was great too, although we didn't finish some of the "bits". The creamy onion soup was also solid.

                          The only mis-step was the meatloaf sandwich, which was on special, that the SO had. She said over done, tough/thick. I didn't try, personally but it looked a little rough.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: Cancuk

                            LOL re not finishing some of the pork bits -- we had a few gnarly ones too (but that didn't stop me gobbling them up).

                          2. Well, looked forward to this after reading the review.

                            GF had the pork, which was delicious but perhaps a bit of a meagre portion, even with the addition of a side-salad. The fennel was roasted beautifully and the sauce (apple balsamic something?) proved a dashing companion to the pork.

                            I had the burger. Now, the price seemed fairly decent for this sort of place, and the burger tasted quite nice. However, it was very salty indeed and in fact had a strange whiff of fish about it. Why, I cannot say; perhaps the bacon had some sort of fly-by-night liason with something fishy whilst cooking.

                            The chips (fries) were a bit of a letdown. It was basically a bowl of the small half-chiplings, the likes of which one finds at the bottom of a fast food carton. They tasted fine but their form was poor. I had maybe 3 whole chips in the bowl.

                            It would be nice if there were more beers on tap also.

                            Nevertheless, a decent munch.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: kidtofu

                              I did notice that their fries were short - maybe 2-3". I liked the texture and flavour.

                              I didn't detect any fishiness - maybe it is the gaminess from dry aging?

                              1. re: fmed

                                A-ha! That might be it. It did seem a bit odd.

                            2. We took some friends who had grown up in Vancouver to Refuel tonight. I hadn't tried Fuel before but based on the reviews on this site it seemed like a safe bet . Have to say we were all quite disappointed. The restaurant was loud and the decor was not very appealing (grandmother's basement rec room comes to mind) I don't know if we had an off night but we found the food oversalted, the dishes quite simple and the presentation quite unappealing. My partner and I shared the special - duck confit for two - and the entire dish was brown on brown. Braised cabbage and apples covered with duck. The serving sizes were horribly inconsistent. Our duck was far too large for two people to finish and the fried chicken seemed to be a whopping half a of a bird. At the same time one of our guest's hamburgers was more the size of a mini burger and the pork and ling cod dishes seemed appetizer size. The noise made it hard for a our party of six to hold a conversation. Not impressed with what we had seen so far and anxious to catch up we on our conversation we opted out of dessert in favour of Sweet Obsession

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: lunchslut

                                A shaky start for Refuel. Hopefully they settle down.

                              2. Went to ReFuel last night and had a whole confit duck. Oh. My. God. Wow. It's seasoned with some sort of Dijon rub and something else.. not really sure. All as I know is it was pretty mind blowing.

                                I felt pretty reasonably priced ($55), considering me and the SO couldn't really come close to finishing it all (duck and eggs for breakfast!). It also came with spatzel and swiss chard. I don't think they do it all the time, call ahead if you're interested.

                                1. Refuel was a disappointment to us. The reception... 'You'll be done by 7:30, won't you?" Fortunately we had another engagement, and were out in 45 minutes. Service... friendly but not particularly attentive. I'm not sure why the lukewarm plate was held in a dishcloth at the time of service, no danger of a burn there. Food... my partner had gnocchi ($17) which were greasy, having been panfried, mixed with greens and caramelized onion. I had the burger, which seems to be a legend in some minds. The meat was undercooked, red in the center when I'd asked for medium well. It was cradled in a good bun, but the cheese and bacon were surprisingly greasy, as were the fries. I looked hard around the plate: where was there anything from the vegetable patch? I saw no lettuce, tomato, onion, pickle... and missed them, if not for the possible nutritional value then for the crunch. The presentation was at best uninspired: burger on one side of the plate, fries on the other. Beige on beige. $14.50 for this? give me a break! Room.. dimly lit, noisy when all the tables filled up. Washroom needed attention. At these prices, it is reasonable to expect more. Burgers and gnocchi are not that hard to make. May I suggest that the management sample White Spot or Milestone's burgers which are consistent, inspired, simply better meals.

                                  4 Replies
                                  1. re: eager

                                    I've been told before that they only do the burger "medium-rare" or "well-done". The medium-rare is definitely meant to be red in the centre. I wonder if they misheard you?

                                    I have found Refuel to be a bit hit-and-miss, unfortunately.

                                    1. re: twinkienic

                                      I have to concur. We were very excited to go there. We also were told what time we had to leave by, but the restaurant was half empty by then so they needn't have worried. We weren't in the mood for luscious amounts of pork, beef and/or duck fat and as a result there just weren't that many appealing menu choices and those we tried weren't actually that good (yes, the lettuce actually had brown edges). Although the beets were good.
                                      Anyway, I really want to like it so will give it another go when we're looking for a heavier meal and willing to order with reckless abandon.

                                      1. re: waver

                                        I wonder if they will ever find their way back to the upper echelon of Vancouver dining.

                                        1. re: fmed

                                          I think their shift into the wonderful world of beef tallow and whole hog-ness (or at least making their love for them more up front and center) has made it so that Refuel won't be as universally acclaimed as its predecessor. I have been a much more regular customer of Refuel (nearly weekly), but I definitely recognize the lack of prominent vegetables and excess of animal fats would deter some people.