The Barrel Room 415 Sansome St./Sacramento St., Financial District, (415) 956-6900. L M-F, D M-Sat; $$$; Happy Hour M-F 4-5:30pm.
The food menu, wine list, and cocktail menu here has a regional focus and changes quarterly. Currently it features Latin America. The wine list features an extensive selection of educational flights arranged by region, varietal, or flavor profile, and all pair well with the current menu. Flight wines are also available by the glass, and an extensive bottle list affords a choice of more than 200 international wines, including many that are hard to find. The cocktail menu highlights 10 to 12 cocktails that are also matched to the current regional focus. And if that isn’t enough, an array of international beers and local craft brews are also poured. The sleek and polished dining room has an open kitchen with bar seating as well as booths and tables. Some “living wall hangings” composed of moss and bromeliads plus a “wall of wine” add to the decor.
Our meal began with three small plates: an artisan cheese board with three cheeses (including a truffled one), baguette toasts, and a fig chutney; warm medjool dates stuffed with goat cheese, smoked almonds, and bacon (they merged into a bite of deliciousness);
and warm citrussed olives.
We moved on to a large plate of tender tri-tip steak with smashed red potatoes, green beans, panela cheese, and gingered chimichurri sauce (this was delicious when we used the potatoes to mop up the mixture of juices and sauce).
More menu options include ostiones al pil-pil (seared sea scallops), pork belly with pine nut butter and padron peppers, and both housemade merguez sausage and a housemade charcuterie plate. With our dinner we drank a red flight of Chilean pinot noirs—each quite distinct and unusual. It was delightful and definitely part of the fun to discover the differences between the wines with my dining partner.
More red flights include patagonia reds, malbecs, Argentine bordeaux blends, and even California reds. The choices can be overwhelming, but educated servers help guide you, and basically the wine list is set up so you can’t make a mistake. We concluded by sharing a slightly spicy Mexican chocolate cake, accompanied by a 20-year- tawny port for him and a late harvest malbec for me.
We were happy campers when we left. A wine bar/tasting room and retail shop are adjacent.
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images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers