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Four sisters + four husbands

Cacophonous din at the Barrel Room

Flavorful and refreshing bruschetta
Flavorful and refreshing bruschetta
Place

Barrel Room

16765 Bernardo Center Drive, San Diego

Because I have two sisters who live in North County (one in Poway, the other in San Marcos), David and I occasionally trek north for dinner. The Barrel Room in Rancho Bernardo has proven itself to be a good gathering spot for our group of eight (four sisters + four husbands). The service is fast and friendly, the prices are reasonable (entrées averaging around $20), and the appetizers are huge and sharable. It’s dark and cozy, comfortable, and candlelit.

The Barrel Room
Sweet & Salty Lollipops (bacon-wrapped dates)
Chicken Parmesan, decent but not delightful
Seabass with risotto, a recommended order

My only complaint is how loud it is. Forget about hearing the person at the other end of the table — I had difficulty hearing my sister, who was seated right across from me, over the din.

Of the appetizers I’ve sampled, I’d recommend the Bruschetta Caprese ($10) and the Sweet & Salty, which are bacon-wrapped dates ($10). The bruschetta is served on spongy, fresh focaccia bread with a generous helping of ripe Roma tomatoes, basil, garlic, and mozzarella and seasoned with salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. A hint of balsamic reduction adds a welcome, slightly sweet and vinegary note.

The table-favorite on our last visit were the bacon-wrapped date “lollipops,” served with wine mustard. Each one had its own stick, a great encouragement for diners to set down the fork and knife and pop the entire thing into their mouths as intended. That way, the bacon and date — similarly chewy, but exact opposites on the flavor spectrum, one salty, the other sweet — showcase and complement one another.

On our most recent visit I ordered the Chicken Parmesan ($18), which is breaded in panko crumbs and slathered in marinara and mozzarella. It’s served with capellini (angel hair pasta) that is tossed with a garlic cream sauce. I found the cream sauce an odd choice for the pasta, as the marinara from the chicken is more than enough to cover it. The chicken itself was fine, your standard fried cutlet in marinara, but the pasta was overcooked to the point of being mushy.

I kicked myself for not ordering the entrée I’d enjoyed on our prior visit, the Pistachio Crusted Sea Bass ($25). I received a lovely filet that was nicely seared on the outside and flaky and moist within. The cipollini onion risotto had been perfectly prepared, smooth and creamy, but each grain had retained its bite and the romesco sauce that pooled around it was rich and savory.

Between the appetizers and entrées, we never seem to have room for dessert. But it’s a treat enough for all of us sisters to get a night out together. We’re starting to make a habit of it.

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Flavorful and refreshing bruschetta
Flavorful and refreshing bruschetta
Place

Barrel Room

16765 Bernardo Center Drive, San Diego

Because I have two sisters who live in North County (one in Poway, the other in San Marcos), David and I occasionally trek north for dinner. The Barrel Room in Rancho Bernardo has proven itself to be a good gathering spot for our group of eight (four sisters + four husbands). The service is fast and friendly, the prices are reasonable (entrées averaging around $20), and the appetizers are huge and sharable. It’s dark and cozy, comfortable, and candlelit.

The Barrel Room
Sweet & Salty Lollipops (bacon-wrapped dates)
Chicken Parmesan, decent but not delightful
Seabass with risotto, a recommended order

My only complaint is how loud it is. Forget about hearing the person at the other end of the table — I had difficulty hearing my sister, who was seated right across from me, over the din.

Of the appetizers I’ve sampled, I’d recommend the Bruschetta Caprese ($10) and the Sweet & Salty, which are bacon-wrapped dates ($10). The bruschetta is served on spongy, fresh focaccia bread with a generous helping of ripe Roma tomatoes, basil, garlic, and mozzarella and seasoned with salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. A hint of balsamic reduction adds a welcome, slightly sweet and vinegary note.

The table-favorite on our last visit were the bacon-wrapped date “lollipops,” served with wine mustard. Each one had its own stick, a great encouragement for diners to set down the fork and knife and pop the entire thing into their mouths as intended. That way, the bacon and date — similarly chewy, but exact opposites on the flavor spectrum, one salty, the other sweet — showcase and complement one another.

On our most recent visit I ordered the Chicken Parmesan ($18), which is breaded in panko crumbs and slathered in marinara and mozzarella. It’s served with capellini (angel hair pasta) that is tossed with a garlic cream sauce. I found the cream sauce an odd choice for the pasta, as the marinara from the chicken is more than enough to cover it. The chicken itself was fine, your standard fried cutlet in marinara, but the pasta was overcooked to the point of being mushy.

I kicked myself for not ordering the entrée I’d enjoyed on our prior visit, the Pistachio Crusted Sea Bass ($25). I received a lovely filet that was nicely seared on the outside and flaky and moist within. The cipollini onion risotto had been perfectly prepared, smooth and creamy, but each grain had retained its bite and the romesco sauce that pooled around it was rich and savory.

Between the appetizers and entrées, we never seem to have room for dessert. But it’s a treat enough for all of us sisters to get a night out together. We’re starting to make a habit of it.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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