Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Sample Room

Visited on Monday, April 14th

The Sample Room

Ben's Review
We went to Northeast Mpls right after work on Monday - Erin was going to take some pics since it was a nice day before we went to eat. The Sample Room is on Marshall, across the street from a residential area, its kind of all by itself, there aren't any other commercial buildings nearby, I don't think. The building is one of those old buildings you come across in Northeast, with the really high ceilings that have patterns carved in them, its almost worth going just to check out the space.

Inside of Sample Room

We knew it was half price wine bottles on Mondays even though we didn't see that on their website, I called ahead to confirm (its also half price on Sundays). We went with the Heartland Shiraz from Australia, on the menu it was spelled "Heartand" which I thought was a little strange, but I went out of my way to NOT pronounce the "L" in Heartland because I didn't want to look like an idiot, but as is the case most of the time, I felt a little dumb when the bottle came out WITH the "L". Whatever.

Twist off top

The wine was good, I'm not much of a wine drinker so I'm not that picky. For dinner we decided to try the Grand Sample Platter Combo, which is a sample plate from each of the vegetable, seafood, meat, and cheese menus. Going with the Grand Combo also gets you $3 off of the total. We choose the braised pork ribs, asparagus, seared tuna, and the chefs selection of cheese. I also ordered a cup of cream of onion soup.

The soup was pretty good, I liked the flavor a lot but the onions were a little soggy. I finished it before she could even come to check on us though, so I'd recommend it. When the food came out I was a little disappointed in the serving sizes - each item was pretty small, but I guess that's why its called the sample room. The cheese, tuna, and asparagus were really good, I think I actually liked the cheese and asparagus the best which is out of character for me. I especially liked the sauce that came on the asparagus, a balsamic drizzle, it was tasty. The ribs were dry and tough and didn't seem like they had been cooked fresh, as if they were just warmed up or something.

creamy onion soup

Tuna, Pork Ribs, and Asparagus

For dessert we got a Baileys Irish cream cheesecake and a flight of port. I'd never tried port before and it doesn't smell great, but it tastes surprisingly sweet. We got three, two ounce glasses to try, it was fun to watch Erin try to smell it without gagging. I think the dessert was the best part of the meal between the delicious cheesecake and the port. The port was $8.50, reasonable for trying something for the first time.

Port Flight

The ratings for The Sample Room

  • Service: Our server was really attentive, prompt, and friendly.
  • Food: The food was good, I wish the portions were a little bigger - and stay away from the pork ribs.
  • Drinks: Pretty good wine list, from what I could tell, and they have a decent selection of pretentious beers on tap. No cheap beers on tap however, only in bottles.
  • Ambiance: Aside from an annoying woman with the horse laugh dining that night, this place is cool, it is one big room in a well designed, old building.
  • Price: I expected the tab to be a lot higher than the $64 it ended up being. It helped that it was half off the bottle of wine.
  • Convenience: They have a parking lot and there's plenty of parking on the street since there's no other businesses nearby.

Erin's Review
Everyone that I talked to about Sample Room said great things about it - as with many other places on our list, this place comes with a lot of recommendations. There were a few things that I knew I wanted to try: the asparagus, based on co-worker Amy's recommendation, and the tuna, based on Nicki's recommendation. We decided to go on Monday night because of the half priced bottles of wine - a lot of times this can be only the house wines, or just a few of the cheaper bottles, but in Sample Room's case, it was the whole wine list which I thought was great.

I let Ben picked the wine, he picked the Heartland Shiraz which I really liked. It had a twist off cap so it probably wasn't really a good wine. Who knows. We sure don't. As Michael Scott would say, this wine had a real oakey afterbirth.

(Bread that came out - I noticed on the menu that they charge for a second basket...)

For food, we did the 4 sample plates. You don't have to pick one from each category, I don't think (as Ben says above) I'm pretty sure you can just get 4 of whatever off of any of the sample plates. I'm not really sure what Ben was expecting when it said "small sample plates" but I thought the portion sizes were fine - they are supposed to be small. I was not really full after eating my half of the meal. I would recommend getting a starter. I didn't because I knew I wanted dessert, and since I passed 25 my metabolism has slowed to the point where I unfortunately can't eat EVERYTHING I want. Sad.

By far my favorite was the cheese. It was the chefs special - which that night was a Crucolo cheese. I think this would be a very crowd pleasing cheese - it doesn't have any odd flavors or aftertastes. I also really liked the asparagus - it was crunchy and was flavored perfectly with salt and the balsamic sauce - VERY good! I'm glad Amy recommended this to me - I would have never chosen it on my own. The tuna was good too - the best part about it was the wasabi aioli that came with it. I did not like the ribs at all - they were very tough.

Crucolo cheese

I chose the Bailey's Irish Creme Cheesecake for dessert - this was delicious. I did not like the port. It actually tasted better than it smelled, but it didn't taste good enough for me to ever want to order it again!

Bailey's Irish Cream Cheesecake

The Sample Room is a very beautiful restaurant. I think pressed tin ceilings must be all the rage now because they seem to be at every place we go. This one seemed particularly nice. I also liked the huge windows in the front. I would love to go back to try more of the dishes there - some of the entrees and other sample plates looked very good.

ceiling again.  I really liked it.
(One of the ceiling tiles)


The Sample Room
2124 Marshall Street

Highly recommended for the food, atmosphere, and cheap(er) wine on Sunday and Monday nights!


Kate said...

I'm going to be a little snobby. Are you ready? Some of the most expensive bottles of wine in the country (ie, Plumpjack) come with "screw tops" or stelvin closures due to something called cork taint, which happens in something like 1 out of 12 corks or something. Anyway, stelvins are supposed to keep the air out better, and obviously can't cork a wine, as there is no cork.

Snobby rant concluded

jimn said...

That's unfortunate that your ribs were dried out. The couple times I had them they were excellent. Probably my favorite menu item I've tried.

Just Roaming The Cities said...

Beautiful photos! The inside almost looks like a souped-up version of the Modern Cafe in NE Mpls, which we ate at for breakfast yesterday morning.

Jim said...

Glad you had a good time. As to the tin ceiling, it was all the rage back in the 1890's too. That ceiling was found under 3 layers of renovations that were done to the space over the last 110 years. We pulled it down, had the lead paint stripped off and a new finish applied and put it back up.

Seriously? said...

So, let me get this straight.

Anything better then a Miller LIght is pretentious? You are taking the place to task for having clearly labled "small plates" that have small portions.

ben said...

The "pretentious" comment was an attempt at self-deprecating humor since the beers they have on tap are the beers I prefer to drink. Must not be funny.

I didn't take them to task for the small portions. I just said I was a little disappointed, which I was. Seriously. :)

I knew the plates would be smaller than normal, but in my mind I had anticipated more food. It wasn't a huge deal.

Seriously? said...


Nice photos.

The screw on cap is technically better for the wine then the cork... no chance of corkage. A lot of australian wines use it now.

It definetly is no longer means a crap wine... kind of like how you can now get a reasonable wine in a box.


Anonymous said...

The service was awful at The Sample Room. One of the people with us did not like her meal. The waiter just said "It always looks like that" Then the chef came out and argued with her. I can't believe they stay open with that kind of customer service. I have not been back since. Several of my friends have said the same thing. Hey SAMPLE ROOM! Are you listening? Try treating your customers as paying guest.

Anonymous said...

Good food. Service needs some attention though. We went in for lunch and they were busy! So we came back around 4 pm and we got seated right away. The special was sauteed rainbow trout, with veggies from their garden across the street. I thought that was awesome truly a deal breaker since our service was terrible. We asked about the special and the server knew nothing and sent the chef out after we complained. Paul I think was his name, beard, glasses, nice guy talked us through everything. Fun to go to a restaurant where the chef will talk to you. We wound up having such a nice time I won't even go into the trouble with the service. Nice job. Great Wine list too.

Kristi said...

I was there tonight and thought the food was decent. The service was okay, our server gave us a discount for bringing our food immediately after our appetizers (when we had ordered our meals 5 minutes earlier). I wouldn't rush back but I am glad I tried it. I will be writing up a review also when i can get to it!