Sunday, April 27, 2014

The Barrel Wine and Tapas Bar

The Barrel Wine and Tapas Bar, located at 15201 S. Padre Island Dr. Ste. 110 (361-949-4813) on the Island, sits right next door to Black Sheep Bistro, and as a matter of fact, is part of Black Sheep. Any dish that Black Sheep Bistro is serving can be had at the Barrel, but they also have their own menu of wonderful tapas and sushi. Now, when I think of a wine bar, I think sleek elegance with light jazz playing in the background. Not this wine bar - not to say it's not nice, it is, but it's a much more relaxed and comforting atmosphere, fitting right in with the Island lifestyle, with warm colors and casual seating.

We arrived just before 5 p.m. and were immediately greeted by Angela. It was obvious, from the chairs turned onto their seats on the tables, that she and the crew were just setting up for service. Angela assured us that, "if the door is open we are ready to serve." She helped us choose from a wide variety of wines and even poured samples of a couple of them for us to try.

Once our wine choices were made we talked menu. Angela suggested we try the Lamb Dunk, a fondue dish featuring three perfect medium rare lamb chops atop roasted broccoli and butternut squash and toasted bread. The fondue consisted of Jack, Cheddar, and Gruyere cheeses. All components were nicely seasoned. The cheese mixture was creamy, and not as rich as expected. It worked equally well with the lamb, vegetables, and bread. Our only complaint was that there should be an even number of chops on the plate to make it easier to share. Angela promised to pass the suggestion along.

While we waited for the Lamb Dunk, which Angela had told us would take a little while, we asked about the sushi. She told us that Carlos, the sushi chef, came there from the Sushi Bar. His creation for that evening was panko fried shrimp and spicy crab, rolled in rice and topped with escolar, tangerine, avocado, and a sweet chili sauce, with pickled ginger and wasabi on the side, and garnished with fresh cantaloupe. The great thing about this roll, other than the delicious blend of flavors, was the textures, particularly the little bit of crunch around the shrimp. Very nice.

Having eaten so light there was still room for dessert. Angela ran down the dessert menu with a list of luscious confections, but I lost my adventurer's spirit when she mentioned the brownie and vanilla ice cream, topped with whipped cream and nuts, then drizzled with a rich caramel sauce. The brownie was dense and chewy, not dry or crumbly, which allowed it to hold up well to stacking the elements on a spoon. A truly rich and satisfying dessert that finished the meal perfectly.

We are happy to have found the Barrel, and recommend you give it a try. We promised them that we would certainly be back. Friendly staff, good food, what more could you ask for? Visit their Facebook page at:

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