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The Sample Room
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I recently received an e-mail from The Sample Room with a free cocktail coupon attached:

I'm always looking for a deal, so last night my sister, Mike and I scooted down there for some dinner. My sister had already eaten, but was intrigued by the free cocktail and the notion of some dessert. I got the mojito-tini for my free drink and Mike got a Manhattan. Both were strong and delicious. We nibbled on the fresh, warm bread in the bread basket while we decided what to order for dinner.

Mike and I decided to get one entree to share along with two of their smaller "sample" plates. For the entree, we settled on the butternut squash gnocchi with snow peas, mushrooms, and eggplant in a light eggplant tomato sauce ($13.95 without meat, $16.95 with chicken), and for the two sample plates, we chose the seared rare tuna with a miso glaze and daikon radish sprouts ($7.50) and the seared sea scallops with sun dried tomato pesto ($8.50).

I reluctantly agreed to the gnocchi entree because it was the only vegetarian option. (I'm not a vegetarian, but I have a very limited capacity for meat in my diet and all the other entrees were basically a slab of some kind of meat with a side of potatoes). It sounded the most flavorful and unique. I hesitated only because I'm not a big fan of eggplant. I went ahead with it anyway, thinking sometimes restaurants surprise you, and take things you thought you didn't like and prepare them in such a way that your mind is forever changed. Unfortunately, that was not the case with eggplant last night. I picked at it, but let Mike do most of the heavy lifting there while I savored the magnificence of the two smaller sample plates.

The seared rare tuna concerned me when it was first deposited on our table, because it looked overly seared to me. I eat raw fish in the form of sushi all the time, so to me, cooking a nice piece of tuna is akin to ruining it. The sear looked pretty thorough on this one, which generally makes it tough and chewy and dry. But then I took a bite. And it melted right on my tongue. The miso glaze was sweet and salty, the fish was buttery and soft--perfection. And the scallops were just as amazing. The sundried tomato pesto complemented them perfectly. There was just a bit of crunch in the pesto, I think from slivers of almond, which contrasted perfectly with the smoothness of the scallops. I closed my eyes and savored each bite I took, then sopped up the rest of the pesto with a piece of bread.

My sister had been waiting patiently all this time for some dessert, so we promptly ordered the flourless chocolate torte. Between the two of us, the plate was licked clean within 5 minutes of hitting the table.

The Sample Room is perfect for intimate groups who share similar tastes. You can order several small tasting dishes and feast your senses on many different exquisitely prepared flavors and combinations. The entrees are good, but hardly the reason to make the trip to the restaurant. Don't go starving, because you want to be able to sit back, enjoy, pass, and share without worrying about getting your fair share or filling your belly. Go peckish, with people with adventurous palettes, relax, and enjoy.

(And feel free to print out that coupon--good through Sept. 7th. Print out one for every member of the dining party)

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