Anyone who has eaten at Cambridge restaurant the Blue Room has probably encountered the enthusiasm and knowledge of oenophile co-owner Liz Vilardi. That is now channeled at the adjacent Belly Wine Bar, a new project from the people behind the Blue Room and wine-cheese-and-more store Central Bottle. Never mind the usual dull divisions of geography and varietal. The by-the-glass list here features such categories as “Oysters, I love you,” “For you and your cru” (visiting each of the 10 Beaujolais regions), and “Sherry, sherry baby.” There is a section devoted to “orange” wines — whites that have been fermented with grape skins — and another to the offerings of producer and “wine crush” Alois Lageder. It is quirky and passionate and encourages exploratory tasting with 2-ounce and 5-ounce pours.
Blue Room chef Robert Grant has created a complementary menu, devoted to the kind of food one wants to eat while sipping. There’s a selection of oysters, charcuterie, salumi, and cheese: rabbit rillettes and chicken liver mousse, jamon iberico and lamb mortadella, mild chevres and funky blues, and more. There are snacks from marrow bones to steak tartare to a crudo of the day. The truly hungry can share a dry-aged grilled rib eye for two. And the truly hungry who plan ahead can gather a party of four to 12 people, make a reservation at least 48 hours in advance, and indulge in one of Grant’s “Arm + A Leg” dinners, not for vegetarians. They are described as such: “For you, me and a big table of our friends with some meat, bones + other obligate carnivorous paraphernalia.” Recently, the multicourse meal has focused on the pig, with house-made cracklings; smoked ham and tomato panzanella; sausage with lentils; roast pork shoulder with corn, cabbage, and kohlrabi salad; and pie for dessert. Of course, wine pairings are available.
Boston’s love affair with craft cocktails has been, and continues to be, a good time. But it is a pleasure to see a new establishment return the focus to wine, with a glee that is bound to be contagious.