The Bistro @ BoDo

Special to The Idaho StatesmanJanuary 20, 2006 

— The dining room looks mostly the same at the recently revamped The Bistro @ BoDo — formerly known as Koffee Klatsch Bistro, Koffee Klatsch, and later as Kulture Klatsch.

Most everything else has changed.

Even the Eighth Street Marketplace is now called BoDo.

New owner Jan House, who also owns a personal chef business, is pondering another name change for the bistro in the coming weeks. She wants to create an entirely new identity, shedding the vegetarian reputation that's associated with the current name.

In other words, she's tired of people bothering her about tofu.

House reopened the restaurant in mid-October, giving the green light to French-influenced plates with Northwest flair.

Out went the Beat Generation coffeehouse décor, and in came white linen table clothes and shelves filled with bottles of Northwest and European wines.

Out went the mostly vegetarian menu, and in came Black Canyon Ranch elk from Emmett and ruby trout from Hagerman.

Will House, Jan's son, handles chef responsibilities at the bistro. He trained to be a chef in Ireland and cut his teeth in San Francisco, at places like Bix and the Cliff House.

His menu is ambitious and does a good job of incorporating local foodstuff.

One night, we started with glasses of L'Ecole Recess Red ($8), a great table wine from Walla Walla Valley, which paired well with the amuse-bouche (gratis palate-teaser) of citrusy elk carpaccio atop crostini.

We were pleased with the goat cheese starter ($8), a warm disc of sunflower seed-studded Rollingstone Chèvre on a mound of sautéed Belgian endive, next to crisp sourdough wedges.

This warmed our palates for the beer-braised beef short ribs ($14) and albacore ($15), a new menu item of seared (rare) tuna leaned on white beans flecked with roasted red bell pepper, chewy garlic cloves and flat-leaf parsley. Next to that sat a smaller pile of buttery smashed butternut squash.

The fish was topped with a frothy dollop of smoked paprika-coconut cream, reminiscent of sea foam, at least in appearance.

The beef short ribs needed more braising time, though. The tough riblets made for messy eating, especially because they came perched atop sautéed cabbage and wild funghi — oyster, black trumpet and hedgehog mushrooms — encircled by a mote of dark pan sauce.

Need I say more?

In the end, we were enticed by a dense wedge of orange-kissed chocolate truffle cake ($5.50), glazed with Grand Marnier, served on a squiggle of dark chocolate sauce.

During a lunch visit, we feasted on red potato salad ($8) mingled with pieces of smoked ruby trout, sliced hard-boiled egg and tarragon leaves, tossed in a mustardy crème fraiche. All this rested on a bed of curly frisée.

The grilled Black Canyon Ranch elk-apple sausage ($11.50), sweet and dripping with fat, came next to little pillows of goat cheese gnocchi and red lentils that were dry and void of seasoning. The plate was still good, considering it was tepid at best when it hit the table.

The crab cakes ($13.50) were hot and crisp, packed with tender shreds of Dungeness crab and buttered breadcrumbs. The golden brown discs were served with tarragon aioli and fennel-caper-red bell pepper relish.

Service is friendly at The Bistro @ BoDo, yet during our lunch visit (on a Friday), one server had entirely too many tables, meaning that promised bread was forgotten and water glasses didn't get refilled.

The Bistro @ BoDo has much promise, particularly after some refinement.

James Patrick Kelly is The Idaho Statesman's restaurant critic. E-mail him at jpkfood@earthlink.net.

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