Dining review: Twigs serves inventive eats, lots of martinis

The food is good, the setting is nice, the concept works

SPECIAL TO THE IDAHO STATESMANApril 11, 2014 

  • TWIGS BISTRO AND MARTINI BAR

    Address: 3690 E. Monarch Sky Lane, at The Village at Meridian

    Phone: (208) 895-0029

    Online: twigsbistro.com

    Hours: 11 a.m. to around 11 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to around 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday

    Menu price range: appetizers, sandwiches and salads $7.99-$16.99; entrées $12.99-$28.99

    Libation situation: Besides 36 signature martinis, expect to find just about every other kind of cocktail, bottled and draft beers (there's even a Twigs Amber Ale, specially brewed by No-Li Brewhouse in Spokane) and a wine list with lots of Northwest and California labels.

    Kid friendly? Yes

    Wheelchair accessible? Yes

    Opened: December 2013

It's a hustle and bustle world in Meridian, and the developers at The Village at Meridian have succeeded in creating a place for people to unwind in this swath of the suburbs - even if the complex does smack of "The Stepford Wives."

Known for its wide variety of menu items and stylish decor, Twigs Bistro and Martini Bar was chosen as one of the anchor restaurants at this grandiose shopping, dining and entertainment development. It seems to be a good fit. Locations of the Spokane-based chain are found at shopping malls in eastern Washington and at other spots around the Northwest. There's even a concert series slated to take place this summer right off Twigs' patio next to the fancy fountain.

Not to be confused with the locally owned, now-defunct Twig's Wine Cellar in Downtown Boise, Twigs offers an experience that goes well beyond a lineup of 36 signature martinis. The large menu contains lots of choices, ranging from stone-oven pizzas to inventive appetizers to heartier entrees. There's also a menu for the wee ones that's not an afterthought.

In terms of where to sit, there are choices as well. The space is broken up into three distinct areas: a blue-hued bar with big booths and tall banquette tables; a middle section with big booths and funky geometric lamps; and a dining area near the tall windows that's bathed in natural light.

But first, right inside the carousel door, diners will encounter an imposing fire feature flickering behind the front desk (think oversized, rusty truck spring engulfed in flames).

Other standout design elements include a large quote from Virginia Woolf emblazoned on the wall above the kitchen that reads: "One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well."

Duly noted.

One night, with our kids at a baby-sitter, my wife and I grabbed a booth in the bar during happy hour, which runs from 3 to 6 p.m. (and again from 9 p.m. to closing). This is a good time to score a $6 martini (usually $8.50), especially if it's dry, cloudy and made with Bombay gin. I got it just the way I like it.

The menu has a breakout section that offers two courses (appetizer and entrée) for $18, another good value in these postrecession times. My wife decided on this package deal.

She started with artichoke frites, a plate of corn meal-coated and deep-fried artichoke hearts served with garlicky aioli and brick-red romesco (pureed tomato sauce with roasted red pepper, garlic and almonds). I couldn't keep my hands off these delicious morsels, to her dismay.

Her main course, a bacon-wrapped pork ribeye crowned with tangy peach-raisin chutney, had the potential to be a little dry, as is the case with pan-seared pork. But this succulent rib steak, plated with crisp sautéed zucchini and chive-flecked mashed potatoes, was juicy and bursting with flavor.

As for me, I went for the crab mac and cheese ($19.99), a big bowl of spiral macaroni with noticeable pieces of blue crab lump meat, crispy bacon, chopped tomato and chives in a rich Alfredo-like sauce fortified with goat and jack cheeses - topped with crunchy bread crumbs.

Our friendly server recommended the drunken donuts ($6.99) as a sweet conclusion. And she wasn't kidding. These powered sugar-flocked orbs of fried dough came with three super-sweet dipping sauces spiked with liqueur: Amaretto crème anglaise, Irish cream dark chocolate sauce and caramel sauce with sour apple schnapps, to be exact.

We brought the kids back for lunch a few days later.

My son and daughter both like fries and Thai food, so we couldn't go wrong with an order of Twigs signature fries ($7.99) and the Thai chicken pizza ($13.99), a blistered pie with sweet and spicy peanut sauce, tender grilled chicken, mozzarella, julienne red pepper and cabbage slaw.

It's a good pizza, yet some chopped green onions would've really made it pop.

The crispy fries, mixed with basil chiffonade, cayenne and a splash of vinegar, were a hit at the table as well. But the Gorgonzola fondue ($3 extra) was a little roux-heavy for my liking.

Speaking of blue-veined cheese, we were also happy with the blue steak sandwich ($13.99), a crusty, semolina-dusted roll filled with grilled top sirloin (perfectly medium), wispy fried onions, aioli, melty Gorgonzola, lettuce and tomato. The sandwich came with a boring Caesar salad tossed with toasted pecans.

All in all, Twigs puts out surprisingly good food and drink, and the concept is undoubtedly well suited for The Village's eclectic environment.

Email James Patrick Kelly: scene@idahostatesman.com

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