As far as chefs go, Richard Langston is a well-liked guy. Not only is he genuinely friendly (chefs are known to be a little surly), but his Northwest-accented Mediterranean fare has earned him a loyal fan base over the years at his North End eateries.
Surely you remember when he had Richard’s in Hyde Park. He followed that venture with Richard’s Café Vicino near the Boise Co-op, a popular neighborhood spot where he garnered accolades from the James Beard Foundation for his use of local food and ingredient-driven cuisine. Langston was a 2014 semifinalist for a prestigious award in the Best Chef: Northwest category.
Even though Langston felt at home in the tree-lined North End, he always had his eye on a larger, hipper spot in the bustling Downtown area.
His culinary dreams came to fruition last month when he debuted Richard’s (without the Café Vicino part of the name) at the Inn at 500 Capitol, a newly constructed boutique hotel next to The Flicks movie theater.
Richard’s recent incarnation has an elegant, upscale vibe, yet it remains casual by design. For instance, you won’t find any white linen on the tables, and the knowledgeable black-clad servers are quick to strike up conversation about any topic (save politics and religion, of course).
The décor, with its raisin and cream-colored hues, has a big-city feel. The windows that face Myrtle Street help bathe the marble-topped bar and dining room in natural light. Long wine barrel staves seemingly hang in the air in front of the partially exposed kitchen, where cooks in crisp, white chef coats work the hot line.
Langston is known for sourcing locally produced food for his seasonal menus, which primarily focus on impeccably prepared regional Italian fare. Inspiration also comes from Spain, North Africa and other parts of the western Mediterranean.
The dynamic has changed for Langston with his new venture, mostly because the restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner on a daily basis. (Café Vicino was open for lunch and dinner only). After all, it’s a restaurant in a hotel, not a neighborhood eatery anymore. Richard’s also serves weekend brunch from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
At night, the current menu features lots of foodstuffs that one would expect to find on a winter menu in this part of the country. I’m talking about sweet potatoes, winter squashes and hearty greens.
The Gorgonzola-stuffed figs ($6) are an excellent way to prime your palate. Four chewy, dried golden figs (filled with creamy blue-veined cheese) get wound tightly with fresh basil leaves and thinly sliced prosciutto before being placed in a scorching oven. The little flavor bombs boast an interplay of sweet and salty, set off by an underlying drizzle of local honey.
Follow that appetizer with delicately fried Pacific sole fillets ($11), tender and flaky under a light flour breading, topped with bright and chunky peperonata relish dotted with capers. The golden fish sticks, if you will, were served across a velvety puddle of preserved lemon aioli.
As expected, Richard’s dishes up plenty of house-made pasta, risotto and gnocchi with seasonal flair. While the spinach fettuccini ($18) was on the verge of being too salty one night, the al dente tangle of green-hued pasta had its merits with cubes of butternut squash, pancetta bits and a dollop of fresh goat cheese, which quickly turns into a cream sauce with a turn of the fork.
Entrées run the gamut from seafood dishes to various thick-cut chops to a grilled quail preparation ($29) that will have you thinking about Algeria. Quail has the propensity to be dry at some restaurants, but that’s not the case here, where the little chirpers are tender to the bone. Two split and flame-marked birds came perched on a pile of roasted carrots and fingerling potatoes (tossed in clingy lemon-mint yogurt) and peppery harissa sauce redolent of cumin and other spices. To further the piquant profile, two pickled shishito peppers get placed on top.
In terms of dessert, the brief breakout menu has enough Italian-inspired sweet treats ($8) to keep diners interested till the end. But it’s obvious the kinks are still getting worked out, as evidenced by a problematic caramel-chocolate tart (zigzagged with bright berry coulis and crème anglaise) that was difficult to cut due to its rock-hard layer of dark chocolate.
Lunchtime is when you will find an array of sandwiches alongside a few items from the dinner menu.
Do yourself a favor and start things off with a scallop appetizer ($6.50), a properly seared weathervane scallop (nice and wiggly in the center) placed on a mound of silky sweet potato puree, finished with verdant cilantro pesto that flaunts a little spice on the backbeat.
Ordering a stuffed piquillo pepper ($8) will get you a nutty-tasting arugula salad (tossed with orange segments and sprouted almonds in tangy sherry vinaigrette) flanked by a roasted sweet piquillo pepper oozing herbaceous warm goat cheese.
Acme Bakeshop makes the baguettes, ciabatta and focaccia for the restaurant, including a custom-made rosemary-flecked walnut roll ($12.75) that exhibits a stratum of tender, grilled chicken breast, roasted red bell pepper and gooey Gorgonzola. The sandwich, upon request, comes with a cup of pureed tomato soup perfumed with fresh basil, a signature soup dating back to Richard’s Hyde Park days.
Even though Richard’s still appears to be in fine-tuning mode, it’s safe to say the restaurant is off to a confident start. This comes as no surprise, though, considering Langston’s vast experience and knowledge.
Statesman reviewers pay for their meals and attempt to dine anonymously. Email James Kelly: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Address: 500 S. Capitol Blvd., Boise
Phone: (208) 472-1463
Hours: Breakfast 7 to 10:30 a.m. Monday-Friday, 7 to 9 a.m. Saturday and Sunday; brunch 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday; lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday-Friday; dinner 5 to 10 p.m. nightly. Bar open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Menu price range: appetizers, soups and salads $4-$16; pasta dishes and entrées $12-$40
Libation situation: Mostly European and American labels, with emphasis on Italian wines and bottles from California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho. There’s a rotating selection of four craft beers on tap, and bottled European and Northwest brews. Cocktails are all about hand-mixed negronis, martinis and manhattans, in addition to newfangled craft concoctions.
Kid friendly? Yes, if your kid is a foodie.
Wheelchair accessible? Yes
Opened: January 2017