Chandlers recently celebrated 10 years in Downtown Boise.
That may not seem like a major achievement to your average diner, but considering most restaurants don’t make it more than a couple of years, it’s kind of a big deal.
Even more impressive is the fact that the global-inspired steak and seafood restaurant — situated on the ground floor of Hotel 43 — has weathered the storm of the Great Recession, as other high-end eateries folded during that disastrous economic downturn and its aftermath.
Chandlers, owned by longtime restaurateur Rex Chandler, honored its decade in business earlier this year by giving the space a major renovation, most notably an extensive makeover to the lounge and martini bar areas. The first thing you will notice is the 164-square-foot expansion that faces out to a curvy stretch of Grove Street. Now the bar area is bright and open thanks to a pinnacle of large windows that let the cityscape into the swanky environs.
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The kitchen also received a substantial overhaul, giving it much-needed modernization. This gives executive chef Luis Flores and his staff a more efficient workspace to feed the hungry diners who flock to the restaurant and bar on a nightly basis.
It’s no secret that Chandlers has high prices — after all, it’s one of the poshest restaurants in the Boise area — but good deals on food and drinks can be found in the lounge for those not looking for a full-blown dining experience. This is where you can order from an affordable Social Hour menu (4 to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday) and a Late-Night Supper menu (11 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday) designed to sate the nightcap crowd. Plus, you can hear live jazz every evening in the lounge.
The Social Hour menu features a short list of small bites designed to play well with the inventive cocktails and award-winning wine list.
The Mini Tower of Tuna ($8) is legendary in these parts. During happy hour you can get a scaled-down plate (compared to the regular menu version) with a cylindrical-shaped obelisk that flaunts a stratum of fresh-as-can-be raw ahi and hamachi tuna, chopped tomato, avocado, finely minced red onion, red pepper flakes and sesame vinaigrette. Two surprisingly sweet sesame seed tuiles (think crackers) get leaned against the colorful tower for scooping everything up.
Continue down the Pan-Asian path to the Teriyaki Bites ($7), two skewers linked with grilled, gingery New York steak chunks (with sesame seeds seared into the tender meat), red bell pepper and onion.
Beef eaters would be remiss not to try the melt-in-your-mouth prime beef meatballs ($7), bathed in a bright tomato sauce redolent of dried red chiles and herbs, served with crispy truffled pomme frites (think French fries) about the size of shoestrings.
As the name suggests, the Italian-inspired frutti di mare salad ($9) comes from the sea. A bed of curly frisee chicory greens gets topped with a tangle of lightly cooked scallops, shrimp and calamari (a tad bit chewy one night), mingled with fresh mint and julienne red bell pepper, mango and red onion — tossed in tangy white balsamic vinaigrette.
Noteworthy libations on the Social Hour drink menu include a spicy twist on a salted-rim margarita called the Anchorita ($8/served on the rocks) and the Hesitation cocktail ($8), a well-balanced drink made with rye whiskey, aromatic Swedish liqueur and fresh lemon juice — shaken and served up in a martini coupe.
The prices on the regular bar food menu are on par with other fine-dining establishments in the Boise area. Like the Social Hour menu, it boasts an array of appetizers that cull inspiration from the Pacific Northwest, Asia and various locales in Europe.
For instance, steak tartare ($16) will probably remind diners of their trip to France. A puck-shaped mound of glistening raw beef (hand-chopped beef tenderloin, to be exact) is formed with minced capers, chives and shallot, encircled by spears of crisp romaine hearts and crostini made from Gaston’s Bakery baguette. A raw freckled quail egg gets perched on top, meant to be drizzled and stirred into the beef before consuming.
Cooking seafood is a delicate process, and Chandlers has shown diners in the last decade that it knows how to cook shellfish and finfish right. And that means not overcooking the seafood and making sure it doesn’t hang around in the reach-in refrigerator for too many days.
While the moules frites ($16) have an unmistakable French influence, the tender and plump mussels (from Penn Cove on Washington’s Whidbey Island) take off in a Southeast Asian direction thanks to a broth of green curry, ginger and white wine. The lightly cooked bivalves — hiding out in their ebony-hued shells — get topped with a heap of crispy truffled fries, which soak up the fragrant broth.
Oysters Rockefeller ($17) is about as old-school as it gets when it comes to American-style seafood. This throwback starter consists of six freshly shucked Pacific Oysters (from Washington’s Puget Sound) that get quickly baked on the half shell with layers of wilted spinach, finely chopped red bell pepper and lemony hollandaise sauce, with a lingering licorice essence of Pernod liqueur.
These appetizers play well with a 10-Minute Martini, invented by renowned bartender Pat Carden. Try a super-smooth Blue Icebreaker ($13) made with Idaho Blue Ice Potato Vodka and Dolin Dry Vermouth, strained and served with Spanish olives.
As you can see, there’s a reason why Chandlers has persevered over the years. The exceptional food, drinks and service keep diners coming back.
Statesman reviewers pay for their meals and attempt to dine anonymously. Email James Kelly: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Address: 981 W. Grove St., Boise
Hours: Social Hour 4 to 6 p.m. Monday-Friday; Late Night Supper 11 p.m. to midnight Friday and Saturday; and the dining room is open 5:30 to 10 p.m. nightly.
Menu price range: Social Hour menu: $7-$9; regular bar menu $12-$37; Late Night Supper menu $9-$43.
Libation situation: An extensive, award-winning wine list that features labels from around the globe (with plenty of wines from Washington, Oregon and Idaho), draft and bottled beers, martinis galore and other classic and contemporary cocktails.
Kid friendly? No
Wheelchair accessible? Yes