Statesman restaurant critic James Patrick Kelly reviewed dozens of restaurants in 2015. Here are his favorite new Treasure Valley eateries:
Capitol Cellars, 110 S. 5th St., Boise
In March, former Idaho state senators Skip and Melinda Smyser debuted their politics-themed restaurant in the historic Belgravia Building.
They transformed the subterranean space, which was once Mortimer’s, into an elegant setting to enjoy food and wine that gives a nod to the local agricultural scene.
Chef Dave Shipley’s menus speak to the season with the likes of osso buco, blueberry cognac-braised bison short ribs, and a pan-seared salmon roulade with lemon-chervil butter sauce.
Phone: (208) 344-9463
Main Street Deli, 904 W. Main St., Boise
This daytime deli opened in March on Main Street, thus the name, in the Downtown business district. While the name doesn’t leave much to the imagination, owner Grant Rosendahl takes his deli concept in a hyper-local direction with a small menu of scratch soups, healthy salads and sandwiches.
You won’t find any shiny deli cases with big jars of dill pickles on top, but Main Street Deli gets it right with a lineup of specialty sandwiches that includes a Vietnamese-style banh mi, a veggie BLT (made with tempeh bacon) and a delicious sous-vide-cooked pastrami sandwich.
Phone: (208) 386-3354
Rotary Sushi, 10506 W. Fairview Ave., Boise
What goes around, comes around at this modernized sushi joint that debuted in May in a generic-looking strip mall.
During lunch and dinner hours, the quirky sushi chefs stay busy loading color-coded plates onto the conveyor-belt system that skirts the circular sushi bar. Don’t worry if you miss your favorite nigiri, sashimi or fusion roll, because chances are that it will pass by again at nose level in a minute.
Go for the octopus nigiri, which looks like an alabaster flower positioned on a pad of vinegary sushi rice, and a spicy scallop roll. Or have the chefs make some tuna poki or an excellent salmon skin salad dotted with bright beads of tobiko.
Phone: (208) 375-3787
Gangnam, 303 N. Orchard St., Boise
This new restaurant stays true to the strange and wonderful cuisine of Korea with all its fire and ferment.
Owners Hee Park and Sukie Cheong played the restaurant equivalent of musical chairs when they decided to move their popular sushi joint, Wasabi, from Orchard Street to East Boise and open a Korean eatery in its place.
Diners start things off with little banchan plates of piquant napa cabbage kimchi, cucumber kimchi, squid in chili sauce, pickled veggies and scallion-flecked savory pancakes.
Make sure to save room for bibimbap, bulgogi beef, grilled kalbi ribs and a nose-clearing kimchi jigae stew.
Phone: (208) 323-8822
Grant’s Neighborhood Grill, 1835 W. Cherry Lane, Meridian
Mike and Rae Grant, who also own Papa Joe’s in Boise, brought farm-to-table cuisine to the suburbs in June when they debuted this diminutive eatery and watering hole on the western fringe of Meridian.
Chef Aaron Sheets uses local foodstuffs well on his all-day menu. Start things off with tempura-fried green beans and a seared slab of sumptuous pork belly with velvety apple-potato puree. Don’t be surprised to find parmesan gnocchi, breadcrumb-crusted macaroni and cheese, and a grilled steak salad with pickled red onions and blue cheese.
Phone: (208) 884-4278
Siam Orchid Thai Restaurant and Sushi, 8716 W. Fairview Ave., Boise
Eddie Kaewkham and his family, who hail from Bangkok, are gracious hosts at this new Thai place in the Shiloh Centre shopping center.
For starters, try the crunchy-good avocado fresh rolls and silky Thai dumplings pinched tightly around a medley of minced chicken, shrimp, scallion and wood mushrooms.
Besides the expected noodle dishes, fried rice and kaffir leaf-kissed soups, entrées include panko-breaded eggplant (with syrupy sweet chili sauce) and a deliciously creamy coconut milk-infused green curry beef.
Phone: (208) 871-6371
Le Coq d’Or, 176 S. Rosebud Lane, Eagle
Opulence is an understatement when referring to the French-inspired Chateau des Fleurs, which debuted in October next to the Camille Beckman corporate headquarters along Idaho 44.
Executive chef Franck Bacquet, who was born in northern France, puts out farm-to-table French cuisine at this dinner-only restaurant. Many of the dishes come from time-honored recipes, while others exhibit more modern flair.
Go traditional with garlicky escargot maison and French onion soup au gratin. Coq au vin (game hen in red wine sauce with duck bacon) and monkfish Provencal are delightful choices as well.
More contemporary offerings include sumptuous truffle ravioli and, if you’re lucky, a pan-seared bison strip loin draped with Barolo wine demi-glace.
Phone: (208) 947-2840
Mekong Fresh Noodle and Grill, 520 S. Meridian Road, Meridian
Take a little trip to Southeast Asia at this new lunch and dinner eatery in the Meridian Marketplace near Meridian Speedway.
The menu makes stops all over the Indochina Peninsula, but the Laotian dishes stand out the most. Owners Aaron and Lottie Boutsomsi pay homage to their homeland of Laos with specialties from up and down the Mekong River.
Do yourself a favor and order the pun nem noung, a large platter of grilled ground pork skewers, lettuce cups, rice noodles, pickled veggies, and sprigs of purple-stemmed basil and mint.
Another tasty pick is the mok pa, a traditional banana leaf-wrapped catfish dish cooked in gooey sticky-rice water perfumed with lemongrass and scallion.
Mekong Fresh also serves Vietnamese offerings such as pho (beef noodle soup) and a crusty banh mi sandwich, not to mention Thai-inspired noodles.
Phone: (208) 908-6191
Wild Root Café and Market, 276 N. 8th St., Boise
In November, chef Michael Trebbi and his wife, Anne-Marie, debuted a hip daytime concept in the former Yokozuna Teriyaki spot on bustling 8th Street.
Here, diners can score ingredient-focused breakfast and lunch offerings made with a profusion of local foodstuffs. Nuance is the name of the game with a Southwest-inspired egg scramble, a veggie skillet with wild mushrooms and kale, and Toast and Jam, a long plank of grilled baguette with smoky pieces of pork belly, fragrant date preserves and two sunny side-up eggs.
During lunchtime, expect to find an always-changing selection of soups, inventive sandwiches and a delicious beet salad with puffs of fresh goat cheese and maple-balsamic vinaigrette.
Phone: (208) 856-8956
Grit American Cuisine, 360 S. Eagle Road, Eagle
Chef Paul Faucher and Porterhouse Market’s Dave Faulk joined forces for this casual lunch and dinner restaurant, which opened in November next to Albertsons at the corner of Eagle Road and State Street.
The all-day menu celebrates America’s regional cuisines, ranging from New York City to Nashville to the French Quarter of New Orleans. The gas-fired pizza oven gets used for more than just blistering specialty pies; fire-roasted fingerling potatoes and alder-plank spicy shrimp (with caper-tarragon remoulade) pick up smoky flavors from the scorching oven.
Besides seasonal salads, daily soups and fat sandwiches, entrées include creamy beef stroganoff, chicken potpie and seafood cioppino that’s straight out of San Francisco.
Phone: (208) 576-6666
Email James Patrick Kelly: firstname.lastname@example.org