I admit it: when the Collias party of four entered Borton's, son of Rodizio Grille, son of Peter Schott's, my first inclination was to laugh. The reason: the walls and ceiling of the Idanha Hotel's newest steakhouse look to have been decorated by way of an exploding antique store. Dozens of woven baskets line the ceiling like wasp nests. Spinning wheels, horse manicuring tools and sewing machines sit beside diners like the ghosts of old flea markets. Much of this miscellany is leftover from Rodizio, while some (I don't recall the garish framed photos of mountain bikes; maybe I repressed them) were tossed up more recently. The motif tying this clutter together is unclear, but I will venture that diners who swankify their outfits in anticipation of Schott's of old will feel overdressed. My customary vegetarian confederate voiced the sentiment more directly: "It looks like Kopper Kitchen threw up in here."
Not wanting to rashly write off what I still hoped to be an enjoyable meal, I put the metaphoric blinders on and focused on Borton's musical selection as we sat down for drinks and apps. Dizzy, Miles and Max Roach provided a stimulating backdrop to a round of proficiently made martinis, accompanied by a basket of tart sourdough rolls. The peach juice-infused cosmo enjoyed by one member of the group received rave reviews, even though the accompanying vessel resembled an ice cream dish more than a martini glass (theft, we learned, has been a problem).
Fearing (rightfully) that the entrée menu would have little to offer our lady of the vegetables, we ordered the solitary meatless appetizer: a beefsteak tomato and fresh mozzarella stack. The tomatoes were delicious and obviously came from good homes, and the vinaigrette drizzled on top was bold and nutty--I'd like to know the recipe. We flesheaters were less pleased with the shrimp cocktail, which was packed with lettuce, thin on cocktail sauce and featured some rather adolescent-looking prawns. I felt guilty cutting their little lives so short. The next course was a big improvement, as all of us selected the house salad--a wonderful relic of Peter Schott's. With generous cashews, hearts of palm and stellar buttermilk vinaigrette atop butter lettuce, this is in my opinion the finest house salad in Boise. Try it before the restaurant's identity metamorphoses once again.
For entrees, we all chose to test the imagination of the kitchen staff--i.e., no steak. Seeing a lamb shank, one of my favorite parts of my favorite animal, my choice was clear. For my 'rents, who were dining with us, seafood orzo and the grilled halibut special. For Count Veggula, a chicken, tomato sauce and penne dish, sans bird. At the end, all but one of us suspected we should have had steak. The shank was dry and overcooked. The orzo was over-creamed to the point of nausea, and a little too fishy-smelling for my liking. The halibut, served in a pleasant saffron vanilla buerre blanc sauce, was derided by mi padre as not fresh. Veggenstein shrugged off her de-meated dish as spicy and palatable but unremarkable.
The prices for these dishes were reasonable (all under $20) and a bottle of Black Opal Australian Shiraz was dirt cheap--only a few dollars over retail. That and the prompt and friendly service helped a little to soften the blow of what was otherwise a mediocre dining experience. I will return for the martini, salad and desert--an excellent crème brulee. Those treats aside, my best memories of eating at the Idanha will remain in the distant past.
--Nicholas Collias' treasured memories involve more pastas than people.