I understand downtown Boise's need for a makeover. I've been mistaken for a Brother Speed biker, a repairman and a Taco Bell night shifterall while doing my day (and night) job. In med school, campus security hassled me while I was napping under a tree because they thought I was homeless. And just recently, while I was walking in my neighborhood, a landscaper offered me money because he figured I was destitute. So I certainly don't begrudge Boise its most recent attempt at reclamation, BoDo. And with a tenant like Bistro @ BoDo, you might say that I'm even enthusiastic.
Unlike BoDo, the Bistro is refreshingly subtle, which sadly may be their undoing. At work here is Boise's Law of Inverse Proportions, which states that the larger the SUV, the smaller the blonde driving it, but a lesser-known application holds that the busier the restaurant, the worse it is. That is because you, dear reader, consistently demonstrate a mystifying proclivity for patronizing thematic chain restaurants and gleefully consuming their garbage in large quantities. Your behavior must change, so read on.
To enjoy the Bistro, you must be patient and have an appreciation for the sublime. Unlike your beloved chains, the Bistro actually prepares your food after you place your request. The environment is cloistered and quiet, with black and white photos lining the red brick walls. Soft jazz delicately sprinkled the air during each of my three visits, and the service blended seamlessly into my repasts.
Prior to dinner, I was served with an amuse-bouche of smoked salmon, roasted red pepper, wild mushroom, Parmesan and creme fraise. I then embraced a roasted pear salad that was distinctive for its employment of an uncommon selection of greens. My main course of Chimay braised beef short ribs was easily dissected by the lazy coercion of my fork and permissive to the more assertive cabbage and wild mushrooms over which the meat lay. A dessert of lime cheesecake was, remarkably, identifiable by scent alone.
The Bistro also serves brunch, and I had occasion to try both a baby spinach, blue cheese and leek frittata, and a seared albacore club. The frittata was light and tangy, yet indulgently lush. Even those of you who welcomed the arrival of IHOP with a joy normally reserved for births, bowl bids and bowel movements would approve of the frittata. I thought the accompanying potatoes were a bit dry, however. The albacore sandwich was brought to life with smoked bacon and a bouncy lemon aioli.
The Bistro will have trouble standing out in BoDo. So defuse your grill, shut off your TV, ignite that locomotive in the garage and head to BoDo. Walk past the place with the big horses that smells like soy sauce (they have enough customers) and recline in the good graces of the Bistro. After all, looks can be deceiving.
Waj Nasser now gets his hair cut every six weeks.
Bistro @ BoDo, 409 S. 8th St., 345-0452. Tue.-Fri.: 11 a.m.-2 p.m., Tue.-Sat.: 5 p.m.-9 p.m., Sat.-Sun.: 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m.