For a community so supposedly bloated with Basque culture, we don't have that many Basque restaurants. As of late last year, we had just two. So it's inevitable that when a new contender like Leku Ona comes along, it is to be held up and cruelly judged against its peers like so many neutered lambs at the county fair.
Now, just because a good three-quarters of Boise Weekly's "Hey you, you're getting a promotion," "What the hell were you thinking?" or "I'm thirsty" meetings have taken place at that other corner pub doesn't make me an impartial judge of the Basque block's newest one. On the contrary, it portrays a diehard support of Basque food. And I'm happy to contribute some of my disposable income to a culture that has figured out so many ways to use the letter "x" in everyday conversation. The more the mxrrixr.
I visited Leku Ona's bar twice last week. I would have visited the restaurant half, but the menu was the same and the bar had a delicious selection of tapas that snared me like a hooked cod. Tapas, for those of you who don't know, are a regular selection of cheap or free bar food at Spanish or Basque restaurants. The major difference between it and other treats you get at a bar for $1.50 (Reser's pickled eggs and Hot Mamas) is that Leku Ona's are tasty and won't give you worms.
When I popped in for a snort with a coworker late one afternoon, the treats on which I grazed included fried cod on baguette slices, Serrano ham topped with manchego cheese and a delicious little puff of cheese and sliced beef tongue that had me thinking of mugging the chef to get the recipe ... except that I really don't want to have to prepare a tongue myself. Those, with a few spoonfuls of somewhat saffron-light paella (whose lack of seasoning was made up for by having both rabbit and chorizo as ingredients) and a pint of Terminal Gravity IPA made me a happy boy. Leku Ona's interior is mostly wood and stone with plentiful windows, and on that sunlit afternoon, it provided an ideal embrace for peaceful conversation and watching U.S. Open tennis on two flatscreen TVs.
When I stopped by the next night at 9:30 p.m. with a fellow nocturnal adventurer, the tapas baskets were still open for business. Along with more salty Serrano goodness, we melted over some light-as-air croquettes, rice-stuffed red peppers in a tart tomato sauce and white asparagus spears with a side of uniquely spiced mayonnaise--this is European cuisine, which means pro-mayo. Alas, they were out of a savory leek and cheese pie that sounded intriguing, but our surprisingly attentive (given the amount of business she juggled) server let us know it would be back. So will we.
Leku Ona's take on old world snacks makes it a fantastic addition to Boise. If the pub were a sheep at the fair, I'd tell it, "Ewe'll fit in nicely." Then it would butt me in the croquettes for making such a lame pun.
Nixolas Coxxias can't play the xylophone to save his axx.
Leku Ona, 117 S. 6th St., 345-6665. Mon.-Sat.: 11 a.m.-2 p.m., 5-10 p.m., Happy Hour: Mon.:-Sat.: 4-6 p.m.