Inside Red Room Tavern, with its underground dance-club-esque cherry colored walls and chrome-and-black furniture is a crazy menu with the words "NINJA BBQ" across the front. It includes painstakingly hand-rubbed, slow-cooked meats at one end, sushi at the other and a melange of items in between, such as chocolate ganache cake, cheddar/Swiss/parm cheese and mac or an artichoke/pesto gruyere dip. Just as I was feeling unable to settle on something, I saw a big, bold, black box announcing "$1.95 HAPPY HOURS!"
From 3-6 p.m., seven days, if you dine in, don't substitute and order a cocktail, you can scoop up one, two or all of the eight items listed for $1.95: Ninja BBQ roll, Dragonslayer sushi roll, Northender roll, mesquite wings, pulled pork slider, tempura bacon strip--what?--hummus and pita, and tempura pickle chips--what the what? My happy-hour date ordered a margarita ($5), so we qualified for entrance into the "under two bills a dish" club. I ordered one of each except for hummus (I recently overdid it and have a hummus hangover).
Before the marg was half gone, our little round table was covered by a strange combination of cold, spicy sushi and greasy, fried finger foods. We each snagged a long strip and bit into the fried bacon. Chewy slices covered in slightly sweet dough--waffle marks and dripping oil giving away the deep-fryer cooking method--were a weird and wonderful mix and tasted like a bacon donut. If Red Room marketed them as "bacon beignets" and sold them by the half-dozen, they'd make a fortune.
The tightly rolled Dragonslayer's jalapeno, scallions and sriracha aioli snuck up on us like black-clad fighters, while the Northender roll was an unremarkable mix of avo, cream cheese, carrot and cucumber. But the Ninja BBQ roll gave us pause. Tempura-dipped, seaweed-wrapped pulled pork, coleslaw and a crispy yam fry topped with a dot of wasabi had a less confusing flavor than I expected although the sapor of seaweed and honeyed barbecue sauce would have been stronger without the batter.
Our sociable, solicitous server told us that the deep-fried dill plate hit the menu about two months ago and quickly became a very popular item. It will be with me, too. Last summer, I ordered a deep-fried pickle at the fair. A giant whole kosher covered in painfully hard cornmeal was impossible to bite through; the chunks that fell to the ground revealed a hot, mushy mess inside. But Red Room's dilly slices were covered in the same soft tempura coating and were a little crunchy, a little springy and a lot delicious. We were knuckle-deep in barbecue sauce from the heavenly pork slider and mesquite wings before we admitted defeat and threw our orange-spotted paper napkins down.
Red Room's menu is a study in randomness and pleasant surprises. If you like staid and stuffy, don't go there.
--Amy Atkins loves a little disorder in her orders.
Boise Weekly sends two reviewers to every restaurant we review. Read what our other reviewer had to say about Red Room Tavern.