Amid minimalist decor, low booths, acrylic tables and Eames-style wooden chairs, the recent addition of food to the Modern Hotel and Bar fits in like an Eero Saarinen side table. It's not prey to the whims of molecular gastronomy nor is it too much of a nod to vintage. It is instead food in which the sum is equal to its fresh, lovely parts.
The Modern's menu is a short, two-page affair. Dishes are beautifully presented on angular plates that mirror the lines of the hotel's layout like the pavers in the secluded courtyard. The luxury in each menu item comes unassumingly through the austere portions, fine ingredients and savory flavor profiles. Page one of the menu is all appetizers: an array of tartines--little French open faced sandwiches--smoked trout canapes, a mussels and chorizo dish, chicken quesadillas and plates of olives or nuts. Soups, paninis and salads make up the entirety of the entree offerings. The roast beef and mozzarella panini ($9) was a squished, crispy, surprisingly complex sandwich, complemented by crunchy homemade potato chips liberally sprinkled with paprika. The peppery bitterness was grilled out of the arugula and Dijon mustard, grilled cheese and salty lean beef were easily teeth-torn. From a distance, the chicken quesadillas ($8) looked like a smaller version of those offered at almost any chain restaurant but the Modern's attention to detail is something those chains seldom abide. Melty, stretchy aged Gouda and tangy Monterey jack between soft tortillas was lush, and the inclusion of fleshy nuts and a side of creamy, not-too-spicy salsa took the 'dilla in a deluxe direction.
It is on its cocktail menu that Modern's attitude turns toward ostentation--tartines and canapes are inarguably pompous. But braggadocio can be forgiven if it's warranted. Like James Bond, Modern's drink menu swaggers around with its tuxedo-adorned chest puffed out. And like the secret agent, it has earned it.
The Manhattan Mule ($7.50) is a syrupy bourbon, sweet vermouth, lemon juice and house-made ginger beer that sipped beautifully with the panini. The strange-named A Pair Of combined Grey Goose La Poire (pear), grapefruit, lemon, Galliano L'Autentico and sage and gave off bright aromatics as it popped on the tongue.
A new summer cocktail menu will be available soon, but an advance glimpse revealed a selection of classic drinks and Modern seasonal coolers like the Lackadaisy with Torrontes dry white wine, pisco, lemon juice, orange flower water, simple syrup and orange peel; the honey and ginger, cachaca and lime Honey-Ginger Caipirinha; and the anticipated return of the Modern Cocktail, a gin or vodka on the rocks with muddled cucumber, lemon, sugar and fizz. They've also added a Bea Arthur--Highlands scotch, lemon, honey and orange peel. Maybe there's time before the menu gets back from the printer for one more homage: a sexy, flowery pink cocktail named the Rue McClanahan.
--Amy Atkins wants to be a Golden Girl.Boise Weekly sends two reviewers to every restaurant we review. Read what our other reviewer had to say about The Modern Hotel and Bar.