The past few years, there’s been a lot of doom and gloom. Heartbreaking stories of lost jobs, businesses and homes. Perhaps that’s what makes it all the more special when two guys go out on a limb and open not only a new restaurant, but a totally new concept to the Boise dining scene. Those two men are Remi McManus and Jay Henry and the restaurant is State & Lemp.
The concept is a set menu – one offering of a five course prix fixe menu. We made our reservation online, but shortly after Remi followed up with a phone call to confirm the reservation and also ask if there were any dietary restrictions that they could accommodate. My friend, while not religious about being gluten free, prefers to limit it when possible so that note was made.
The restaurant space is sort of a strange triangle shaped building on a busy road – State Street. It has been a multitude of things including a hot dog shop, a couple Mexican restaurants, and most recently a wine store. To say that they have transpired the space might be the understatement of the year. Long wiped away are the terra cotta tiles and yellow walls, replaced by warm gray tones and artistic touches everywhere from the Edison light bulbs on the ceiling to the original artwork throughout. There has been attention to detail all around. The gorgeous wood tables and chairs were made locally from salvaged wood. If you look closely, note that the grain continuously flows from one table to the next. There is a collection of sparkling lead glass pitchers and decanters all gathered from local thrift stores that have been given a second life. And once inside, you sort of don’t feel like you’re in Boise, let alone just feet from a busy thoroughfare.
We are greeted at the door, coats are taken and champagne presented to transition us from our day into the experience ahead. The restaurant is small – only seating maybe 20 or 24 people. We chatted with fellow diners before Rami rang a crystal bell and we all took our chairs. Currently there’s only one seating a night at 6:30 pm and only four nights a week – Wednesday through Saturday. I believe they will add a second seating on weekend nights beginning in November.
Chef Jay has worked to forge relationships with many local farmers and purveyors. The menu will change every 2 to 3 weeks based on what is available and seasonal to Idaho and the Pacific Northwest.
An amuse bouche arrives on a small square plate. One bite of sweet potato chip and pickled chanterelle mushroom topped with grilled corn.
We had added the wine pairing menu to our meal so the first glass was poured – 2010 Maison Kuentz-Bas, Alsace “Tradition” Gewurztraminer – and a shallow dish with a few perfect dumplings arrived, the waiter pouring hot parsnip soup over the top tableside. If I knew parsnips could taste like this, I would have been eating far more of them. The soup was creamy, the dumplings pillowy and there was the lovely crunch of some fennel found at the bottom of the bowl.
The waitstaff is so smooth you almost don’t realize when dishes come and go, water is refilled and wine poured.
Locally made potato bread with honey butter appears along with the next wine – 2012 Guild Winemakers, Columbia Valley White Wine – to accompany a beet & pear salad with goat cheese and an almond tuile (candied almonds for my gluten free friend). The dish is stunning and delightfully tastes as good as it looks.
The fourth course was a perfectly cooked scallop sitting on cauliflower puree with smoked sunchokes topped with pickled mustard seeds. If I didn’t think it improper, I may have picked up the plate and licked it. The wine pairing for this course came from one of my favorite local wineries, Cinder – their 2012 “Dry” Viognier.
Next up rack of lamb from Meadowlark Farms in Nampa. It was accompanied by sous vide carrots, eggplant and chickpeas with a tangy roasted red pepper sauce. Our wine pairing for this course was 2011 Syncline Cellars, Columbia Valley Grenache. I chased the sauce around to soak it all up with my perfectly cooked meat.
Little crystal dessert wine glasses are placed in front of us – a collection of different sizes and shapes also scored from local thrift stores – and filled with 2011 Domaine de Durban, Muscat de Beaumes-de-Venise. Soon after arrive the individual apple tart for me and a gluten free apple crisp for my dining companion, both served with housemade cinnamon ice cream. There was a smoked salted caramel sauce which again left me wishing that plate licking wasn’t so inappropriate.
For a town driven seemingly by a love of pub food, is State & Lemp going to seem expensive to a lot of people? At $75 for the dinner and an additional $30 for the wine pairing, I’m thinking so. But is it really that expensive when you consider all that goes into it? And is it worth it? Without a doubt. There is truly nothing like this on the Boise dining scene. If you love beautiful food you should go see for yourself because State & Lemp won’t disappoint.