I like a good lounge. One that is dark and plush – filled with sofas, and high-backed chairs and maybe a touch of velvet. Where they aren’t bartenders – they are mixologists with an apothecary of jars and droppers from which they masterfully concoct a drink from house-made tinctures and infusions. If you’ve ever been to The Violet Hour in Chicago or The Rose in Jackson, you know the kind of place I mean. A bar where it’s impossible not to be comfortable, with a clientele that’s a little more hip than typical and where conversation begs to be philosophical.
The house rules at the Violet Hour gives you an idea of what I mean.
From the moment the sign went up on the building – The Mode Lounge – smack in the middle of downtown Boise on one of the best people watching corners around, I had high hopes of what it might be like, so when we had an opportunity to go to a preview night, I didn’t need to be asked twice.
We were met at the door and shown to a big, high backed booth where some of our party was already seated. Anxious to get a feeling for what was ahead I started perusing the drink menu. A good selection of wines, but that’s not what I’m here for. Oh no… I want to see what these guys are made of.
Our waitress was personable and helpful in maneuvering us through the cocktail choices, answering questions and giving advice. For my first cocktail, I chose the Aviation – Bols Genevere, lemon, maraschino, creme de violette and lavender brandied cherries (the intrigue of these last two ingredients is what sealed this decision).
A girlfriend got the Corn ‘n Oil – Cruzan Blackstrap Rum, falernum, vanilla molasses, bitters, lime and cucumber-lime ice. Yep. It was delicious and definitely on my list to order on a future visit.
And then the food started coming. Russ, the owner, had stopped by to welcome us, and strongly recommended the steak tartare. Now if this is the dish the head hancho recommends, I’m taking that as a pretty good sign. Plus, where else in Boise can you get steak tartare?
The components came separate, like shown in the photo, but the waitress suggested that the way to do it is to mix it all together. She asked if I’d like to combine it, or if she could do it for me. Hey, I figured she was the professional.
I really liked the cut on the beef being a coarse chop and the addition of the quail egg on the top was a nice touch. For my taste, it was a little under-seasoned – if there were capers in the bite, it was good but if not it seemed to lack salt – and I think maybe it would benefit from just a touch of heat too.
The next dish that came highly recommended was the oysters mignonette. These might have been the biggest oysters on the half shell I have ever seen and I couldn’t decide if that made them all the more decadent or if because I had to cut them in half to eat them even remotely gracefully if that changed the experience of the one fell swoop of the typical slurp. I’d be happy to sit down with another plate of these and debate it though, topped with some more with that fresh and crispy cucumber-Sriracha mignonette.
So many of the cocktails sound so completely interesting it was hard to choose but for my second drink I ordered the Northwest Bird – Barsol Primero Quebranta Pisco, coconut creme, pineapple gimme, egg white and lime-ginger extract (that must have come out of one of those eyedropper jars, right?). A little sweeter than the first drink I had, but totally delicious.
I had just enough room to try one more of the dishes, and the table chose the yellowtail crudo. Our waitress gave us the heads up this dish packed some heat but we told her to bring it on. Well she sure wasn’t joking. For me, the dish was overpowered by the pickled jalapeños. I felt the ratio was off. My husband loved it though and this from a guy who just a couple years ago would have thought cinnamon Altoids were too hot. The knife work on the fish could have been a little cleaner, but I’m sure that will come with time. The blood oranges and mint in the dish offered a nice coolness in juxtaposition to the spiciness.
But back to that opening paragraph – part of the lounge experience to me is the plush comfiness and unfortunately that’s the one thing that was a bit off the night we were there. It was too cool inside and that was exacerbated each time the door opened. The windows were all completely fogged up and it seemed like there should be more couches and less of the dining tables and chairs.
This IS a preview night after all – an opportunity for the staff to practice on understanding friends and family when they might still be using recipe cards to keep it all straight, finessing the dishes and getting used to service in the new place in town.
There is a really beautiful Chandi chandelier which is definitely a step in the lounge-y direction and one that is hopefully followed up with a few of the touches that when paired with the interesting food and inventive cocktails will make this a great place in Boise to lounge.