Sunday, March 27, 2011


BOISE -- Barbacoa is as subtle as a gold-plated Hummer. It's all dark wood, enormous chunks of granite, stacks of wine bottles and exotic liquors, all strategically placed next to a duck pond a short bike ride from downtown Boise.

This is Boise chic, complete with a story. In January of 2010 it burned down, darn near to the ground. It reopened on New Year's Eve the same year, all full of piss and vinegar, which may not be the right phrase for a restaurant, but you get the point.

The cocktails come in ice glasses (not iced glasses -- glasses made of frozen water). It's a gimmick, to be sure, but it does truly keep the drink cold. Anyway, on any given night, Boise's young and hip gather at the Barbacoa, because it has two bars, an inventive menu and, rather shockingly, reasonable prices. In warm weather, the windows next to the duck pond come down and the dining can be done alfresco. 

For heaven's sake, don't go to Barbacoa and order the nachos. Look for the most exotic-sounding items on the menu. We started with a crab-rum-coconut-milk-and-fresh-mint appetizer that was spectacular. Kathleen ordered the trout and I got the sturgeon. Yes, sturgeon -- that ancient monster fish from the depths of the Salmon River. It came on top of a spicy lobster sauce and was a put-down-the-fork-and-savor-the-moment moment.

Dessert, dear reader, was a disappointment Four -- no, six -- dollops of ice cream rolled in Special K and stuck on the end of lollipop sticks, served on what one friend said looks like a weird hookah pipe. Two bucks' worth of ice cream for about $12.

Otherwise, the food is great, prices reasonable (including the wine) and the the setting is over-the-top but comfortable.

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