I'd heard rumors there was a new restaurant in downtown Nampa that I should try, but it generally takes more cajoling to get me out of Boise on a school night in the middle of winter than the promise of good food. Good wine list, too? OK, perhaps I could be tempted.
Descending into the walkout basement that houses Brick 29 Bistro, a pleasing and warm decor greeted my husband and me. Rich hues of espresso, olive and taupe decorate a far wall in perfect vertical stripes, making the 20-foot ceilings seem impossibly high. The rich colors are scattered about the restaurant with nice balance. Both booths and tables seemed comfy although when I slid into a booth, I felt like a small child again, sitting at a table much too tall for me. Seat height really has nothing to do with food, however, so I buried myself in the menu.
The menu was alluring, cohesive and full of so many tempting offerings, it was difficult to choose. My husband and I ordered a plate of herb-crusted calamari steaks with wasabi aioli ($7) to start, a crock of French onion soup ($4.50) and salad of mixed greens, anjou pears, Gorgonzola, candied walnuts, tarragon vinaigrette and crispy fennel ($6). The calamari was good, although it leaned perhaps too much toward breaded rather than herbed, and the wasabi aioli was delightfully smooth and creamy. The salad was wonderful. We both enjoyed the sharp tang of the vinaigrette coupled with the creamy crumbles of Gorgonzola. The pears were crisp, which added a nice texture with the walnuts. The soup lingered too much on the unassuming side; it was a basic crock of soup, not exciting and not memorable.
While we munched on appetizers, I pored over the wine list in amazement. Boasting 69 very modestly priced selections, the wine list is sure to please both wine aficionados and newbies. Offering 28 different wines by the glass at prices starting at $3 and topping off at $12, I knew I would need to try a few. I ordered the Trapiche Malbec, Mendoza from Argentina ($5.50/glass, $21/bottle), based on the recommendation of our server and was very pleased with my choice. My husband, the beer snob, was happy to find they served several Idaho microbrews on tap and ordered a 20-ounce Sun Valley Blonde ($4.50).
For entrees, we tried the catch of the day, which was a basil-crusted filet of Oregon snapper ($16) covered in tomato-caper butter sauce and resting on a bed of mashed red potatoes and green beans. The dish was lovely, presented very well, but tasted a bit over-salted. The filet was cooked well, pan-fried to perfection with a delicate crispiness that was very nice, but the fish failed to compare to the basic flat iron steak ($18) we ordered, which was overwhelmingly good. The Black Angus was house-marinated, open-flame broiled perfectly to our medium-rare specification and covered with a balsamic barbecue sauce. The sauce was delicious, the barbecue unassuming, yet definitely delivered a sharp, tangy flavor from the balsamic. It was our favorite dish of the evening. We ended the night with a white chocolate ganache bread pudding ($4.50) and were disappointed that the serving size was smaller than we'd hoped, especially after tasting it and wishing for a whole platter of it. It was creamy and decadent and worth going back for.
The restaurant's attention to detail emulates big city fine-dining, without any signs of rookie mistakes. Chef/owner Dustan Bristol has good reason to be proud; his downtown Nampa bistro will be the talk of the town, in Boise and beyond.
—Rachel Abrahamson isn't embarrassed to ask for a booster seat.