What was once a humble hotel coffee shop in the former Statehouse Inn has been transformed into a jazzy, upscale steakhouse in the modern boutique hotel that is now named Hotel 43. Chandlers Steakhouse was opened in May 2007 by Rex Chandler, who owns the original Chandler's Restaurant in Ketchum. Since it opened in 1994, the Ketchum Chandler's has earned a good reputation for consistently producing fine Northwest cuisine in a fashionable resort town where hopeful culinary upstarts can come and go as regularly as the change of seasons. While the menu at Chandler's in Ketchum features plenty of fresh seafood and a handful of lamb, elk and beef dishes, the menu at the new Boise steakhouse focuses on prime grade steaks, inventive seafood fare and some lamb and pork. A few signature dishes from the Ketchum kitchen are on the Boise menu, like the Hawaiian ahi ($28), sea scallops ($26) and trout amandine ($27).
The first thing you notice as you enter the dining room at Chandlers Steakhouse is the blue glow that radiates throughout the space. The wine-glass rack above the rectangular bar glows blue, as does a glass wall that acts as both a modern wine cellar and a unique partition to separate the main dining room from the roomy private one. A wall of windows looking out at Grove Street provides diners a street-level view of downtown Boise that grows more electric as the sun goes down. The overall vibe at Chandlers is sophisticated and modern, and is a distinctive complement to Boise's maturing restaurant scene.
Checking out Chandlers on a recent Saturday night, my husband and I had a choice to make: either splurge on a la carte appetizers ($7.50-$14), salads ($6-$8.50), side dishes ($5-$9) and entrees like aged filet mignon ($38), prime grade Kobe-style top sirloin ($29) or South Pacific sea bass ($29); or sample a reasonable number of dishes at a sensible price by selecting an offering from the three-course prix fixe menu ($27), which included soup or salad, entree and dessert. We chose to take the financially sensible route and were not disappointed.
While Boise favorite Kevin Kirk played light jazz on the restaurant piano amid a packed house, our friends, Mark and Susan, joined us for dinner. Mark enjoyed a 10-minute martini ($11) that was poured from an ice-encrusted pint glass into a martini glass at the table. Susan started with a huckleberry martini ($9) while my husband ordered a glass of malbec ($6) and I had a glass of meritage ($10). Mark and Susan ordered a la carte, choosing the Hawaiian ahi and the sea bass for dinner. Since Dan and I chose to order from the prix fixe menu, we started with a small cup of thick corn chowder and a large but basic field green salad with tomato wedges, cucumber slices and tart-tasting vinaigrette that was improved with a few shakes of salt. When our entrees came, my husband enjoyed the tender and juicy braised short rib, but I thought it was under-seasoned. Mark raved about his ruby-red seared ahi with wasabi mashed potatoes. Susan also had a winner in the delectable sea bass, and I enjoyed the tender trout amandine—not a bone in the dish. For dessert, my husband and I shared our prix fixe treats with Mark and Susan. The creamy Grand Marnier chocolate mousse was divine. I savored it, allowing each bite to melt slowly over my tongue. In the disappointing apple-peach-raspberry cobbler, however, the peaches tasted tart and under ripe, and we found only one raspberry in the entire dish. Despite a few minor missteps, our meal was flavorful and the service was friendly and efficient. Hopefully, Chandlers Steakhouse will endure for as long as Chandler's Restaurant in Ketchum has.
—Jennifer Hernandez couldn't think of a clever tagline this week.