You've got to hand it to The Dish. Amid Boise's endless iterations of the pub grub concept, The Dish has taken a risk. Owners Jered Couch and Brian McGill transformed the 10th Street space into something wholly different from its peers and predecessors--a bland sports bar, a kitsched-up cantina and Milky Way, one of Boise's more iconic eateries. But while "different" is a welcome change, it's not quite a cohesive concept.
Pull open the door to the Empire Building's stately hallway and a hostess will guide you past a small bar/lounge with alternating panels of dark and light wood, out onto the throbbing orange patio or into one of the rows of wackily upholstered booths lit by Edison light bulbs. The vibe vacillates between modern, mid-century and Portland vintage, never quite merging the three.
That same fusion chaos also finds its way onto the menu, where it feels more at home. Comfort food staples like baked ravioli and steak and potatoes share space with dishes like blueberry prawns on a Jasmine rice waffle and blue corn crepe crab enchiladas. If you're feeling particularly indulgent, you can add an ounce of foie gras ($8) to any dish.
An order of the pork belly lettuce cups ($10.50), while decadent sounding, was one of the best things I tried. Two slabs of crispy, delightfully fatty pork were served with three leaves of butter lettuce, pickled onions and a salad of minty, half-moon cucumbers in a lightly vinegary dressing. Topped with a drizzle of thick, smoky hoisin sauce and a sweet dollop of bing cherry chili paste, the lettuce cups would've made a perfect lunch but were a hazardous shared appetizer--my date and I had to arm-wrestle for the last cup.
The Lumpia Filipino spring roll ($11.50), had quite the opposite effect. The long, slender, fried roll encased a few dry lumps of duck confit and was served with a too-sweet huckleberry plum sauce. Wiping his hands, my date noted it was like "a pixie stick they put hot dog grease into."
My feelings were also split on the two beet dishes. While the beet home fries ($8.50) had a lovely, whisper-thin coating that held up to repeated plunges in the rich, Japanese-style mayo, the beets on the roasted beet salad ($9)--served with snap peas, pickled fennel, goat cheese, roasted pecans, apple chips and a zippy tarragon vinaigrette--were notably undercooked, distracting from the salad's otherwise interesting flavors and artful presentation. The tempura-coated cauliflower ($8.50)--resting on a bright smear of poblano pepper marmalade and sprinkled with hunks of goat cheese--was also an eye-catcher, but disappointingly soggy.
Thankfully, my "Figgy Piggy" pork chop ($22) was cooked perfectly. The brined chop was tender and well-seasoned, served on a bed of herbed farro with a side of citrusy, spiced carrot puree, pungent quarters of balsamic-coated figs and a confetti sprinkle of Brussels sprout leaves. Overall, it was great transition-into-fall entree. And that seems appropriate, considering I'm interested to see how The Dish transitions its menu--and hones its concept--moving forward.