43° North 

Once upon a time, the only fine dining available was in downtown Boise. But as the population center has shifted west over the past decade, the demand for great restaurants has allowed fine dining establishments to thrive in Eagle and Meridian. One such place relatively new on the scene is the 43º North Restaurant.

On a busy Saturday evening, barely managing to score a reservation for our desired time slot, my dining companion and I got gussied up for the drive to Meridian and the hope of a great meal. We weren't disappointed.

The restaurant has high ceilings, a wine bar with tables sparingly spaced to avoid a crowded feeling. The earth tones and amber hues of the artwork adorning the walls give a rich and warm feeling to the place. I was particularly fond of the curved glass elements on the partition, in which were placed small candles. The flickering light was inviting and beautiful.

Arriving at the beginning of the dinner rush, we were seated at our table and promptly addressed by Patch, our waiter. Patch is a handsome man, well-mannered and delightfully coiffed with a well-trimmed goatee. We liked his effervescent personality as he described the specials for the evening. They sounded delicious, but we decided to go with items off the regular menu.

After the corking of a nice bottle of Pinot Noir, the appetizers we'd ordered--roast carrot soup and duck confit--arrived. The soup, drizzled with local lavender honey, filled our noses with a hearty aroma. The honey and light hints of lavender tingled our taste buds. Although the soup was delicious, I thought the boneless duck leg confit with purple potato cakes and a light dollop of a pear and port syrup was divine. It didn't take us long to clean our plates, and it didn't take Patch long to remove our empty dishes in preparation for our entrees.

My dinner companion's order of jumbo sea scallops with lemon pepper fettuccine--which Patch informed us is handmade--with a wild mushroom cream sauce was delicious. The scallops (which can be so easily overcooked) were grilled to perfection with a sprig of rosemary. We had initially asked Patch if we could substitute rice for the fettuccine due to a dietary concern. He was happy to accommodate. It's always a good sign that a waiter will accommodate the request of a customer and that the chef in the back is willing to alter a carefully planned dish. But after an impromptu, live-action dining therapy session we decided to stick with the fettuccine, and in the end, we were glad. Patch was gracious and didn't show so much as a hint of being annoyed with us although he had every right to be. Patch was, well, down with it.

I ordered grilled filet mignon, which arrived carefully balanced on a crispy truffle polenta cake and topped with blue cheese butter. It was cooked to just the right temperature, and I couldn't have asked for better. Both entrees were worth the journey from Boise and for those readers who live in Meridian, they sure are lucky to have a great fine dining experience right in their neighborhood.

--Bingo Barnes loves to fill his nose with hearty aromas.

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