A Peek Inside State & Lemp 

Seasonal pre-fixe concept shakes up State Street

Jay Henry is hunched over a flat-top frying local egg whites into thin, perfectly round pancakes. Nearby, a Sous-Vide machine cooks the yolks slowly in a bath of warm water. The yolks will eventually get doused in smoke oil--literally oil that's been placed in a pan inside an electric smoker--and the eggs will get reconstructed atop a frisee salad tossed with leek ash vinaigrette.

And that's just one of five pre-fixe courses that State & Lemp's kitchen will churn out over the course of the evening.

"We need to have innovative ways to do things because of how our service is set up," said Henry, executive chef and co-owner of State & Lemp. "We're not grilling 20 steaks to order for one dinner. There's just no way that's ever going to work for the type of thing we are."

On most nights, State & Lemp serves around 20 guests per seating. But because 20 of each course--comprised of up to 12 delicately assembled, seasonal ingredients each--have to come out at the exact same time, the kitchen spends six to seven hours a day prepping for service.

The small kitchen puts its Sous-Vide, juicer and dehydrator to good use--the restaurant's mid-February menu also included sous vide beef tenderloin served with a sauce of juiced kimchi and beef stock, and scallops tossed in dehydrated kimchi pulp.

"So we're getting the kimchi flavor on there without actually putting wet cabbage on the plate," said Henry.

An array of other odd powders line one kitchen shelf--tomato, parsnip, beet, honey, peanut butter--even a waxy duck fat powder mixed with maltodextrin that melts as soon as it hits your tongue.

"We don't throw anything away, so we just store up powders," explained cook Kris Komori.

In State & Lemp's small parlor room adjacent to the main dining room, a vintage shelf boasts dozens of jars of veggies--pickled watermelon rind, butternut squash, chanterelle mushrooms--all suspended in murky liquid.

"Every time we get done with a vegetable or something that goes through the menu and we have extra, they just pickle it, can it or ferment it," said Remi McManus, general manager and co-owner. "We use those in the dishes; they'll extend them into the next menu or a month later or two months later."

That waste-not ethos extends to State & Lemp's physical space, as well. The back wall of the naturally lit dining room is comprised of old oak and mahogany crown molding that McManus and Henry glued together and painted gray. The pair also recycled a couple of old doors from the Cathedral of the Rockies and turned them into swinging kitchen doors. All of the dining room tables are handmade from reclaimed pine and fir that's been bonded together.

"We wanted to show how pretty or elegant a really simple thing can be. And that's one of the things that we do with the food, as well," said McManus.

Though State & Lemp's price tag is steep by Boise standards--$75 per person, with the option of adding a $30 wine pairing--diners seem to have taken to the concept.

"Instead of everyone sitting down and looking at the menu and talking for the first 20 minutes on, 'What are you going to get?' you can just go right into conversation," said McManus. "Everyone knows what they're getting so sometimes it's quite refreshing; it can be a load lifted off your shoulders."

While State & Lemp does cater to dietary restrictions, whipping up gluten-free and vegetarian alternatives upon request, most patrons are served the exact same thing at the exact same time. And that shared culinary experience often leads to conversations and even new friendships.

"We've had times where people have made a future reservation with the people that they met that night," said McManus. "So it's kind of our own Boise social experiment."

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