Angell's Bar and Grill 

On the plate of Reviewer No. 1

Angell's Bar and Grill has been a Boise haunt for more than 20 years, serving up Northwest classical cuisine from its semi-subterranean location. When the landmark restaurant came under new ownership and announced it was undergoing a makeover with an African safari theme, I wasn't the only one who was a bit nervous.

But my fears of a cheesy theme decor were put largely to rest this spring when I made my first visit to the newly reopened restaurant. Angell's managed to maintain a casual classiness while upping the hip-quotient with smatterings of bamboo, plants, assorted animal prints and an occasional spear. More importantly, the food was still memorable, tasteful and beautiful without being pretentious. The menu is filled with familiar items from the Northwestern grocery list, but hipped-up with additions of ingredients like currants, roasted pine nuts, mangoes and wasabi.

The same proved true during a recent lunch outing. It was surprisingly packed on a Tuesday afternoon, and tables full of the suit-and-tie crowd were nice to see amid reports of the languishing restaurant business.

Lunch fare at Angell's consists of the standard soup, salad and sandwiches, but with the kind of artistic touches required to stand out from the franchise masses.

While the pear and chicken salad ($8.50) held the promise of bacon, along with pine nuts and currants, the biting wind outside drove me to the warmth and heartiness of the sandwich.

A French dip sandwich ($9) is something I take very seriously, and have been too often disappointed by gristly meat, flavorless bread and au jus that is more akin to a salt lick than the rich broth it's supposed to be. Thankfully, I was not disappointed. The prime rib was sliced to extreme thinness and was so tender it gave way easily to the slightest bite. The accompanying horseradish sauce was also a pleasant surprise. It was no weak-willed, watered-down condiment with a kick. Nope, this one had just enough burn to smolder in your sinuses. The addition of a just-salty-enough, beefy au jus topped off the meal along with seasoned fries that managed to shrug off any hint of oil.

My date opted for the fish and chips ($8.50). The three generous hunks of Alaskan cod came in a wonderfully thin, crunchy ale batter that gave the fish a complete coating without throwing off the fish-to-batter ratio. The flaky, non-oily fish was accented by a housemade lemon aioli tartar sauce that had a welcomed tang.

Checking out the plates in front of other diners, we were pleasantly surprised by the gracious portions, as well as the balance of beauty and simplicity of each meal. Now that I've tried both lunch and dinner, a further visit to explore tapas and cocktails at Angell's may be in order.

--Deanna Darr likes an African safari where she's not on the menu.

Boise Weekly sends two reviewers to every restaurant we review. Read what our other reviewer had to say about Angell's Bar and Grill

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