Copper Canyon 

On the plate of Reviewer No. 1

Copper Canyon restaurant is an integral element of downtown Nampa's ambiance: part old-school (the Yesteryear Shoppe), part new-school cool (Flying M Coffeegarage). High booths, low tables, sunset-colored decor=old school. A tofu dish on the menu=new school. While that can provide for an interesting experience, it can also symbolize a little chaos.

The mushroom torte appetizer (full size, $9.95) advertised mushrooms, Gruyere cheese and spinach topped with a tomato basil cream and sided with tempura-battered mushrooms. Unfortunately, Gruyere didn't raise its head, but it may have been lost in the tangy, aromatic puddle of cream sauce that we spooned up like soup. The torte tasted unmistakably of cinnamon, nutmeg or maybe Chinese five spice, but our server returned from the kitchen to say that salt, pepper, thyme and tarragon were the only spices.

A large bowl of thick, yellowy salmon chowder brightened our tastebuds as we chewed big chunks of perfectly cooked potato and celery and fleshy hunks of fish. The few crispy croutons that floated at the surface added a pleasantly surprising crunch not often encountered in a seafood soup.

The entrees arrived on a mixed-matched service--a mix of china and pottery--and we, again, discussed what might be considered a lack of focus. Plentiful piles of broccoli and/or carrots decorated each dish. They added color, but a less-is-more approach might let other dishes on the plate stand out better. A thick, flaky filet of hazelnut-encrusted halibut ($16.95) and not-very-garlicky garlic mashed potatoes served as our hint of Copper Canyon's specialties, and then we challenged the meat-and-potatoes norm with the chilled Pacific salad ($12.95), the portabella polenta ($9.95) and the vegetarian tofu delight ($8.95). Crispy cubes of tofu topped a bed of wild rice covered in pea pods, walnuts, sliced almonds and a healthy dose of the broccoli and carrots with which we had become so familiar. The seeds from a hot pepper accompanied nearly every forkful as did a heat that would have registered high in Scoville units. Long, meaty slices of portabella sunk into the pine nut-heavy polenta, and the coating of marinara over the whole evoked notes of lasagna. We agreed that the next family barbecue should include our version of this interesting, filling, savory dish. Slices of red bell pepper and rings of purple onion poked past fresh, leafy greens in the Pacific salad and well complemented the giant sauteed-then-chilled shrimp and scallops that lay across the top.

As we mulled over and then decided against dessert, Chef Brian Inaba approached our table and inquired to our satisfaction. That added bit of personal service helped us draw the conclusion that the next time we are in Nampa to take advantage of some of the new-school stuff unique to the city--Puffy Mondaes, Flying M Coffeegarage, White Pine--we would stop by Copper Canyon again for our taste of old-school.

--Amy Atkins knows a little something about old (school).

Boise Weekly sends two reviewers to every restaurant we review. Read what our other reviewer had to say about Copper Canyon.

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