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Pizzalchik 

7330 W. State St., 208-853-7757; Mon.-Sat. 11 a.m.-close, Sun. 12 p.m.-close

Without exaggeration, the entirety of Pizzalchik's menu is reflected in its name, an identifier that—like the eatery's food—is equally enigmatic and duplicitous in its simplicity. A recent expansion has pushed Pizzalchik into a second storefront space in its strip-mall location on a lot defiantly holding its own between an unsightly power substation and one of the city's busiest intersections. The restaurant, however, waves a dismissive hand at the ubiquitous congestion around it, blotting out the glare of traffic with a mightily flowered patio outside and an air of utter tranquility inside provided by a behemoth 6,000-pound stone hearth.

Ordering happens at the counter, where one large hanging menu has been augmented by several marker boards with soup and dessert choices, as well as daily specials (some of which have near cult followings, rendering them "daily" as in every day house specials). Food choices essentially subscribe to one of three tribes: chicken, which comes quartered, half or whole; salad tossed, Caesared or topped with chicken; and pizza of the specialty or build-your-own varieties. It's a sort of pyramidal menu structure that reads like a "choose your own adventure" novel.

Start with broad culinary decisions and work your way through a bevy of specifics. For chicken that means not simply size, but flavor: original, roasted garlic and garlic 'shroom. In the pizza subset, the usual topping suspects are homegrown (including house-made Italian sausage and in-house pickled artichoke hearts), as are more audacious toppings choices like elk sausage and smoked salmon.

The exception to the pizza-salad-chicken rule is a brief list of appetizers with an eclectic collection of finger foods like a la carte stuffed jalapenos, bubble bread and mushroom turnovers.

Pizzalchik's four-year run thus far is a result of chef owner Brad Breakell's knack for proving simple food can be anything but straightforward, despite appearances. Roasted chicken—certainly without the comforts of skinning and boning—doesn't reinvent the culinary wheel, but instead proves that in the right hands, white meat can achieve a lauded succulence. The garlic chicken reveals a treasure trove of whole, roasted garlic cloves tucked into a fold of steamy tender meat. Yukon golds come quartered, roasted and rolled in rosemary and ably replace the common fry. However, the accompanying special dipping sauce seems only a requisite replacement for ketchup rather than a standout in its own right. A fire roasted prawn salad is perhaps the epitome of Pizzalchik's charisma. Humbly understated by a staff member as just a skewer of prawns with Asian noodles and tossed greens, the dish not only surpasses expectations but laps them. Touted as a house favorite, the salad achieves some sort of flavor nirvana with the tang of pickled cucumbers and beets cooled by a few smooth mango slices. The whole concoction—noodles, tossed greens and pickled vegetables—has a tinge of sesame and teriyaki flavor chased by a subtle heat.

Despite the relatively short list of menu choices, it's easy to leave Pizzalchik wondering what you've missed. A chilled pea and mint soup, for instance, was apparently so delectable, its end preceded our arrival. An "afterthought du jour" of key lime cheesecake was purportedly only one of the two key lime varieties. Diners eat from mismatched dinnerware at mismatched dining sets, all of which are stocked with statement-making condiments like sea salt, crushed red pepper and a pepper mill.

In the end, it's beer that's the best indication of Pizzalchik's future. As savvy restaurateurs and diners both know, an eatery has truly arrived when it starts pouring its own specialty brew; here, it's the Pizzal Drizl, courtesy of Snake River Brewing Company.

—Rachael Daigle has big plans to guzzizle more Drizl at Pizzal.

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