Red Feather Lounge 

On the plate of Reviewer No. 2

I'll admit that at times, I have lost faith. Lost faith in the notion that you can get a really good meal, in a stylish atmosphere without taking out a loan or feeling like some kind of hick in the city. Thanks to a recent dinner at Red Feather Lounge, I'm a born-again foodie.

I once again believe that good food doesn't have to be overly pretentious, yet it can be both creative and familiar, giving diners the duality of being both comforted and challenged.

Inside Red Feather's narrow confines, the atmosphere is, in a word, hip. Dark, curving booths line one wall, while above a small bar mixing some of the most creative cocktails around, seating fills the balcony. The area is centered on a multi-story wine cellar that glows with blue neon. Of course, some diners opt for the see-and-be-seen patio, shared by sister eatery Bittercreek Alehouse.

After spending at least 10 minutes perusing the wine list we started with the smoked Idaho trout appetizer ($10). The trout was a little fishier than I like, but paired with homemade crackers, fromage blanc, red onions, capers and roasted garlic, it was a build-your-own adventure with a surprising complexity of flavors.

I had heard about Red Feather's French fries from co-workers, so I let my curiosity lead me to order a simple burger ($8.50, $1.25 for cheese). But by "simple," I mean one of the most complex flavor combinations I've ever had.

The burger came on a locally baked challah bun. Beyond the rich flavor of the beef, the burger was brought to life with the combination of some very strong flavors, which ran the risk of clashing, but instead found harmony. The horseradish-based saloon sauce gave a welcome bite, while the English huntsman cheese I chose played the role of the earthy and tangy foil.

And the fries. Oh, the fries. They lived up to every hype. The hand-cut gems were expertly prepared so that they were never greasy, not even when they cooled off. The grated Parmesan sprinkled across the top was a little taste of fromage heaven. While I tried to keep them to myself, my dining companions discovered them and suddenly fingers flashed from across the table onto my plate.

Not that they had anything to complain about. One ordered the strip steak off the fixed-price menu ($24 for one person), which arrived grilled to pink-in-the-middle perfection, stacked on top of roasted potatoes with a few lima beans tossed in for good measure. His meal was prefaced by a grilled kale Caesar salad that also had every other fork on the table making mad jabs. Kale is hearty roughage, and takes a little extra chewing, but all the longer to savor the dressing with the wonderful, salty bite of a traditional Caesar without being overt.

Our table was also graced by the pan-seared Alaskan halibut ($17), which could be held up in culinary schools as an example of how fish is supposed to be cooked. The mild halibut was given a peppery seasoning that accented the moist, flaky fish and left a welcome aftertaste that happily lingered in our mouths. The dish came accompanied by zucchini fritters, delicious little deep-fried morsels that again had forks sneaking away from their own plates.

We managed to refrain from actually licking our plates but only because the frozen chocolate lavender julep that came with the fixed-price meal was still to come. Here's a warning: If you don't like the taste of lavender, don't order this. But if you do, it's an amazingly light concoction of mint, lavender and chocolate sorbet that had two of us fighting for straws to suck up the last elegantly scented pools.

Knowing that Red Feather uses mainly local, regional and organic ingredients only made the meal better. It was a welcome reminder of how the flavors of the Northwest can sing when in the hands of a good conductor. Hallelujah. I'm a convert.

--Deanna Darr is a new member of the church of food.

Boise Weekly sends two reviewers to every restaurant we review. Read what our other reviewer had to say about Red Feather Lounge here.

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