Two Tastes of Trillium 

Trillium's filet (left) and potato-crusted halibut (right).

Harrison Berry / Lex Nelson

Trillium's filet (left) and potato-crusted halibut (right).

One If By Land

Trillium, the successor restaurant to Emilio's in the Grove Hotel, is bounded on two sides by a state highway and a mess of side- and crosswalks, and on a third side by double doors leading straight into CenturyLink Arena. This newcomer to Boise's restaurant scene is hardly the birdcage Grove Hotel General Manager Steve Steading described when he said "it's a place where people can literally see and be seen," but oh boy, can the chefs there cook a steak.

click to enlarge Trillium's Brussels sprouts with spicy apricot glaze. - LEX NELSON
  • Lex Nelson
  • Trillium's Brussels sprouts with spicy apricot glaze.

For years, Emilio's slouched from an Italian restaurant into serving mostly American fare, which doesn't scream "dynamism" so much as "decay." By contrast, I found that Trillium avoids the trap of culinary scoliosis by being neither over-thought nor under-executed. The filet mignon ($38) bore this out from the tastebud standpoint during a visit to the restaurant on Nov. 13. This cut of beef came to the table in a shallow drizzle of bourbon gravy alongside a tower of Yukon latkes layered between grilled portobello caps. Cooked medium-rare, its seared exterior gave way to a rare center of generous thickness. The classic potato and mushroom sides were artfully arranged without being contrived.

I recommend starting with the crispy Brussels sprouts ($10). This ziggurat of veggies lived up to its name, with flaky outer layers protecting tender insides, and slathered in a mildly hot apricot glaze. The beef, veggies and mushrooms all pair brilliantly with a big-bodied red wine or, in the colder months, one of the several porters and stouts on tap.

The portions at Trillium are generous enough to suggest that the food there is meant for sharing, and its eye-of-the-downtown-hurricane location belies the restaurant's clear commitment to balancing intimacy with openness.

—Harrison Berry

Two If By Sea

Walking into Trillium on Nov. 13 was a bit like stepping into a modern forest, but instead of moss-covered boulders, there were green velvet-upholstered chairs, and gold accents took the place of light-struck leaves. A first look at the menu undercut that impression a bit—the food wasn't exactly wild, with Idaho standbys like trout, filet mignon and short ribs all solidly present—but over a glass of Cinder Wines syrah and three courses, The Grove Hotel's new restaurant won me over: Even Mother Nature would appreciate its flair.

click to enlarge Trillium's huckleberry cheesecake.  - LEX NELSON
  • Lex Nelson
  • Trillium's huckleberry cheesecake.

Our meal started with a volcanic mountain of Brussels sprouts sheened with spicy apricot glaze and topped with a sprig of microgreens ($10). They were grilled to perfection, with crisp, papery layers that peeled apart like good pastry. While the appetizer's combination of sweetness and spice was an easy home run, my entree of potato-crusted halibut ($32) was more complex, offering a head-tilting interplay of flavors and textures splayed out artistically across an oblong plate. A brushstroke of cauliflower puree served as a platform for thinly-sliced fennel, daubs of creme fraiche, tufts of dill and a scattering of pink jelly "pearls" and pomegranate arils—all surrounding a golden brick of halibut. While I prefer my fish cooked mid-rare and it was served well done (the chef's default), there was no denying its quality, highlighted by a meaty texture and beautiful snow-white flake. Any dryness was balanced out by the fruity pearls, which burst with each bite and lent the eating experience a touch of childish glee.

Dessert, a huckleberry-studded cheesecake for two ($8), was equally easy on the eyes, and a bit daring, with the sauce drizzled on the plate instead of over the cake and an absent crust. For me, the play didn't entirely pay off—the cheesecake was dense, and more crumbly than silky—but its rich flavors of fresh huckleberry and ricotta carried the meal to a strong finish. Next time, I'll come back hungry for the bison meatloaf on sourdough Texas toast ($34).

—Lex Nelson

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