Elegance, Ambiance and, Oh My, the Food! 9

A Decade of Fine Dining at Chandlers Prime Steaks | Fine Seafood

Fine dining isn’t just a destination; it’s an experience. It doesn’t matter if it’s New York, Paris or anywhere else in the world, you know when you’ve found it. And for the past 10 years, that singular experience has been delighting diners right here in Boise at Chandlers.

Like any good dish, restaurants that call themselves “fine dining” establishments are made up entirely of ingredients that dictate the finest in taste, elegance and ambiance. The elegance begins when you walk in the door. More than 15 years of Wine Spectator awards places Chandlers among the top restaurants in the world.

Enter the newly renovated lounge and the ambiance is palpable, emboldened with an equally elegant selection of live jazz every night, brought to you by music director Chuck Smith. On weekends, night owls can partake of supper club jazz shows from 9 p.m. to midnight. Take a seat at a window table with a glittering view of downtown Boise’s ever-changing skyline, or settle down in a plush booth that will literally swallow you up in comfort. For something more secluded, let the hostess show you to one of the rear dining rooms where soft blue lighting sprinkles your evening with a sense of sophistication and just a dash of mystery.

The wine list rated the best in Idaho, is comprised of some 750 labels, offering a range and depth that will please even the most discriminating tastes. In the back, a private wine vault houses the “big dogs,” as Rex calls them—a few hundred bottles of rare Napa cabernets, Grand Cru burgundies and more aged up to 30 years. A team of sommeliers is on-hand to enhance the ambiance even further with advice and explanations, ensuring your selection is the perfect one for your personal taste as well as your meal. If wine is not your choice of beverage, the multitalented bartenders can create whatever you desire, including their signature Ten Minute Martini.

Once you’re seated, the true excellence of Chandlers quickly becomes apparent. The menu promises an exquisite journey for your taste buds—and delivers. Mouthwatering steaks from four different sources—American wagyu from the Treasure Valley’s own Snake River Farms; authentic, certified Japanese wagyu; corn-fed Midwest USDA prime; and grass-fed, grass-finished Oregon beef—lead off the list, but the seafood selections—from oysters to Ahi and swordfish to salmon—will also tantalize your palate with both quality and unbelievable freshness. Who else in Idaho serves abalone? Chandlers does!

So, how did this icon of culinary and musical delights arrive on our doorstep a decade ago?  One thing is for sure—it took a lot longer than the 10-year anniversary Chandlers Prime Steakhouse in Boise is celebrating this year. The ingredients of that story make up the entirety of Rex Chandler’s more than 40-year restaurant career.

When you grow up in Newport Beach, California, it’s hard not to get into surfing, and the bug bit Rex early. During the 1960s, while he was paying his way through art school with restaurant work, he decided to heed the call of Hawaiian waves. To make ends meet, he took a job in an iconic Waikiki eatery called Nick’s Fish Market. It didn’t take long to discover that his true passion was the restaurant business and, as it turned out, he was also very good at it. Four years later he opened his own restaurant in Honolulu, and not long after that, he bought Nick’s. So began a lifelong journey in fine dining that took Rex from Hawaii back to Newport Beach before landing him in Idaho, where he opened Chandlers in Ketchum in 1993, followed shortly by Baci, right next door.

Fifteen years later, three of the many friends he had made in Idaho provided the impetus for his move to Boise.

“We had this vision about a boutique hotel with an independently owned fine dining steakhouse, and we thought the timing was perfect for an upscale restaurant in Boise,” he recalls.

That vision, of course, was Hotel 43 and Chandlers, the pride of Grove Street, and it contains the best from all his years of experience.

“If I could take you back in a time capsule, you would see a little of all those other restaurants in this one.”

He’ll be the first to tell you that he didn’t make his journey alone and that the connections he’s made all along the way are a big part of his success today. Take William and Derek at the Honolulu Fish Company. Rex has known them for more than 30 years, and they are the exclusive supplier of Hawaiian seafood for Chandlers.

“It’s their specialty,” Rex says. “They’re the only company in Hawaii that deals specifically with high-end mainland restaurants like The French Laundry, Tru, La Bernadin and, of course, Chandlers. We’re the only restaurant in Idaho that has fish shipped directly from Honolulu. It arrives within one day of being caught, and the quality is unparalleled.”

But as much as the fine dining experience is about what you see, it’s a lot about what you don’t see. Like the kitchen, also expanded during the recent million-dollar makeover.

“Chef Luis [Flores] is probably the best chef I’ve had in my entire career,” Rex says with pride. “I heard he wanted to move to Idaho and I knew he would be the right guy for us. He’s been with us since day one.”

Rex’s artistic eye and Chef Luis’ talent for preparing food that charms and delights the senses have combined to create a menu unlike any other in the state. It’s a team effort that extends to the rest of the staff as well.

Any fine dining experience calls for servers who are both knowledgeable and friendly, and it always helps when they love their job. The family atmosphere that Rex creates among his employees goes a long way toward making your fine dining experience truly unforgettable. Monthly classes for the staff offer education on a variety of food and drink topics and weekly staff meetings focus on what can be done to refine the customer experience.

“We’re looking to improve every day,” General Manager David Boyle says. “We never settle.”

The culinary renaissance Boise is currently experiencing was no doubt fueled in large part by Rex’s legacy of excellence.

“Everyone likes to be on a winning team,” he says with a cordial smile. “The legacy is all about our staff. I take care of them, they take care of the customers and the customers take care of the restaurant.”

It’s a cycle that sets a high bar, and one that benefits the entire community. Why not drop in tonight? Let the elegance and ambiance wash over you like a warm summer breeze, and treat yourself to some of the finest food you’ll find anywhere. And while you’re there, be sure to wish everyone at Chandlers a big, happy anniversary!