What Happened to Boise’s Most Ambitious Restaurant?

Update: In the wake of Epek’s closing, its chef has teased something called “Arcane” on Facebook. Is that a new restaurant? A pop-up dinner? It’s not yet clear. 

Epek, the bold successor to State & Lemp, is closing its doors.

When founders Remi McManus and Kris Komori sold State & Lemp, the new ownership refashioned it as a more traditional restaurant. When I reviewed it in December, I thought the new iteration was good, but it was overshadowed by its predecessor’s achievements. 

That review quickly became irrelevant. In late March, chef Christian Phernetton closed State & Lemp, reopening it a few weeks later under a new name — Epek. 

Epek adopted a bold, perhaps unprecedented, business model. It served $2.50 tacos on Tuesday. It served three-course dinners for $55 per person on Wednesday and Thursdays. It served fifteen-course feasts for $111 per person on the weekends. 

Was Epek ungainly and confused? Or did it create a clever sliding scale that democratized high-concept eating? 

I’m still not sure. I never got to try it. 

I regret not making it to Epek before it closed. Especially for the extremely affordable tacos. (Phernetton made outstanding tacos at Treefort’s Alefort; they were predictably high-concept, doused in popcorn and charged with pickle-y purpose.)  

Epek’s gorgeous tacos at Treefort’s Alefort.

I regret losing such an ambitious restaurant. Epek demonstrated incredible dedication to farm-to-table eating.

All of it makes me wonder, how should we write about restaurants like Epek and State & Lemp and the imminent Kin? Should we criticize them more or less harshly than their more boring brethren?

On one hand, they charge exorbitant sums for persnickety meals. Any restaurant that charges you $200 for dinner and leaves you searching for a slice of pizza after the meal deserves more scrutiny than a restaurant slinging $8 burgers. 

On the other hand, Boise is short on exceptional restaurants. Maybe it’s our duty to breathe life into these pricey experiments, even when they slightly miss the mark. 

Guy Hand, Idaho’s unofficial food tzar, made this case when he recommended State & Lemp to New York Magazine:

I just really appreciate the fact that they’re pushing the envelope, and that’s what Boise and Idaho needs.

He’s absolutely right. We are in dire need of some envelope-pushing. 

But some people live and die without spending $111 on a meal. Many people could never make such an expenditure. It’s hard to write a glowing review of a restaurant that expensive unless the food improves your whole month. 

That’s why Epek’s Taco Tuesday, bizarre as it seemed, might have been the perfect overture to pub grub-dominated Boise.  

That’s also why we should do our darndest to support Boise’s next wave of fancypants restaurants, our mortgages willing. 

If your fragment of toasted tree bark topped with ricotta disappoints you, remember— it isn’t just dinner. It’s an investment in Boise’s food future.

It’s an invitation to inventive chefs everywhere — who might one day grow tired of the big city and yearn for a kayak — to gastronomize in Idaho.


3 thoughts on “What Happened to Boise’s Most Ambitious Restaurant?

  1. borzoikoi

    Sad, indeed, Henry! I wish I could have heard about taco-Tuesdays! I would have bee-lined it over there! I distinctly remember those Treefort tacos!


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