It has been awhile since we’ve been to Recess—not sure why, it is still one of the best restaurants in town. I guess maybe it seems like such a commitment, time-wise and food-wise. The good news is, it is totally worth it. It was on my in-laws list of places they have wanted to try in Indy, and it was the holidays, so a good excuse (not that you really need one).
I am sure you know by now that Recess is a price fixed menu—you get 4 or 5 courses—usually you have a choice for the largest protein and often there is an additional supplemental course for an extra charge (this night it was $56 with a $12 up charge for the pate). So you have to go on faith with what they are making that day. Most meals I have had have been good to really great, although there are always courses that I like better than others.
The first course on this night was the weakest one for me (and I think everyone at the table). It was mixed greens with sliced jicama, radishes and tortilla chops and queso fresco. There was a little dab of avocado puree there as well as what was described as a roasted poblano vinaigrette. The problem was there was so little dressing you couldn’t really taste it at all and it made the salad really hard to eat because it was like trying to fork dry leaves off the plate—there was nothing to stick them together. The particular greens used were also very bitter –without more dressing to smooth them out, they were pretty assertive.
The next course was fluke (which is a semi firm white fish) and it was perfectly done. I have always appreciated how well fish is prepared at Recess. It was seasoned and seared and served on top of cauliflower puree with arugula and artichoke hearts and hunks of bacon. The flavors were nice—it didn’t feel ridiculously heavy for a seafood course, but had a nice wintery feel to it with the bacon and the roasted artichoke hearts.
After that, we had the supplemental course that you could get if you wanted for $12. It was pork pate with caper berries, mustard and pickled red onions. We got one order to share between the four of us, and I think it as plenty to share (I saw one table where everyone got the supplemental course—no way could I have eaten the entire thing on my own). The pate was good—quite strong on its own, but I loved a bit of it on the bread with a little bit of each of the other accompaniments. They were a perfect combo. In the past, I have not been a huge fan of caper berries, even though I love capers and olives, because the ones I had were really firm. These were great with it though, and were soft. This was the kind of dish in which you realize every ingredient had an integral part—it was really well done.
Next was the main dish and on this night there was a choice between tombo tuna or hanger steak. I had the tuna and everyone else got the steak (although my mother-in-law and I agreed to share our two dishes). The tuna was amazing. It was quickly seared on the outside and served on top of wild rice, roasted Brussels sprouts, golden raisins and tot soi (a green). The sauce was perfect with it—it was a soy based glaze flavored heavily with ginger and lemongrass. I loved it all. The wild rice gave it some interesting texture in contrast to the buttery tuna. A little sweet burst from a raisin every once in awhile was a nice surprise as well. Honestly, this was a dish that I wouldn’t have ever designed because some of the ingredients aren’t typically my favorite things, but it was perfect. It was a dish that makes you appreciate the lack of choice at Recess because it makes you step slightly out of your comfort zone.
The beef was also very good (hubby and I argued over which was best) but I liked the tuna better. The beef was a great dish too though. It was nice medium rare slices of hanger steak with celery root, mushrooms, snap peas and served with a red wine beef sauce. A rich, hearty wintery meal for sure. For me, it just couldn’t compare to all the different flavors in the tuna.
The last course was dessert and it was also really, really good. It was a little apple fritter with a side of bourbon maple ice cream and topped with spiced nuts. The fritter was fried and had little bits of apple inside it. The fritter with the ice cream was really nice—again, a nice wintry dish that felt rich without being too heavy.
We did the wine pairings as well, and I think they do a very good job with them. I think the pours are fairly generous (not quite a full glass). I don’t think there were any selections that I didn’t like. The biggest downside of the meal was actually the pacing. Service was quite slow in between a couple of the courses—and not because of the server himself, but the kitchen just seemed to be having trouble keeping up or something. The place was pretty much full most of the time we were there which was nice to see. I was surprised to see that Room 4 was not very busy on this particular night for some reason. I haven’t been in awhile. I wonder how their business is going. Anyone been in awhile? Anyhow, Recess is certainly one of Indy’s culinary gems and we are lucky to have it.