Hubby and I decided to have dinner at Room Four the other night—I am subscribed to the emails that tell you the menu every day, and while I don’t always read them, on this night I did and it was very appealing (and we had a sitter). Honestly, I think Room 4 is still kind of a hidden gem, even though it has been open for several years. It seems to be the place that when people ask me about my favorite restaurants, and I mention it as one, they have never heard of it. They know Recess usually, but not Room 4. And the crowd was still pretty light when we got there at 6:30 or so (it did pick up though).
Room Four is such a good place to get some of Chef Hardesty’s (and staff) refined food but in a more casual, a la carte setting. Often the things being offered are using ingredients from Recess, and in our case, our dessert was the exact one being served at Recess the night we were there.
We started with the cream of celery soup with porcini mushrooms ($14) and their version of a Caesar with tomatoes, mushrooms, sweet onions, Parmesan and a Caesar vinaigrette ($12). The soup was very good. It had a deeper earthy richness than most vegetable-based soups have because of the porcini flavor. It also had hunks of soft celery in there, which is something I like in a “cream of” soup. I don’t like them as well when it’s just a puree. The taste of celery was very strong though so you had to really like celery to like this soup.
Frankly, we were a little disappointed with the salad—maybe because we always have such high hopes from salads from this kitchen as they are usually perfectly balanced and dressed. This one was heavy on the lettuce and light on the dressing. It wasn’t as composed as salads here usually are.
After that though, things certainly improved. The rest of our dinner reminded us that Recess/Room Four is definitely one of Indy’s best. We had a second course of the roasted flank steak with Napa cabbage, shitake mushrooms, scallions, spicy ginger sauce, and chopped peanuts ($13). What a great take on an Asian-inspired dish. The beef was cooked nice and pink and the sliced shitakes blended in with the meat just adding that additional depth. The dish had just a teeny bit of heat, but mainly was seasoned with an acidic ginger sauce. In this case, the fresh veggies were marinated in the sauce perfectly, and the crunch and saltiness from the peanuts added texture and seasoning.
For the main part of our dinner, we split the crisp whitefish with kalamata olives, asparagus, roasted tomatoes, basil and yellow beet coulis ($20). I also think fish has always been a strength from Hardesty’s kitchen and this was no exception. Perfectly cooked and not dry at all, with the briny salty olives (one of my favorite things) and the acid from the tomatoes. Neither hubby nor I are huge beet people, but we even enjoyed the beet coulis underneath. We both love asparagus and it was really good and well cooked-- just enough to preserve the flavor and a bit of the toothiness. We also shared one taco—we were torn as to which one to get and decided on the pork. It was grilled pork tenderloin, queso fresco, avocado, cilantro, onions and salsa ($6). Ok, I have heard people complain about “six dollar tacos” but come on, these things are delicious. And I like them because it isn’t just the meat and the tortilla. You get all kinds of goodness in there too. Let’s face it; while I appreciate the cheap, basic taco, these are fancy. And gooey. And super good. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still restrained in some ways—the stuff isn’t totally spilling out of the tortillas, but it’s just a great combination of flavors and textures. We had to restrain ourselves from getting another one.
We did however, get lured in by dessert. Because it was cheese—the cheese course they were serving as one of the dessert choices at Recess on this particular night ($12). And it was fantastic. It was Sartori gorgonzola dolcina paired on a plate with blueberry honey and toasted nuts. There were these super thin crisp slices of bread served with as well. Every single part of this dish was perfect together. The lightly sweet light blue cheese with the sweet honey but a slight acidity from the fruit. And nuts and cheese—well, they’re made for each other right? In theory, it was simple, but comes across as complex when you get all the flavors together.
I love the food here, and we are seriously lucky to be able to get these delicious little ever-changing tidbits so easily at Room Four. I also took note of the fact that they serve a fancy burger every day and I saw a family with a kid come in and order it plain for him for dinner and he loved it. So my kids might start seeing the inside of this place soon as well. The service is spot on and professional. My only complaint? We went on one of those really warm evenings we’ve had recently and the place was FREEZING inside. Seriously. I still don’t get why only in Indianapolis do they have to turn the thermostat to 50 degrees just because it gets warm outside. I have never noticed this problem in any other city. Even other midwestern cities. Our server did his best to adjust it for us (he said others had complained as well) but it didn’t change much. It won’t stop me from going again because I love the food so much, but next time I will dress appropriately.
4907 North College Ave