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Apr 16, 2010 01:25 PM

Recess - Indy

April 15th - someone must have been even more depressed (or ticked off) about the IRS than me, because due to a cancelation, Mr CF and I were able to finally get into Recess - Greg Hardesty's new place. We managed to park in front and were seated at a small table against the gray cinderblock wall. The tables are close (but not as close as Blackbird in Chicago) and I have to say that it does get noisy - but we added to it when we discovered friends were there as well - surprise!

We ordered a bottle of champagne Joel Falmet and did the wine pairing that was offered to go with the meal - a nice touch.

The 'Tax Day' menu was as follows:
First - Salad of roasted chicken breast with avocado terrine, lemon oil vinagrette and coriander leaves. Super tender slices of white white chicken with a lemony vinegrette. The avocado terrine was a thing of beauty - because I don't know about you, but the avocados I buy never look like this - a beautiful green color in a perfect cube of avocado goodness. Pickled radish slivers and coriander leaves, a hint of salt. The wine was Trivento Torrontes 2008, which picked up the lemon flavors nicely.

Second - a soup of mussles, japanese broth, seaweed and tofu and 'spicy sesame oil slick'. I can't have shellfish and I forgot to check the menu before I pounced on the available reservation. Mr CF reminded me and I called back to let them know - they said they would come up with something. WELL, did they ever. I got a marvelous slice of halibut instead of the mussels - same broth, same everything except the dreaded mussels. Turned out that Mr CF preferred the halibut over the mussels. There was a nice spicy heat to the broth but it was a bit salty. The tofu was perfect - not rubbery and the sesame oil was a perfect addition. The wine was Tavel Rose Granache 2007 - very strawberry-ish. I wondered if a Gewurztraminer might be a better pairing with the asian notes and spice in the broth.

Third - Fischer farms beef hanger steak with black beans, watercress, carrots and onions, worstershire jalapeno on the side. Wow - this was the best hanger steak I've ever had - ever. Tender with a wonderful beefy flavor, the black beans added a great creamy-ness to the entire dish. Amazingly good. The wine was Kokomo cabernet sauvignon 07 - I have to confess... I am a terrible snob and I thought 'KOKOMO?'. I was wrong to think that - shame, shame on me - it was delicious and a fabulous pairing with this course. This course was silly good.

Fourth - St Andre cheese plate with rye crackers and tomato jam - great all around. We ordered a bottle ot Odisea late harvest Voigner and it was a very nice dessert wine.

We had a great time and a great dinner. We'll be back.

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  1. Was there no dessert course on the fixed menu, other than the cheese course?

    13 Replies
    1. re: nsxtasy

      Nope - just the cheese course. There was a dab of tomato jam as well as the crackers which added a nice hint of sweetness. I personally wasn't upset by this - while I'm all about the sweet stuff - the cheese was great and went very well with the dessert wine we ordered.

      While I didn't go last night - the menu shows bittersweet chocolate napoleans. So it just depends on the whim of the chef.

      1. re: Cookiefiend

        If I went to a restaurant for dinner and found no desserts available, I would be extremely disappointed.

        1. re: nsxtasy

          You would also only have yourself to blame, as they post the daily menu on their website.

          1. re: Condimentality

            That's a little harsh - if you make your reservations a week out (and I tried 3 times before I got a reservation) and on the day of your reservation you discover - after checking the menu on the website - that there's no sweet dessert - is that really your fault?

            I don't think so. There's no blame to be laid anywhere.

            1. re: Cookiefiend

              Of course it's not your fault in the situation you describe.

              If there's something about the menu on the day of your reservation that is a dealbreaker for you, you call the restaurant to either cancel your reservation or see if the menu can be adjusted to your liking. Then you can either still go there or choose to go somewhere else that has more options. If you are disappointed at this point, since you have to make a blind reservation in advance before the menu has been released, that's the risk that a restaurant like this takes.

              However, if you actually GO to the restaurant not knowing what's on the menu, even with it readily available to you online or with a phone call, and you end up disappointed with what you find, you are in a situation that you could have easily prevented.

            2. re: Condimentality

              >> You would also only have yourself to blame, as they post the daily menu on their website.

              That assumes I decide on where to eat the same day I'm eating. If I want to make reservations and plans in advance, either because I'm making arrangements with others to meet or because I don't have internet access when I'm visiting from out of town, I'll be stuck with whatever the menu happens to be. Which is true not only regarding dessert, but also for how appealing the other food dishes are.

              1. re: nsxtasy

                I agree that an ideal dining experience at this restaurant may require a degree of flexibility and access to technology, either of which may not be readily available.

                If you are very particular with regards to your preconceptions of what should or should not be on a menu, especially one that offers few or no choices, if you don't have the flexibility to change your plans, and if you don't have the ability to contact the restaurant to hear about the menu on the day of your reservation, then you should probably not make a reservation at Recess.

                1. re: Condimentality

                  I think the flaw in this thinking is the inherent assumption that anyone should be willing to change their plans at the last minute if they check the menu and don't like what is being served that day. Maybe you don't mind changing plans at the last minute, but I don't like to do that, for a whole lot of reasons that I don't need to elaborate on.

                  I also feel that dessert is an integral part of any dinner, and again, I would be pretty darn unhappy if I went out to dinner and there were no dessert available.

                  1. re: nsxtasy

                    From my experience, this is a restaurant for those who are willing to temporarily suspend their preconceptions of what they "like" and "don't like". If you are willing to do this, cancelling the reservation and changing plans at the last minute shouldn't even enter the equation, though it is still an option for those who consider some things not worth eating but still want to take the chance that these things may not be present on the menu of the night of their reservation.

                    This line of thinking is only "flawed" if you are not one of those people. In this case I can say with confidence that this restaurant is not for you.

                    I'm not trying to argue with you or change your mind. I just feel like threads like this should be informational. When it has already been made clear that a restaurant at times does not serve what you consider to be a dessert, describing the hypothetical situation in which you hypothetically go anyway and are hypothetically disappointed does not strike me as particularly constructive.

                    1. re: Condimentality

                      And I don't mean to imply that this restaurant serves incredibly challenging food. I doubt we will see stinky tofu, durian, or balut on the menu anytime soon. I just mean that if someone thinks that he or she doesn't like quail, for example, he or she might have it as a part of a menu at Recess and realize that any problems with it in the past might have been the result of poor execution, poor quality or some other reason aside from the inherent nature of the ingredient itself.

                      1. re: Condimentality

                        Well, I enjoyed Chef Hardesty's food at Elements, his previous establishment. But that was with an a la carte menu in which I selected the items I wanted out of those available. Including dessert (a wonderful almond financier, as I recall).

                        Anyway, you've thoroughly convinced me that I shouldn't go to Recess. Thanks for the advice!

                        1. re: nsxtasy

                          nsxtasy -

                          I think you'd very much like Recess.

                          You could call the day of your reservation and see if a sweet dessert is being offered that night. If not - just pop into Rene's and pick up an eclair. ;-)

                          1. re: nsxtasy

                            By the way, I would argue that Greg Hardesty's food comes out much more at Recess because he is able to do what he wants now much more than at Elements. I think the atmosphere of Recess would indicate this just as much as the quality/variety of the food currently. So definitely, do not even think about going to this place since you are limited in your choices.

        2. I should probably describe my experience at Recess instead of solely responding to the comments of others.

          I've been to Recess twice, most recently on April 14th for the Odisea wine dinner.

          The menu for the wine dinner (as posted on the Facebook page) was as follows:

          Course 1
          King crab, potato and leek terrine, apple and fennel water vinaigrette
          WINE: Angele White 2008.

          Course 2
          Tonkatsu, miso soup, mustard marinated tofu, seaweed and sesame seeds
          WINE: Cochon Dry Rose 2009 (Grenache)

          Course 3
          Duck breast with nicoise olives and giant white runner beans
          WINE: Two Rows Grenache 2007

          Course 4
          Fischer Farms beef tenderloin with oxtail ragout
          WINE: Cochon Syrah Massa Ranch 2007.

          Course 5
          Yet to be determined.
          WINE: Melt Down Lt Harvest Viognier Ice Wine 2007

          Course 1 was very subtle and lightly seasoned to allow the wine to take the forefront (according to the chef). I found this to be the case, and found it interesting how the sweetness of the crab supported the butteryness of the wine instead of the other way around. The apple and fennel water vinaigrette was very subtle to the point of being almost indistinguishable. This course is something that I would not have enjoyed on its own, but with the wine it actually made sense. For a meal that was intended to showcase the offerings of a particular winemaker, I thought this course showed a lot of restraint and respect, allowing the wine to truly take center stage.

          Course 2 was my favorite of the evening. I have eaten a lot of tonkatsu over the years, and this was the best I have ever had. It was unadorned and cooked perfectly, tender and still slightly pink in the center. The quality of the meat that was used was evident, as the flavor was rich enough that it required no condiment. The tofu provided a creamy counterpoint to the crispy tonkatsu, and the miso soup was rich, deep, and smoky without being overly salty, an execution that supported the tonkatsu beautifully. The wine went with this course perfectly. We tried to determine exactly how to no avail; it just worked in a very unexpected way. There is no way I would have come up with this pairing on my own.

          Course 3 was also good, though for me it was overshadowed by the previous course. The olives were sparse, which was a good thing as I was slightly concerned they would be overpowering. The runner beans were fine. The duck breast was of extremely high quality and was perfectly cooked. Like the tonkatsu, the duck also needed very in the way of sauce or adornment, just proper execution, which it received. I have enjoyed the wine that accompanied this course several times in the past, and it was an excellent choice to pair with the duck.

          In contrast to the relative simplicity and humility of the previous courses, Course 4 was all about decadence. I absolutely love oxtail, and having it as the accompaniment to a beautifully rare piece of local beef tenderloin was not exactly an exercise in restraint. The wine also worked perfectly and added further layers of richness and complexity to this dish.

          Course 5 was a steamed grapefruit and vanilla (?) cake. This was a very interesting dessert, unlike any I'd had before. It was kind of like a cross between a sponge cake and a panna cotta: both creamy and airy at the same time. The cake had a very pleasant and distinct flavor of grapefruit without any sourness or acidity. It was by no means a rich dessert, which would have been inappropriate after the previous course, but instead was a very thoughtful end to the meal. I have little experience with dessert wines (and wine in general for that matter), but I found this one to be a good fit, thick and flavorful without being overly sweet or cloying.

          Chef Hardesty gave very interesting and informative explanations for the first two courses, but did not do so for the third and the fourth. Hearing his explanation of the thought process behind designing the entire menu instead of just the first two courses would have been appreciated by everyone, I'm sure.

          I was very impressed by this meal and found it to be superior to my previous visit. I felt that the menu was designed with care and creativity without gimmickry, with each course based around showcasing the quality of the ingredients and the wine. I would have personally preferred vegetables to have taken a greater role in the menu, but I wasn't surprised that they didn't. This aside, I really couldn't have asked for anything more, and the opportunity to be exposed to skillful interpretations of both one of my favorite dishes (the tonkatsu) and a dish I had never had before and would likely never have ordered if given the chance (the steamed cake) was really a treat.

          This last point is really why I think this restaurant is so great and why I hope and believe it can succeed even in a city that is notorious for its undiscerning diners (a notoriety that, while possibly deserved, is not accurate). So often, we are made to feel like the more choices we have, the better. However, I think there is something really wonderful about sitting down, letting go, and appreciating and accepting what you are given, for better or for worse. This is how we learn, and this is how we grow. Admittedly, I am not a vegetarian, I have no food allergies, I am willing to eat anything that someone (who is not a mortal enemy) is willing to serve me, and I get annoyed and indecisive when presented with incredibly long menus. Others may feel differently, and that's fine with me.

          During the second course, when Chef Hardesty saw me drinking the miso soup directly from the bowl, he came up to me, shook my hand, and quickly said something to the tune of "this is how I want people to eat in my restaurant." This gesture really exemplified for me what this restaurant is all about.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Condimentality

            <I think there is something really wonderful about sitting down, letting go, and appreciating and accepting what you are given>

            That's exactly what Recess is about. I think it's great.

            The ice wine you had with your grapefruit and vanilla cake is the same we had with our cheese - it was marvelous.

            1. re: Cookiefiend

              I really don't think Recess is for least for the people spending hour upon hour over-analyzing the menu to death. Recess is for foodies: people want to go and appreciate great food, wine and beer in an unpretentious, nonstuffy setting while not constrained with time, petty dress codes, and banal acts formality. I don't love everything in the world and naturally, I have in mind what I would want my last dinner to be (...hamachi, sweetbreeds, lamb tongue, rhubarb, illegal stinky cheese, more yellowtail sashimi...) but I decided to stop checking the menu out before I go dine at Recess. Is it a risk? Not really, because even if all the food wasn't to my full liking I'm confident that I will appreciate a nicely balanced meal in a great atmosphere. The experience goes beyond the food plus I enjoy that surprise element of not knowing or seeing everything prepared right in front of you. For those who need to know just check the menu earlier that day. If this doesn't allow enough time for planning than just go somewhere else! The focus shouldn't be about 'those certain people' not wanting to go to Recess because of the limitations. This is an issue where Recess just may be strategically weeding out 'those certain people.' I applaud Recess for what it's doing for the Indy dining scene.

              1. re: napolean

                <Shrug> I think nsxtasy has indicated sufficiently in the exchanges above that he would be unlikely to enjoy Recess, as he does seem to need to be able to make his own choices, no matter how much he appreciates good food. To each his own.

                I was at the wine dinner that night too, at the very back right corner seat. I enjoyed the meal very much too, and am impressed by Condi's detailed description of the meal. I must say I thoroughly enjoyed the duck breast itself, but did not enjoy the beans so much. My dining neighbor and I both thought there was a conflict on the plate - the duck was gorgeous, but then you took a bite of the surrounding stuff and the taste was muddied up. "The beans", we both declared. (My personal taste, anyway) The grenache (garnacha) was very good. The tonkatsu and miso soup were fine, but did not shine so much for me. I wonder if my eating a lot of Japanese and Chinese food had an effect on that assessment. BTW I slurped my soup from the bowl too, but nobody patted me on the back. Heh.

                The dessert was very nice indeed - and I RARELY eat dessert at any meal. The Eiswein accompanying it was very good, not cloying like most others and had a good edge to it that cut through the richness. (I do not have a sweet tooth and if a restaurant, no matter how refined, had no dessert course it would not bother me in the least)

                I ordered the Two Rows Ganarcha and the icewine for home. (For others who were not there - you were given the opportunity to order the wines you had drunk that night. The vintner was in attendance, too, and talked about the wines alongside Greg. He sat at our table during the latter part of the meal and I asked him if it would be possible to make a wine similar to the rosé which accompanied the Japanese-styled course, but higher in alcohol content and dryer - more like sake, which I thought would have been best with that course. He said it could be done, but not with the grape he used to make the rosé.)

          2. Recess may not be for everyone, but I'm sure glad to have it as an option. It's like going to a friend's house for dinner -- you don't order from a menu, you just show up and enjoy. If you have an open mind the experience is positive more often then not.

            The format seems generally to be: 1) appetizer course; 2) fish or poultry course; 3) fish or meat course; and 4) dessert course. If there are days with no dessert they are the exception, not the rule.

            Portion sizes are modest for the price. And like most Indiana restaurants, the wine list is thin and young. But in a city with too few interesting dining options, it's certainly a welcome addition.


            1 Reply
            1. re: TThomas

              Yah, let's hope the infamous 50 page menu to merely offer something for everybody days are coming to an end. It's just a fact that people have come to accept mediocrity...if not crap when it comes to food quality. I think restaurants with a small, focused or specialized menu accept two things: (1) they love what they are producing back in the kitchen on a daily basis and (2) they understand who their clientelle should be.