Several months ago, I received a press kit in the mail. It was one of the cleverest packets I’ve seen in a very long time. What a way to make a lasting impression! I’ve been The Recess Room has been on my mind ever since I opened that envelope, but wanted to wait a few months before visiting.
After spending a few months in soft opening mode, The Recess Room is officially open and I am eager to check it out. The restaurant is located in Fountain Valley on the corner of Brookhurst and Talbert, sharing the same parking lot as Kappo Honda. There is outdoor seating as well as a dining room with high tops and community tables.
On the evening of our visit, they’re still waiting for their liquor license so we choose a couple of mocktails
Mauna Loa Mule ($6) a hand-crafted ginger beer, with sweet grilled pineapple and lime – DELISH – and A Periwinkle in Time ($6) hand-crafted lavender lemonade and coconut water. I can’t wait to try these with a splash of tequila!
My love for octopus means we begin with Octopus Salad ($15) which sees nicely prepared octopus on a bed of frisee lettuce, watermelon radish, roasted potato, dotted with chorizo, and drizzled with chimichurri and Kalamata olive aioli. The octopus possesses great texture and char, and the watermelon radish a thoughtful component for aesthetics.
My first experience with beef tendon chicharron was in Australia several years ago, and since then, I’ve been seeing this preparation of beef tendon state side only a handful of times. Beef Chicharon ($8) offers up crispy beef tendon, sprinkled with the seasoning from Shin cup noodle (Korean instant noodles), trout roe, onion crème fraiche, chive, and micro watercress. A stand-out item which I will undoubtedly order over and over again.
Blue Crab Beignet ($17) are a must! These Maryland blue crab nuggets are served with a guajillo pepper aioli and packed with crab.
I loved how much crab is in the beignets, barely any fillers and bite after bite of crab!
Moving on to entrees, Halibut ($32) is a solid offering accompanied by Venus clams, calamari, chickpea, sweet corn kernels, and cherry tomatoes. It is light but by no means is it light on flavor. The tomatoes add acid, while the corn lends a touch of sweetness. The halibut was perfectly cooked too, pulling apart with just the prongs of the fork.
Steak ($18) is hanger steak with Tuscan kale, romaine hearts and cannellini beans. I especially liked the ingenuity of the egg yolk floating in the broth, which you’re supposed to mix in to create a thicker sauce from the broth. However, what I disliked about the dish is how sweet it was. The spicy red chimichurri adds a hint of heat, but not enough to counteract the sweetness all around.
Our favorite entrée of the evening was Squid Ink Pasta with Jumbo Crab ($24) is a perfectly executed plate of al dente house-made tonnarelli pasta, tossed with a generous amount of crab meat, beurre blanc, and parmesan. It simply sublime! Make sure you squeeze the grilled lemon over the pasta before tossing.
The noodles are not made with the squid ink, but rather, soaked in it, giving it a light black hue, rather than that of charcoal. I am loving the out-of-the-box thinking and dare-to-be-different attitude of The Recess Room.
I didn’t order the Kurobuta Pig Head ($55) but I couldn’t resist taking a photo of it when it arrives at the table next to us. The pig head is sous vide for 15 hours then fried. Served with green onion roti, garlic paste, salsa roja, and nuoc cham, this is exactly what I want to order for a larger party. I find the act of communal eating absolutely gratifying, so sharing the pig’s head is a perfect way to do that.
Perhaps it is the Asian influences in the dishes I’m enamored by, but no matter the reason, The Recess Room offers a solid menu and a respite to an area inundated by Asian restaurants. I can’t wait to return after their liquor license is in place.
The Recess Room
18380 Brookhurst St
Fountain Valley, CA 92708