“My specialty is bringing an open mind to ingredients and wanting to explore new ideas and techniques. With carrying an open mind and approach to food, my belief is that the offerings at The Recess Room will continue to grow and delight many different palates.” – Executive Chef, Sam Green
f the coastal brunches were a schoolyard, this punchy “new kid” just east of Huntington Beach is hitting far outside of its weight-class. But this is to be expected given the heavy-hitting Executive Chef they’ve brought on. Chef Sam Green, formerly of the venerable Broadway, and the Balboa Bay Resort’s Waterline.
There is an extraordinary genius and passion to this Master’s approach to cuisine, and The Recess Room’s new brunch menu eschews the ordinary, routine and passé, but offers bold, exciting and fantastically unique offerings that are certain to delight adventurous and traditional palates alike.
First, the aesthetics. Aged red brick and weathered raw wood comprise the wall facades, while antique bottles and hardware adorn the decidedly modern interior. Clean lines, and lack of clutter make it evident that each decoration and accent piece was chosen and placed deliberately.
The main dining room is youthfully chic and surpasses most. Bright, highly-polished stainless steel and chrome stand out amongst the contrasting restored-wood table tops and clean wood floors. But perhaps more important than the remarkably stylish surroundings is the sheer comfort of the place. Impeccably clean overstuffed cushions and chairs, upholstered in fine materials that are pleasing to the touch, provide an environment so welcoming that it feels like a space more personal than a restaurant.
A few preliminaries before the food review: I had no idea what to expect from the menu. I had never tasted anything like the offerings listed, but I knew Chef Green was at the helm in the kitchen, so my expectations were even higher than normal, (I have exceedingly high expectations).
The Jolly Rancher: START WITH THIS
Brunch began with a Jolly Rancher; a handheld watermelon hollowed out and filled-with an amazingly well-balanced fruity punch chock full of cucumber vodka, strawberry-infused tequila, watermelon syrup and lemon, topped with bright tropical flowers and fresh green sprigs of rosemary — talk about setting the mood!
Smoked Salmon Benedict:
Pairs perfectly with Peni-Chillin
NOTICE: These are the best eggs benedict I’ve ever had, and may ruin all others. The eggs are perfectly poached in red wine and provide a perfectly hot and creamy yolk that blends with the tart citrus-cream flavor of the hollandaise. The creamy yellow mixture pours over the robust and well-smoked salmon, and toasted squid ink English muffin, (The squid ink is just for color!). The texture is perfect, and despite featuring predominantly rich flavors, citrus and pickled red onion help present a very balanced profile that is full and pleasing throughout.
Chicken & Waffles:
Pairs perfectly with The Passion of the Fizz
This variation on a southern favorite absolutely dominates the competition for Best Chicken & Waffles! The secret is the complexity of the dish that prevents any part of it from getting boring. It is such a fun-flavored dish —yes, it tastes like fun! Rather than a bland waffle, salty chicken cutlet, and boring white gravy and/or overly sweet syrup, this dish breaks the mold.
First, the perfect golden brown waffle is made with a kimchi butter, which adds umami and a hint of sour to the traditionally sweet batter. Two moist and juicy panko crusted chicken cutlets similar to Katsu provide a change of texture and plenty of savory Shin Cup spicy flavor to balance the waffle and syrup. Alternate sweet & tart blueberries and strawberries adorn the dish and accompany the Kimchi butter and five-spice syrup. PRO TIP: Get extra Kimchi butter.
Duck Confit Chilaquiles: WRITER’S CHOICE
Pairs perfectly with Cereal Killer
One of my fondest childhood memories was coming home from school to an afternoon snack of authentic chilaquiles and some chocolate milk. Upon tasting this dish, I was taken back to those glorious treats after a long day of pretending to pay attention in class! The dish begins with fried corn tortillas that don’t go limp and soggy immediately, or worse yet, are rubbery and inedible. These tortillas stay crisp and crunchy, and are well-seasoned. The duck confit then takes center stage with its powerfully flavorful, meltingly tender and juicy profile. Remarkable savory flavors and mild saltiness join the hallmark fatty richness of the confit, but a surprising addition of spicy heat cuts through and truly highlights every flavor by keeping your tastebuds alert! Mellow creaminess is delivered by a sunny side up egg. Fire roasted corn and pickled red onion add sweetness and acidity, respectively. Crema and cilantro adorn plate at last. Texture is varied, as are the flavors throughout the dish, and wins the distinction of being this writer’s favorite of the lot!
Shrimp and Grits:
Pairs perfectly with Grapefruits of Wrath
This dish is sure to be a hit with anyone from the South (as my father is), and anyone with discerning taste buds! A bed of tender, creamy grits is topped with a poached egg, shrimp bisque, shaved Fresno chile and a bit of cracked pepper. A generous portion of peeled and sautéed tail-on shrimp are impeccably tender-yet-firm, mild, sweet, and finished off with just a hint of saltiness, making these shrimp perfect on their own, but grace the rest of the dish by adding texture to the grits.
Cereal Crusted French Toast:
Pairs perfectly with Frozé
You’ve never had French toast this good. Period. Light brioche is bathed in an egg mixture and coated in crushed “Honey Bunches of Oats”, and then cooked to perfection. The brioche is then filled with blueberry-mascarpone filling, and topped with hibiscus honey! Pouring syrup on this would almost make it too sweet, but without syrup it stands as a perfect example of how imagination can make old favorites exciting.
Pairs perfectly with 24-Carrot Diamond
One of the trendiest new breakfast favorites also gets a special treatment in this light and healthy offering! Starting with grilled country bread, plenty of fresh, smoky avocado mash is piled high and topped with a sous vide (63c) egg, and accompanied by a crisp tempura fried squash blossom filled with creamy goat cheese filling. Shaved asparagus, toasted hemp seed, and ninja radish “kick” up the texture and add a bit of crunch in addition to the bread. Textures throughout provide pleasant mouth feel, and savory, rich and smoky flavors present nicely.
If you are interested in a superlative and imaginative brunch, along with cocktails that make mimosas look like juice boxes, then take a “recess” from the mundane at The Recess Room.