Saturday, November 22, 2014

Fun, Modern, All Day Dining at Recess Eatery – Apparently Glendale Rocks

by guest blogger @iam_robot

Guess What? There’s a legit modern-dining in Glendale and it’s been there for 5 freakin’ years. Being a Glendale transplant for 15 years, I am deeply ashamed to never have heard Recess Eatery until two weeks ago.

Granted, it’s a stretch from tourist traps like Americana or Glendale Galleria but the food offerings are leaps and bounds better than any of the establishments there. Don’t tell me that Din Tai Fung is the greatest thing you could have in Glendale. Last time I checked, they couldn’t serve my dumplings hot and the “not supposed to be” ultra-thick skin tasted like cardboard. Don’t get me started on Cheesecake Factory. Big portions and cheap don’t always sum up to palatable. Bourbon Steak is okay. Good piece of rib-eye but under-seasoned and flavorless at times and not worth that $80.

Okay, now, down to the good stuff. Recess Eatery is the brainchild of Chef Sevan Abdessian. Following graduation from the Culinary Institute in 1999, he began his journey in Patina Restaurant’s kitchen under the rigorous training of Master Chef Joachim Splichal. After that, he worked earnestly in the world of private chef for the likes of Adam Sandler, John Travolta, and Rod Stewart. These days, other than at the restaurant, you can see him on Chopped, Cutthroat Kitchen, and season two of The Taste.

The ambiance at Recess Eatery feels like your favorite diner (yes, the one where everybody knows your name) – small and sparsely decorated yet intimate and cozy. Love the overall simplicity: dark booths, concrete floor, reclaimed chandeliers, white tablecloth, small flowers in the jar, and barely lit candle. There’s no big Sunflower setting in the host area or some overpriced local artwork, the gaudiest interior touches are dark wooden frames strewn along the wall. For Glendale, this is refreshing, as are the genuine feeling of welcome, warmth and friendliness from everyone I encountered. Also, don’t forget the beautiful outdoor patio. The patio features candle-bedecked tables, vine-covered roof and live Bossa nova.  Warm romantic night? Look no further!
In a way, Recess is an all-day eatery, featuring Chef Sevan’s interpretation of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern-inspired fare. The menu is customized to cater many different personalities. For Breakfast or lunch, you can find your Buttermilk Waffles, Egg Benedict, or Gourmet Burger along with Chef inspired salads like Edamame Fatoush, Caprese Vasken (tomato, burrata, prosciutto, etc.), and Salmon Soba. But dinner is the way to go! I can’t specify a genre but the lineup leans toward a Cal-Mediterranean cuisine with some French and Asian influences. Heartier fares like Lamb Racks, Maine Lobster, and Dungeness crab are served with lebni chimicurri or mizuna (Japanese mustard).  

Below are the dishes presented to me:
 Duck Brie Flatbread
We started the night with a flatbread topped with crispy duck, melted brie, gorgonzola, pears and dried figs. I love how the salty duck (presumably cooked confit) balance out with the sweetness of the pears and the tanginess of the figs. The brie was good too – creamy while providing subtle nuttiness to the pizza. My slight criticism is that I wish there were more gorgonzola – I was waiting for that strong salty pungent goodness – guess it just got masked with all the other good stuff.
The Hobbit - Whole fried artichoke, chevre, red bell pepper coulis, balsamic vinaigrette
In essence, this is artichoke cooked “sous-vide” then mashed up, filled with goat cheese and formed to look like a Falafel Ball. It’s pretty much deep fried goodness from then on – fried to golden brown perfection while the vinaigrette and bell pepper coulis added tang and cooling underneath. I also love the aroma of the goat cheese – very robust with a distinct tart and earthy flavor.

Steak Tartare
Probably one of the best Steak Tartare I’ve ever had in my life. Steak had a silken supple texture and fused wonderfully with the richness of the quail egg and herbaceous flavors of the red onion/ parsley combo. The capers were a great addition as well – these pickled flower buds gave the dish a salty/ vinegary dimension.

Market Fish – Sea Bass with Risotto and Chestnut Mushroom
This was a very satisfying dish. Sea bass was roasted flawlessly – tender and flaky yet flavorful. I’m glad the seasoning didn’t overwhelm the fish' inherent brininess. I also like the side of risotto here – the rice was cooked to a proper texture – crisp and savory balancing the mushroom’s earthy taste. Overall, the whole dish is a blissful symphony – loved the dominant flavor of butter, garlic, and onion.

The Graduate – Niman Ranch Veal Shank, Polenta, Corn, Mushrooms, Grainy Mustard Demi
Hands down best dish of the night! The veal was quite impeccable – tender, juicy and unabashedly savory. The polenta was wonderfully creamy from milk/ butter emulsion and surprisingly sweet from the fresh corn. Though I was a little leery the mustard demi might dominate the dish, the rich brown sauce actually had a delicious spicy kick. I wish I could eat a tub of these.

White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake
We ended the night with Raspberry Cheesecake made with layers of white cake, cream cheese, white chocolate, Irish cream and raspberries. The slight tartness of the raspberries melded wonderfully with the sweet, dense cream cheese, making for a sort of white chocolate mousse dessert, while the Irish cream amplified the sweetness level. Thought I don’t normally order cheesecake, this one was quite exceptional.

Overall, I think my experience at Recess is very memorable. Recess has been established for a long time, and I’m glad to see Chef Sevan’s daring approach and enthusiasm to surprise his guests. His style veers towards traditional cooking with multilayered modern flavor combinations. It’s fun, ambitious, and somewhat whimsical. Even if you decide to order gourmet burger or eggs benedict, you can rest assured the dish will come out with a twist and it will taste better than any other brunch out there. Trust me on this one…drive down to the north side of Brand…take someone you want to impress…I promise it’s worth it.

Recess Eatery
1102 N. Brand Blvd
Glendale CA 91202
(818) 507-0592
Recess on Urbanspoon

Disclosure: this meal was hosted


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