Eat & Drink This Now: Lunch at The Recess Room

Meet you at Recess. Photo by Lisa Hu Chen

There have been times when we wanted to head to the Recess Room for a midday meal but forgot it was only open for dinner service. Turns out we weren’t the only ones who thought this way. As of early November, operating hours changed for the better. From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Tuesday through Friday, chef Nikko Marquez and his Fountain Valley crew are ready to feed your need for their modern Asian fare. Offering a quick-service setup as most are short on time, diners need only browse the chalkboard wall upon arrival, then place their request and pay the host, then claim a table indoors or along the patio. Ranging from $9 for a Korean barbecue tofu and kimchi bowl to $16 for one sizzling meat fest, there’s enough variety to please—particularly if you don’t count calories.

In lieu of day drinking, inquire about the agua fresca, which changes daily. Our tall blend of fresh strawberries, pineapple and rose water would complement the flavors we’d encounter while grazing the lunch menu. Pickled cucumbers and crispy shallots kept Thai barbecue pork ($12) from being a one-note dish. A plentiful farmers’ market salad ($10) evolves with what’s in season; on the day I visited, the mix included golden beets, Asian pear and watermelon radish. Opt for a side of protein or choose among the secondary leafy greens ($12), featuring tandoori chicken tossed in yogurt-herb dressing.

The gang’s all here. Photo by Lisa Hu Chen

Folks not familiar with Recess might consider the hearty “Fili” cheesesteak (a nod to the chef’s Filipino heritage for $14) as their gateway meal. Provolone and grilled onions guarantee a messy good time as they mingle with beef. Also worthy of your attention: an upgraded bone-marrow burger ($12), featuring a compound butter infused with the good stuff that evenly melted over our grass-fed patties and bacon jam. Pair it with taters spiced with tamarind, galangal, kaffir lime and ginger. Or go ooey gooey-style, and they’ll come blanketed in a velvety, classic Mornay sauce.

However, the Most Valuable Platter award belongs to Marquez’s sizzling riff on steak and eggs. Cognac black pepper and soy sauce flavor an albondigas meatball, longanisa sausage and filet mignon, while baguette rounds add necessary carbs and fried egg lends a yolk-y ooze. Per co-owner Viet Pham, the skillet brings international flavors together in a combo similar to the Vietnamese dish bánh mì chao. Sent to the table still steaming, it’ll satisfy your carnivore cravings and make you the envy of this dining room.

The Recess Room, 18380 Brookhurst St., Fountain Valley, (714) 377-0398; www.therecessroom.com.

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