Fans of Chris Locher have new reason to celebrate since he and his business partners opened Recess on Jupiter Street in Makati a fewmonths ago.
The Swiss-born chef with Italian heritage is known for his thin-crust pizzas, which he introduced at Yats Wine Club in Clark, Pampanga, over a decade ago, and then at C’ Italian Dining, also in Pampanga.
After C’, he joined the culinary team of The Oasis Paco Park Hotel, where he continues to serve European dishes at My Kitchen by Chef Chris.
Both My Kitchen and Recess operate with open kitchens but have different themes: the first is a casual dining grill; the second has comfort food in a space that reminds one of primary or secondary school.
One wall of Recess is covered with school lockers. There are bulletin boards with Polaroid snapshots of diners taken by the staff. A stylized periodic table of elements covers almost the entire ceiling, while a many-armed chandelier reminds one of reading lamps.
“The owners wanted unpretentious comfort food in a setting that would remind diners of a time when things were easier. All you had to worry about then was homework, and your favorite ‘subject’ was recess,” Locher said.
The chef’s pizza creations, known as “The Originals,” are on the menu and remain favorites of diners who place a leaf or two of arugula, some alfalfa sprouts, and a few drops of chili oil on the rectangular slice before rolling it up and taking a bite.
This month, Locher has come up with Pinoy Originals—pizzas topped with local staples such as Pork Tocino and Salted Egg, Beef Tapa with Atchara, Corned Beef and Egg, and Smoked Bangus (milkfish) and Egg.
“We’ve been open only a few months ago but we’ve already updated the menu several times. We’re able to do this because the owners are intent on providing a selection of comfort dishes,” said Locher.
The newest iteration now includes burgers, pasta, Lengua Estofado and Callos (ox tripe stew).
For dinner last week, we sampled all the new pizzas, Risotto Orbs (Italian rice balls with two cheeses, chorizo and herbs), and two salads—Recess Salad and Salad J50.
Recess Salad, which consisted of mixed greens and sliced fruit, was refreshing; but Salad J50 could actually be an entrée, savory with romaine hearts and sliced pears in creamy gorgonzola dressing topped with crispy bacon and soft-boiled egg.
Locher then sent out several entrees including a perfectly cooked Tuna Steak with Chimichuri sauce, Creole-style Catfish, Chef Chris’ Special Chicken Curry, Grilled Pork Bratwurst with spicy mustard, and Carolina-style Barbecued Mustard Lamb.
Given this number of dishes, one or two would stand out while the others end up as fillers. Not this time. All were really good, even the catfish that was not much to look at and was served last.
The tuna was moist and flavorful and went well with the Mexican-style tomato pilaf, while the grilled lamb ribs—one of the chef’s specialties— had the perfect combination of tender meat
and crisp barbecued crust.
“I included chicken curry because I really like curry, while the Bratwurst is a nod to my background as butcher,” Locher said.
The only misstep that evening—and it was a small one—was the lemon cheesecake that could have been tarter, to cut through all the rich flavors.
Recess is one restaurant we wouldn’t mind coming back to.
PHOTOS BY RAOUL J. CHEE KEE