there were ever to be a James Beard award for enduring the slings, arrows and
vagaries of the restaurant business and emerging unbowed, then the top place
would most certainly go to Chef Joseph Heidenreich.
Having survived restaurant closings, unimaginable illness and fickle business
partners, Chef Joseph remains almost impossibly upbeat and optimistic about his
life and career.
months ago, with the closure of his flagship restaurant, Agio,
on Mass Ave, Joseph was facing the prospect of unemployment and an uncertain
future. Amazingly and fortuitously, a series of unlikely events conspired to
put this talented chef back in business at the helm of a striking and
potentially spectacular establishment in the heart of downtown.
more or less, at the corner of Ohio and Delaware, The Connoisseur Room occupies
the ground floor of one of Indy's iconic landmark buildings. Entering the
restaurant, you could be fooled into thinking that you had walked onto the set
of a baroque opera. Burgundy and crimson abounds from the plush carpets to the
dramatic draperies. This luxurious color scheme is balanced by acres of wood which
adds even more warmth to an already warm atmosphere; a striking, wall-to-wall
bar dominates the back of the room and wine bottles are displayed behind glass
in a floor-to-ceiling array. The overall impression is one of luxury and
comfort, yet the friendly service and reassuringly unpretentious menu puts to
rest any notions one might have that this might be overbearing or pompous.
by the former limitations of a strictly Italian menu, Chef Joseph is now able
to let his imagination run wild. Open for lunch only, the kitchen offers a
constantly rotating selection, featuring a handful of appetizers and main
courses, drawing upon wide ranging global influences. Using locally-sourced
ingredients wherever possible, including a number of amazing offerings from The Smoking Goose
Smoking Goose, the menu might feature anything from a duck meatball sandwich
with pepper sauce to a perfectly roasted flounder, or Memphis-style pulled pork
BBQ with Puerto Rican black beans.
is very high quality comfort food with nicely judged portions, harmonious and
yet seemingly disparate ingredients, the kind of food you think might not work
at first, but then turns out deliver an explosive punch of flavors and textures
which less accomplished chefs might eschew out of sheer fear of failure.
prices for small plates in the $8-$10 range, entrees from $12-$20, this is fine
dining for a modest budget. Service is polished, informative and friendly.
Evenings are currently reserved for special events.
the road, my hope is that Chef Joseph will reintroduce the three martini lunch,
harking back to a day when America's greatest business minds made some of their
best decisions over alcohol. Whether you want to stop in for a quick bite or
linger for three hours, this is definitely on my Best Of list for lunchtime
indulgence. On a personal note, I am absolutely delighted to see Chef Joseph
back on the scene, especially at such a terrific establishment, and I'm sure
there are many who will share my sentiments.