Chef Joseph's: High-quality comfort food

Red grouper tempura sandwich with seaweed salad at Chef Joseph's.


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

, 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.


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