The former home of the Atlantic on Jackson is now Reckless Noodle House, a name that implies, perhaps, zany bowls of ramen. What you get instead is a Vietnamese menu full of texture, fresh herbs, and plenty of personality.
The restaurant opened just this past Tuesday, but on Sunday night there was already a neighborly vibe, most likely due to the the football happening on the mighty projection screen, which can disappear and let the petite room get back to its moody lighting and weathered wood sensibilities. (One of the deep blue walls even has hundreds of tiny shark jaws affixed in a sort of scalloped pattern.)
Reckless feels like a neighborhood restaurant, but the kitchen doesn't shy away from heat. The papaya salad (with black crab, shrimp, or pork belly) and squid larb leave your lips with a slow burn well after dinner. Also, the fact that this place serves squid larb in the first place tells you it's not going for the broadest common denominator here. In the kitchen is Kenny Lee, a former chef de cuisine at Lionhead, which might explain why food is already so confident, from the fresh rolls stuffed with caramelized pork to the coconut-rich curry vermicelli bowl. Right now that bowl and a turmeric rockfish dish are the only entree-size items on the menu. Another neighborly touch—the most expensive dish is $16.
The presence of actual noodles is currently rather limited, consisting mostly of vermicelli in a supporting role. Co-owner Bryce Sweeney says more kitchen equipment is on the way, including a jet wok, which has historically been a crucial element of Lee's cooking career, from Lionhead to his days at the former Zhu Dang on Olive. There are already plans for a broader menu that includes pho and plenty of stir-fried noodle dishes.
Reckless also has a broad cocktail list of classics (mai tais, barrel-aged negronis) and house drinks that lean into rum and mezcal and flavors friendly to Vietnamese fare. Sweeney and his business partner Mario Eckert both run the front of the house; the bathroom walls are covered with photos of base jumpers, skiers, and other forms of extreme sport, and the online menu offers to "take your flavor chakras on a reckless ride." And yet...this place seems so warm and promising, I find myself unable to poke fun at either of these things.