I don’t usually do restaurant reviews on this blog. I think its an act of self-preservation really. I love restaurants and reviewing restaurants so much that if I ever started doing it regularly here on Hot Pot, I think this blog would turn into an all-consuming monster for me (especially with the way we’ve been eating out lately-must remember how to cook!).
But I might give it a try and in any case, I felt like I had to say something about our recent visit to Matchbox over in Eastern Market.
We’ve visited Matchbox twice now for brunch, never for dinner funnily enough (though I hear the pizza is fabulous). This time it was part of Chris’ “Weekend of Pre-Birthday Fun.”
The food? Its delicious. Its really good food, it might not be super distinguishable from the rest of the good food in this city, but its done exceedingly well. (to be fair-I haven’t tried the pizza, I know).
Each time, I come away totally impressed and I think its because they put just as much time and effort in the presentation and the service as they do the food.
Now a quick aside that’s helpful in understanding this post:
I LOVE brunch, love it. But I love it as much for the atmosphere and time of day as I do for the opportunity to fill my tummy with butter and eggs and maple syrup. I like the cozy feeling of pulling on a comfy sweater and jeans and stepping out into the early morning light, of cupping my hands around a hot coffee cup, of lingering with friends over the meal because its Sunday morning and no one is in a rush. In fact, the atmosphere is really what I go to brunch for and on the food side, unless I’m celebrating, I usually stick to some oatmeal or a salad or a yogurt&granola&fruit type of combo. Yes, I’m that girl who orders the dishes off the brunch menu with the insane mark-up, the sort of brunch options that require no thought or effort from the restaurant or the kitchen staff. The kind of thing that very few restaurants pay ANY attention to doing well.
Which is why I love the restaurants that do. My oatmeal at Matchbox came in a sleek white bowl on a tray that also held a carafe of cinnamon-infused milk, candied pecans, and golden raisins all presented like it was some sort of suave deconstructed dish instead of homey tasty oatmeal. Yes, I was paying a sort of ridiculous $8 for oatmeal but I was getting $20 presentation and the oatmeal was damn tasty to boot. There are a few other restaurants in the area where I find the same kind of care given even to the lamest of dishes that I’m known to order-Clydes in G-Town is one, Carlyle is another.
So yes, I’ve realized that I like Matchbox for the experience, as much as for the (good) food. I like waitstaff that are excited to tell you about their favorite dish and who, when you ask for helping choosing between two dishes say things like “well the bacon on that one is so….” and then trail off wordlessly with that perfectly understood sigh over the glory of bacon. In this case, Chris went for the bacon-graced Bloody Mary Burger and was not disappointed, especially by the bacon which he thought was cooked with extreme care to render off all of the fat with no burnt bits.
I like the fact that even when I order something as seemingly silly as oatmeal or a yogurt/granola combo at Matchbox the meal that I’m served is one of the most perfect versions of oatmeal or granola with yogurt that I’ve ever had. And its all so pretty too. (You are probably wondering why there is no photo of my pretty oatmeal…let’s just say this is why I suck at blog restaurant reviews- I eat everything and then remember to take the picture so here’s a shot of the milk?)
The reason why I love the restaurants I do is as much for the atmosphere or the staff or the presentation as it is for the food. It has to be good food, but its the extra little everything else that puts a restaurant over the top for me. And I don’t think that’s wrong. Food is about the whole experience, from where it comes from, to how its prepared, to how it looks on the plate, to who you are eating it with. Its the restaurants that strive for honoring that whole experience that are usually my favorites. Matchbox might not hit it on every single note, but their food and the little extras make it a fun and satisfying place for a birthday weekend brunch.