Story and photos by Rachel Verbits, March 2017 Issue.
Downtown Phoenix is in the middle of a renaissance. Almost everywhere you look, there’s a new neighborhood, a new bar or a new attraction. Here at Echo, we’re always looking for the latest and greatest, which is how we discovered FOUND:RE, downtown’s newest boutique hotel that opened last October.
Standing tall on the northwest corner of Central Avenue and Portland Street, FOUND:RE seems like any other unassuming hotel. One step inside this “105-room art and lifestyle hotel,” however, and you’ll discover a blend of artistry and innovation. As a nod to local artists, the hotel lobby doubles as a gallery with paintings, sculptures and light installations on display.
OK, so FOUND:RE may have their finger on the pulse of Phoenix’s art scene, but we discovered they’re creating their own art just feet away from the entrance in the hotel’s restaurant, MATCH Cuisine & Cocktails.
Serving up globally inspired street food and creative cocktails, MATCH is truly one of the most eclectic places I’ve encountered in a long time, and I couldn’t be more excited about it. Executive chef Akos Szabo has designed the menus here to be a creative exploration of flavors from all around the world for a global-meets-local dining experience.
Starting off with a cocktail is a must, and MATCH’s offerings are incredibly unique. The cocktail menu here lets patrons know that they’re in for a “globe-trotting expedition through the various drinking cultures of the world,” and don’t expect to recognize all of the ingredients in these concoctions – unless, of course, you truly are an experienced world traveler. Not to worry, though; the staff is more than ready to help you along this journey by offering advice based on your tastes.
One of their signature drinks, the Caipirinha do Dia, is crafted with cachaça (a distilled spirit made from sugarcane juice) sugar and seasonal fruit. Boasting the most popular distilled alcoholic beverage in Brazil, this light, sweet and deliciously fruity cocktail served as the perfect first stop on any palate’s passport. You’ll find that the other cocktails – inspired by Peru, Hong Kong, French Imperialism and a famous Arabic greeting – will tempt your taste buds as well.
As the menu states, MATCH is all about breaking guests out of their comfort zones and introducing them to unique flavors and experiences. Entrees include wood-fired pizzas, soups, salads and sides.
I’m always looking for something different (be it a flavor, a dish or an entire dining experience), and I found that when I discovered Match’s eclectic social plate offerings. These tapas-style dishes are designed to mix, match and share with your table. So, naturally, that’s what I did!
Ready to eat? First, we were whisked away to India for Indian Butter Chicken Samosas. The samosas, wrapped in a balance of crispy and flaky dough, are stuffed with chicken and veggies mixed in a flavorful curry sauce, with cucumber raita, which melts instantly in your mouth. The only downside is that you only get three samosas per order, so if you’re not dining alone, you will unfortunately not get to eat them all.
Reminiscent of a tapas experience in the heart of Spain, the diverse selection of shareable dishes we decided on kept coming. We made a quick jump to the Caribbean, for the Jamaican patties appeared next. These patties, which reflect the island country’s authentic street food, are filled with habanero-spiced grass fed beef, organic tomato and Monterey Jack cheese. The habaneros heat gives these pockets of goodness a perfectly balanced, hearty bite.
While sharing is the only way you could possibly make your way around this global menu, be advised that some of the social plates are hearty enough for your own meal. For example, the Korean BBQ ribs, which come served over a green papaya salad, makes an ideal meal for one – if you can stop people from stealing from your plate, that is. The meaty ribs are basted in a sticky, sweet Korean BBQ sauce and arrive nestled atop a salad of julienned papaya, carrots, roasted cashews, scallions, cilantro, mint and Thai chili dressing. It’s so fresh and light that you’ll seriously contemplate ordering a second round (which I almost did).
Next up was the baked gnocchi and meatballs (from the wood-oven plates section of the menu). I closed my eyes and took a bite of the house-made mascarpone gnocchi and felt like I was in Italy. The texture is light and pillowy, as it should be, but has a delicious crispness to the outside, thanks to the Forno Bravo wood oven. The tender meatballs, which arrive mixed in with fresh, crushed organic tomatoes, mozzarella and garden-fresh oregano, are absolutely a must-try.
What can I say? Too many delicious options and not enough sharing. By the time this meal came to an end I found myself taking notes on the items I have to try on my next visit – which will most certainly include a work of art by pastry chef Audrey Enriquez.
While MATCH has an incredibly diverse menu, not a single corner is cut when it comes to quality. The food isn’t just tantalizing and tasty – it’s good for you and the local farms, too. The burgeoning restaurant takes pride in choosing the best ingredients available locally, even going so far as to hand pick the lettuce they use in their salads. Sustainable and organic ingredients are highlighted on the menu, and the proof of the quality is always in the taste.
This new Phoenix eatery is a perfect destination for quick lunch (ask about the “Light Rail Express” option), for starting a night out or for brunch on the weekend. Basically, any occasion where you’re up for a unique culinary experience, MATCH Cuisine & Cocktails is waiting to take you on a journey you won’t soon forget.
MATCH Cuisine & Cocktails
1100 N. Central Ave., Phoenix
Dinning room hours:
6-10:30 a.m., breakfast; 11 a.m.-2 p.m., lunch; 5-11 p.m., dinner; 10:20 a.m.-4:20 p.m., Brunch (Sat & Sun)
Bar & lounge and pool deck hours differ slightly.