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An Open Letter to Match Restaurant: Mike's 7 Steps to Achieve Greatness

Two days after their soft opening on the 20th, Michael and I decided to check out the brand spanking new Match Restaurant in the Silverado Ranch area of town. I really liked some things about it, I really didn’t like some things about it.  I admire their attempt to present a diverse menu, yet I find it is in desperate need of focus.  I love that the prices are incredibly affordable, yet I leave desiring a higher quality food.  Match needs work, but it has a good base, and unlimited potential.

Match Restaurant

Match Restaurant

Match confused me so much, I don’t even know how to approach this post.  Fighting with myself for a couple days now on how to write this, I’ve decided to lend my unsolicited, verbose and opinionated helping hand by doing a Top 7 list (because 10 is so ordinary) of things that I think need to happen at Match for it to become one of the top late night dining destinations in town.

Respectfully submitted…

#1) Servers Need To Know the Menu Inside and Out

Sea Snails from Match

Sea Snails from Match

As you’ll see this as a recurring theme through these seven points, Match’s menu is all over the map (literally). If the menu is going to pride itself in offering not-so-common, exotic items like Sea Snails and beer from Tibet (Lhasa), the servers are REALLY going to need to know the menu inside and out to answer the inevitable parade of questions that will come along with it.  It’s going to take a good amount of work to bring everyone up to speed, but it is invaluable time spent as the servers are on the front lines of the diner’s experience.

Tibetian Beer, Avoid At All Costs

Lhasa, The Budweiser of the Himalayas

In the mean time, as the learning process is still happening, make sure the servers don’t pull answers out of their ass when they don’t know something.  A simple “I’m not sure about that, let me check with the kitchen and I’ll let you know” goes a long way in my book.

#2) Greet With Confidence

Welcome your walk-ins with confidence.  When I walked in the other night, the place was completely empty, three people sort of stared at me and instead of saying, “Welcome to Match, will there be anyone joining you tonight?” I was received with an almost sheepish, “Would you like to see a menu?”  This to me exudes a tone of “Are you sure you want to eat this shit?”  As they say; fake it till you make it (TLV’s credo)!

#3) Smell and Lighting Go A Long Way

There’s so much more to just the food for a diner to have an experience where they’ll want to keep coming back.  A successful restaurant will be pleasing to all five senses.  Two of the senses that took a dive in our first experience at Match were sight and smell.

It’s an overall dark feeling with black granite tables with charcoal pits and huge stainless steel hoods over them, an apparent throwback to the previous Japanese shabu-shabu tenant, Honmachi (thanks to TLV reader who goes by DittoToo for pointing that out), and where Match intends on using for Korean BBQ.  There needs to be some tinkering with the lighting to warm up the mood.

Also, there was a stink emanating from the men’s bathroom of backed up sewer and unfortunately spilled out to the main dining room.  This Vegas Stench is often unavoidable, but some kind of extra ventilation and partitioning of the dining room from the bathrooms will help it out.

#4) Offer Introductory Late Night Specials

These days, people need some kind of incentive to try something out.  The whole, “This place is new and you should be excited to try it out” era has been temporarily suspended with the great tightening of wallets.  The problem (and it’s in some ways a good one to have) is that the prices on the menu are already at rock bottom.  Both of our jaws hit the table when we saw how cheap the food is.  Marking down the prices from where they are at isn’t going to do much, so maybe offer something like a “Get To Know Us” Tasting Menu.  They already have tasting menus on the menu representing three of the many regions they represent (more on that later), but to get people in the door, maybe offer a three or four course tasting at around $10 – $15 that spans the regions and is specifically billed as an Introduction to Match.

I know people can just do that on their own and build their own introduction (as Michael and I did), but it’s all in the packaging and showing John Q. Public that they are getting something special that’s a value and at a limited time.

#5) Don’t Hesitate A Bump in Price For Higher Quality

Huevos Estrellados from Match

Huevos Estrellados from Match

I’ve talked about the cheap prices, and they really are cheap. So cheap in fact that they can stand a bump by a dollar or two if it means an upgrade of quality of ingredients.   The french fries, while only $3, were the factory cut Sysco-style Big-Brown-Bag-O-Frozen-Fries variety.  Meh.  They especially drug down one of my favorite Spanish dishes they offer, Huevos Estrellados, which was a mere $8.  The Huevos Estrellados could have used less fries, more chorizo and non-sweat shop eggs.  It’s good for the price, and will appeal to John Q. Public, but if the target audience is fellow food industry peeps as they get off their shifts, then I think they’ll be better served by a little bit higher quality for a little bit higher in price.

I know, I know…you’re saying, “Mike, you’re complaining that the prices are too low in this economy?!?”  I think the prices would be still dirt cheap, even with an increase if it meant better food as a result.  Tough call on this one….one I’m still wrestling with myself.

#6) Execution, Execution, Execution

Pork Belly from Match

Pork Belly from Match

Of course you always want to cook your best for any customer, but Match is really inviting the devil through the front door by billing itself as this food industry hang.  Make sure temperatures of the food are where you want them to be upon serving is a big one.  The Chinese-Spiced Pork Belly dish was billed as a “Cold” item, but it came across tepid.  Tepid + Pork doesn’t necessarily evoke good emotions in me.

Some of the dishes just flat out didn’t work.  For instance, we didn’t order it, but the chef sent out a chilled wilted spinach dish with sesame seed oil.  It was chewy and tough to swallow and the infamously powerful sesame seed oil completely dominated and stayed on the tongue for way too long.  It needs to be re-worked or scrapped entirely.

Salt and Pepper Calamari

Salt and Pepper Calamari

On all of the dishes we ordered, I felt the seasoning was very good on all of them.  The Salt and Pepper Calamari ($5) was a great example of spot on seasoning for me, and it was also masterfully fried.

#7) Focus What You Are

Match defies description.  Well, at least a description that can fit on one storefront.  Match is an Asian / European / American / Tapas / Korean BBQ / Paella / Karaoke Bar.  Yes…really.

The Menu at Match

The Menu at Match

While I love that they are attempting such a diverse menu, when you see dishes from Korea, China, Spain, Belgium, Japan, Russia and the USA (just to name a few), your head starts to spin.  The spinning process is not helped by Match’s gargantuan menu (it’s physically immense).  The items on the menu are so spread apart and grouped together in such a confusing way that it adds to the perception of an unfocused restaurant.  A smaller, tighter menu will help.

With everything from paella to Korean BBQ on the menu, it evokes a “Jack of All Trades, Master of None” kind of vibe.  My opinion…axe the Korean BBQ…you don’t need it.  Find a more creative way to use the left over table hardware from your shabu-shabu predecessor or change out the tables all together, which would be my preference.   Oh, and please; no karaoke! At least offer dining space that isn’t in earshot of it.

Although the menu offers food from many different cultures, it is Asian intensive and I wish it weren’t.  It’s almost as if it is a Pan-Asian restaurant, and someone at some point wanted to throw in these other dishes.  I’d love to see more of the European influence on this menu.  If there was a place that offered a decent homemade Potato Pierogi cooked the real way with butter and onion in this town, I just might cry.  Either way, this menu can certainly use a good dose of balance in its broad diversity.  (More Spanish! The piquillo pepper is your friend!)

In Conclusion

I know these changes are quite drastic, some going against the very essence of what Match projects itself to be.  My fear is that if some of these significant changes aren’t implemented, Match isn’t going to be around to celebrate a 6 month anniversary.

Above the moral obligation of wanting to see a small business owner do well and all of his or her employees to have secure jobs, I want this place to work purely for selfish reasons, as we are always looking for good late night eats.  My suggestion is to give Match Restaurant a week or two discover itself, give it time to tighten up some loose ends and get in more of a rhythm.  That’s what I’m going to do.

—–

Match Restaurant
1263 E. Silverado Ranch Blvd. Suite 106
Las Vegas, NV 89183

(702) 629-4444

Follow Match Restaurant on Twitter at @MatchRestaurant

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Mike Dobranski is a professional musician, amateur blogger, eater of good food, poker junkie, master of the inappropriate comment and bad husband to a wonderful wife. Follow him on Twitter at @MikeDobranski.

Follow Tasting Las Vegas on Twitter at @TastingLasVegas

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10 comments to An Open Letter to Match Restaurant: Mike’s 7 Steps to Achieve Greatness

  • Doug Douglas

    That, sir, is the epitome of constructive criticism. Well done. Hopefully they’ll heed your advice.

  • Thanks so much, Doug! Glad to see our genuine desire to help raise the bar comes through all the layers of snark!

  • Mike! My Italian mother learned how to make pierogi for my Polish father! I’m sure she’d be happy to cook for you sometime. ;)

  • Hey, I had an Italian mother that learned how to make pierogis, too! Man, do I wish I had that recipe! They’re such a pain in the ass to make, but they are so good!

  • That reminds me of when RE Tapas first opened. They had a fried chicken dish on their first menu and I was shocked that it arrived at the table so quickly given that it was bone-in dark meat. I cut into it and, sure enough, it bled.

    I was going to give Match a month then check it out.

  • I haven’t gone to RE Tapas yet. Michael went had an almost identical experience to yours, so I’m afraid to go. I think Match will be a great spot once they figure out what they are. I just hope they figure it out while they’re still able to be open!

  • RE closed almost a year ago. They got it under control after a while. We used to go maybe twice a month since we lived a couple blocks away. I was disappointed, though not really surprised, when they shut down. Hopefully Match does better.

  • I still wonder what “California style” cuisine is though…which was what they advertised.

  • Tina

    Just wondering how many resturants you have owned? Managed? or even served at…The last time I checked to go the second day of a “Soft Opening” your kind of asking for uncertain servers and small mistakes. I have been to Match and it is a fun, laid back atmosphere and is a great place to bring friends. While the menu is large ,there is usually something on there to please everyone. The servers are friendly and the lighting is what actually sets the mood. . It is really sad to see all these food critics trashing all of these resturants, all you remind me of is a large, bitter man who should probably stick with music.

  • Tina,

    I’ve actually tried to go back to Match on 3 separate occasions and they were closed / closing during posted business hours. By nearly all accounts of people that have gone since the writing of this post 4 months ago, not much has changed.

    I’d like to see Match be successful, but the early closings and empty dining rooms reported to me by others that have gone there seem to indicate that my advice in this post might not have been too misguided. If Match wants to survive, they need to simplify what they do, and do what they do well.

    But you at least got one thing right. I am indeed a large, bitter man that should stick to music.

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