Gotta’ love Restaurant.com: Its popular $2 dining deals help us discover new places for romance, and Match is one of the better new spots in Las Vegas for that.
We’ve wanted to try Match for some time, because of its tapas reputation, but kept delaying, because it’s a long drive — the restaurant sits on the edge of Las Vegas and Henderson in a non-descript, suburban plaza.
Yet inside, its decor is a delight, especially for the ‘burbs — all cool edges, understated colors and open design. There’s a bar right at the entrance, and another bar-in-the-round in the main dining room, where one can eat and drink while watching food prepared, much like a sushi restaurant.
Many of the individual tables give a sense of luxurious lounging, because of high-backed seating with pillows, a little like one finds in upscale restaurants in Thailand.
Tables feature individual cooking stations so you can cook meat to your own taste. All the paraphernalia associated with that can be distracting for diners not thrilled about this trend in Asian cooking, but it’s easily overlooked once the menu arrives.
Match’s inventive menu zooms from Asia to the Americas to Europe, in small plates that allow diners to discover new tastes, and new takes on familiar foods.
No dish was more than $7, so we feasted on seafood and fish, astonished by the quality and variety in the Mojave desert.
We tried eight dishes, mostly from $4 to $5.50 each, and declared the seared tuna the best of all.
It is, without exaggeration, exquisite. In the desert, where tuna is easier to serve than most big fish, not everyone gets it right.
This tuna is sliced almost thin enough to be translucent, so melts in the mouth with just the right edge from garlic-soy sauce.
Salt and pepper calamari, again, is popular in the desert because it’s readily available, frozen, to chefs. But we can’t imagine this calamari was frozen, because it’s cut in a way that suggests fresh (FedEx does wonders, shipping seafood), and it wasn’t at all chewy in the way of most frozen-then-flash fried squid.
If the only calamari you’ve known is the American breaded version, try this to see how real calamari (OK, far from the ocean) is supposed to taste.
Jalapeno puffs, at $4.50, were light in texture and in fire (jalapenos with spicy tuna and cream cheese), so complemented the seafood well.
A house specialty, kama hamachi, was a great find: Grilled yellowtail fish collar. Imagine the neck of a big fish, with the most fatty part of the flesh cooked perfectly (moist and tender), and arranged with such artistry you have to guess what it is.
The menu is light on veggies, so we chose potato croquetas, a Spanish specialty and a bargain at $4.
Match encourages diners to be gourmet adventurers, so we ordered the “Triple S” and paused for a second after seeing sea snails. Interesting, but wouldn’t have them again.
The “vivaneau”, however, would be top of our re-order list, pairing red snapper sashimi with seaweed (greens at last!) and jalapeno, for a flavor-popping dish.
After this explosion of global tastes, it was refreshing to cool the palate with frozen coconut, an iced dessert served in a small, half-coconut shell. Often too rich to end a meal, this coconut was the perfect end to a near-perfect meal.
One quibble: The bar, at the front of the restaurant, was rocking when we arrived, so we scanned the near-empty dining room (it was an early dinner), and expected a quiet spot for a romantic evening.
We were seated right next to the only couple in the place. The next couple to arrive also was seated beside us, so now three couples were struggling to keep their voices low, and enjoy a romantic meal. The first couple dashed as soon as they finished their meal, leaving in such a hurry that they left unfinished martinis on the table (a glass half-full in Las Vegas?). They spent most of the meal on their iPhones anyway.
The second couple tried only a couple of dishes, then fled. One wonders if these diners had been seated with better spacing, they might have lingered longer, and spent more. There were, after all, many open tables.
Match is a splendid feast for the senses, but that seating strategy makes diners cramped in a wide-open room.
A private karaoke event filled another dining room, secluded from the main restaurant-bar, and it sounded like they were having a great time. Servers with lots of tattoos and little skirts were definitely adding to the excitement.
“Match Girls”, as they’re known, are so popular in their schoolgirl uniforms that they’re promoted on the website (along with teasing photos of bared tattoos).
With names like Luscious and Heartbreaker, they’ve become stars at this new hot spot, and their fame has been boosted by a much-improved website (hate to say it, but the original website tried to be edgy and instead looked trashy). The website now matches the classiness of the club-like restaurant.
The deal: The restaurant.com certificate cost $2 to eat $25 worth of food. We ate $43.50 worth of food for only $18.50 (before tax and tip; we left a 20% tip on the original bill for very good service). Best of all, the certificate was welcomed by both server and manager. And the manager (one of the owners), checked during and after the meal to see if diners were enjoying themselves. Always a test of a restaurant that wants return business.
Four stars for Match, five for Restaurant.com. Eight dishes, almost as many countries, for $20.50, plus tax and tip: Restaurant.com proves again that its deals are unmatched.
Cheap Eats posts a new deal, or reports on experiences with coupons and other deals, here every Monday.