In the not-too-distant past, being seated near a restaurant’s kitchen was akin to wearing a scarlet letter. “Ignore us,” was the unspoken message the front-of-the-house staff received from diners parked near the swooshing doors. Then came the rise of the glass-enclosed exhibition kitchen, where chefs could be seen scurrying around the fishbowl. Some restaurants removed the glass, offering diners the chance to hear the kitchen chatter, while others planted chef’s tables inside the kitchen. Uncomfortably intimate, the weird balancing act between formality and informality left guests wondering why they donned $1,400 Ferragamos to walk on no-slip commercial tile.
Match, the restaurant taking up half of the new FOUND:RE Hotel’s ground floor, offers a truly happy medium: counter tables fronting an open kitchen. So we jumped when given the chance to try the “chef’s experience.”
As it turns out, the payoff was retribution. From the moment my husband and I were seated, chefs paraded by, ensuring three times that we had no food allergies or dietary restrictions before asking which of the menu items sounded most appealing. Typically, we were told, the seven-course tasting menu (five courses for $165 or seven courses for $195 per person with wine pairings) is at the chef’s discretion, but we instantly got the feeling they were more concerned with accommodation than alienation.
I began scribbling notes and such on the menu. First order of business was to decipher the theme, since the subtly industrial decor offered no clues. Like a scene out of The Da Vinci Code, “Filipino,” “Jamaican,” “Guatemalan,” “Indian” and “Korean” drew my eye. Ah! Globally inspired comfort food. Sous-Chef Tim Salgado confirmed my assumption and added that everything was “viewed through the lens of Arizona”—meaning more than 70 local vendors were represented, including Mediterra Bakehouse and Crow’s Dairy. Later, Executive Chef Akos Szabo, who began his career at The Phoenician, confirmed it was he who insisted locality take priority. But even the ingredients used and the talented kitchen team—most of whom had worked together previously—took a backseat to one special lady: Isabella. Large and in charge, the flames from this eponymous bright-red wood-fired oven lick 80 percent of the menu.
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