14 March 2009

Late night dinner at Matchbox, Washington, DC

In January, my wife and I traveled to Washington, DC, to witness the inauguration of Barak Hussein Obama as President of the United States of America. It was a fantastic experience.

We were traveling to DC on the Saturday before the Inauguration. We planned to arrive late afternoon and then have dinner at a nice restaurant near our hotel. My wife had her heart set on scallops. We’d eaten there on a previous visit, and we knew they had a jazz trio performing in the lounge. It sounded like fun – nice dinner followed by jazz music.

Our trip to DC required a connection in Chicago. Everything seemed to be going ok. We arrived at the airport with plenty of time to spare. We boarded on time and pushed back without delay. Then came the announcement – we’d have to de-ice. Not to drag this part of the story out too much, but de-icing, and a particularly delays on the ground after we landed in Chicago resulted in us missing our connection. There were plenty of other flights to DC that day. Trouble was, they were all full.

United rebooked us on a flight for the next morning, but we didn’t really want to do that. So basically, we spent all afternoon going from gate to gate in O’Hare Airport trying to get seats on another flight on standby. (We met Rev. Jesse Jackson as he was waiting for his flight to the Inauguration.) Finally, the last flight of the day, we got on.

That was a relief. Unfortunately, however, our flight would get us to DC in time for our 8:30 reservation. So our dinner plans were ruined. Our plane landed in DC at 9:30. By the time we got our luggage and took a taxi to the hotel, it was 10:15. We left our bags in the room and went to the lobby to get restaurant recommendations from the concierge. Much to our surprise, we found out that most of the nice restaurants in downtown Washington close their kitchen at 10 p.m.

The concierge recommended a few nearby brewpubs. We thanked him, and as we turned to go, he came up with one more suggestion – Matchbox. It was only three blocks away, and he thought they offered a full menu.

Well, we arrived at Matchbox to find a hopping bar scene with lots of young professionals laughing and talking and drinking and flirting. Even though it was already 10:30, we still had to wait for a table. So we ordered a drink and watched the crowd.

It didn’t take long to get a table. We opened the menu and were pleased to find that in addition to pizzas and burgers and salads, they had several full dinner entrées, including scallops. We decided to split an order of their calamari salad to start. It consisted of sautéed squid on a bed of greens, accompanied by different varieties of peppers, Kalamata olives, and a balsamic vinaigrette dressing.

Needless to say, Linda had the scallops. She said they were some of the best she’s ever had. They were cooked just right – done all the way through, as she likes them, but not at all dry or rubbery. They were served on an herb risotto and topped with wilted spinach. A coconut red curry added an oriental touch to the preparation.
For my meal, I had the daily fish special. On this particular night, it was rockfish in a seafood stew. It had mussels, squid, octopus, and shrimp in a wonderful, tomato broth.

Even though it was late, and we were exhausted, we decided to have dessert. We split a chocolate chip waffle with almond gelato, chocolate ganache, crème anglaise, and candied pecans. Very good.

Though it wasn’t the dinner we had planned, and there was no live music, it still ended up being a memorable way to start a memorable trip to Washington. Since then, I have recommended Matchbox to many people, and I would gladly go there again, particularly for a late evening dinner.

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