Inox is the best restaurant you’ve never heard of. Located in (what most would consider) the foreign land known as Tysons Corner, it is one of my very favorite restaurants. Impeccable food, in an incredibly upscale-chic interior, Inox is the brain child of two guys named John. Chef Jon Mathieson met Chef Jonathan Krinn when the pair took over as Chef de Cuisine and Executive Chef (respectively) of 2941 Restaurant in Falls Church, Virginia. When the time came for them to open a place of their own, they knew it would be with each other. They picked a spot in Tyson’s, and Inox was born.
Last Saturday, Cathy and I took a trip out to the ‘burbs to learn how to make a scallop dish and get to know Jon #1, Chef Jon Mathieson. The first thing I noticed about Inox’s kitchen was how clean it was. It was the CLEANEST kitchen Cathy and I have been in yet – and that’s absolutley not to say the others were dirty, this one was just squeaky-spotless. Coincidentally, the name Inox comes from the French word for stainless steel. “About fifteen years ago, I was prepping a soup in the kitchen. I set my spoon down on the steel countertop and noticed the word Inox on the back of the spoon. I loved the word and researched it to find out that it meant steel. Steel is solid, and has been a prevalent material in every kitchen in which I have worked. I love being in the kitchen, and Inox, or steel reminds me of being at home in a kitchen,” says Mathieson.
And at home he is. Inox is a family affair for Matheison – when we arrived, Matheison’s wife Janie greeted us at the door, and up ran their two kids, Skye and Tyler. Janie serves as the Director of Sales and Marketing for the restaurant, and Tyler fancies himself the manager, or at least that’s what we were told. Skye and Tyler know they run the place, literally. Toys and coats looked out of place in the empty, chic dining room, but also a bit homey, like Inox’s secret identity is actually an obstacle course for Janie and Jon’s kids.
Jon is always busy in the kitchen, but takes time each night to call his kids to wish them goodnight and to ask them what they want for breakfast in the morning. “What do they order?” I ask. “Oh, everything,” says Jon. “We make waffles, pancakes, eggs. Skye is the demanding one. Sometimes she wants strawberry chocolate chip pancakes.” Lucky kids. Then in the morning, Jon dutifully pulls himself out of bed and back into the kitchen to cook with his kids. After that, he leaves the first kitchen and is off to his second home steel kitchen at Inox.
Cathy and I stand in the same steel kitchen, ready to whip up a scallop dish that, from the recipe they so kindly provided, sounds fantastic. Cathy dives right into asking questions, and Jon stops her. “You do it, actually,” he says, pushing her to salt the scallops. “I like teaching.” And teach he does, Cathy is bent over a saucepan stirring butter into fish stock for the sauce. “On TV it goes faster”, Jon jokes. As Cathy cooks, Jon shows us other ways to make the dish. “When you’re a good cook, it’s all about cheating, learning ways to cheat and still make the same dish. Teach them the right way first, and they’ll learn.”
Cathy’s pan is crackling, and like so many chefs before him, Jon tells us to listen to the pan. This is wisdom we’ve heard over and over, and it’s starting to stick. That and a good dish being all about ingredients. That and the sauce. “Everything is about the sauce,” Jon states. The dish we’re making today is currently on Inox’s menu – “The perfect fall dish”, Jon says, “A good fall combination, it warms your heart and is good comfort food.”
In almost no time, the scallop is done, and the sauce is done. Jon helps Cathy plate the dish, sliding the scallop onto a ring of cabbage. The scallop is seared perfectly, and all that is left is the mixture of sweet potatoes, pear, bacon and onion on top. “Use both hands,” he tells Cathy. “Slide it off the spoon with both hands.” And as she struggles a bit, he reaches out to help, flashing us a Hello Kitty band-aid. In my line of vision I have perfect food, a gorgeous kitchen, a chef who clearly loves his job, and all topped off with a Hello Kitty band aid. I smile to myself, because in the end, isn’t this exactly what Inox is about? Good, classic, simple food, from someone who cares, at a sophisticated restaurant that double times as an obstacle course and playground for a family. Who can resist that?
Try the scallops, or any of Jon’s delicious dishes at Inox. And stay tuned at 3 p.m. for the recipe and Cathy’s adventures cabbage, butter and scallops. Special thanks to Chris Reif for the fantastic photos of our morning in the kitchen.