Word spread through the office on Thursday that Mateo was opening that night. We went for dinner. It was phenomenal. I've been in Sonoma County for 20 years and don't remember a more highly anticipated restaurant opening. Mateo's came through in every way. We got there around 9 pm. All but one table was full, as was the bar. We ruefully recognized that this was the first and last time we'd ever be able to walk in and get a table without a wait.
The room is lovely. Melanie posted pictures previously, so I won't recap. I will add that something magical happens when the diners in a restaurant are so happy to be there and have so much affection for the chef. There was a feeling of community in the room. Over the years that Mateo has been in our farmer's markets, and with his pop-up, Tendejon de la Calle, he's created a genuine bond with so many people.
Service was excellent. The various staffs (kitchen, bar, front room, bus, etc) were completely in sync and created a smooth flow. An amazing feat for opening night. The staff seemed as happy and enthusiastic to be there as we were, perhaps also because of Mateo's warm personality. Our server, Luis, was attentive, friendly, and knowledgeable. He made us feel comfortable and at home.
We started with cocktails. Scott Beattie was behind the bar. Both he and Luis recommended we try
his take on "La Ultima Palabra" ("The Last Word") (about $9). If I remember correctly, it was mescal, lime juice, green chartreuse, maraschino liquor, and St. Germaine elderflower liquor. I don't remember any one meal that turned me into a foodie. But I will remember the cocktail that started me thinking about drinks the way I think about food. This was serious. Mr. Beattie, thank you for introducing me to a new world.
My husband and I ordered identical appetizers and entrees. We've learned that an important marriage-extending strategy is to reduce the likelihood of one of us out-ordering the other. That's decreased the number of our arguments by at least 50%. Apologies for the small number of dishes we tried and therefore review.
We started with a salad of jicama, pear, and figs. This was beautiful on the plate. The purple of the figs and the dressing contrasted with the cream-colored jicama and the yellow-green of the pear. I don't remember what was in the dressing, other than tastes of citrus and a "complex" salt. Happy. Perfection. I think this was $10.
We had the "fried fish" at the recommendation of both Mateo and Luis. I think these were sand dabs. This plate was also beautifully presented. We each had two sand dabs, dusted in what tasted like blue corn ground to a slightly-finer-than panko texture. The sand dabs were moist and sweet. They come bone-in and were easy to filet with the skeleton completely in one piece. Each sand dab was paired with a delicious accompaniment. One was a salad of summer-perfect cherry tomatoes. Hard to imagine such a thing, but I liked the other even more; a mayonnaise-based salad of sweet white corn that exploded with flavor. The mayonnaise had a feta-like flavor that I can't further place. The sand dabs had a schmear of a smokey (likely chipotle) aioli on top. There may have been greens on the plate as well. This was $18 or so.
We shared a dessert Luis modestly described as a berry sorbet. Ha! It was a perfecta trifecta of an updated trifle. From bottom to top; a chilled strawberry compote, a delicious crumble, and the sorbet. I don't remember how much this was. Whatever it was, it was worth it and I advise ordering your own. I was a little sad to have to share it.
The entire dinner from drinks to dessert, before tip, was about $87. We thought this was an outstanding value.
What else can I say? I tried not to have super high expectations given that it was their opening night, but I needn't have worried. Have fun!
From the website: http://mateoscocinalatina.com/opening/
Open for Dinner starting September 16
Dinner hours on Fridays and Saturdays from 5:30-11pm and Sunday-Thursday from 5:30-10pm
Lunch service will begin Monday, September 19 with Brunch starting Friday September 23
Lunch is served from 11am Monday-Thursday and brunch is served from 10am Friday-Sunday
All seating is first come first serve, however on busy nights you may call ahead
to place your name on the waiting list. Please call 707-433-1520.
214 Healdsburg Avenue, Healdsburg, CA 95448