While we were up in Sonoma County for the Wine & Food Affair, I knew that even though we were going to be nibbling on food and drinking all day, we were going to need something more substantial for dinner in the evening, so I looked around at restaurants in the area. It seemed like there were quite a few good ones, and while I do want to try to get to Single Thread at some point, we decided it was probably a bad idea after a whole day of wine. However, I am always a huge fan of Mexican after a day of drinking, so I booked us into Mateo’s Cocina Latina for what I was hoping to be some delicious south-of-the-border dining.
Even though I had booked, the restaurant was fairly empty for a Saturday night. I’m always worried about that, but we sat down and looked at the menu. They offered a five course chef’s menu with wine pairings, and since we had already had quite a bit, it seemed like an easy way to explore the menu without having to actually make a decision. So we decided to go that route and give it a try.
The first course was a corn soup served with a fried oyster in the center. The soup itself was really delicious, and while I do love a fried oyster, it was a tad fishy, but overall, the dish was pretty stellar. Up next was some cooked hamachi served in an agadashi broth. I was slightly surprised to see something with so many asian influences being served in a Mexican restaurant, but the dish really worked. I’d also only ever had raw hamachi, so I was interested in this cooked dish (although it turns out, I definitely prefer it raw, as it tasted similar, just a lot more fishy), and the broth was spectacular. So far, the tasting menu was a winner, and I was beginning to wonder why it was so empty. Perhaps it’s just not quite as busy in November when there aren’t quite as many tourists around.
Up next was a dish made of a burnt peach puree with some fermented pears and arugula. It was definitely not something I was expecting, but it was another amazing dish which really highlighted a lot of the flavors you can get from stone fruits, and the pepperiness of the arugula added an interesting note to the whole plate of food. The fourth course was a braised chicken leg served with masa and shishito peppers. It was a bit like braised chicken on polenta, but definitely done with the flavors of Mexico. The dish had a real depth of flavor, and the sauce for the chicken was spectacular. And I love shishito peppers! They are so similar to Padron peppers which happens to be one of my favorite things to order in Spain. It was really a winning dish, and after eating it I thought it was going to be the best dish of the night!
The last course of the tasting menu was not dessert (I was surprised) but a slow-cooked oxtail with beets, olive oil mash and baby zucchini. It turns out, that this was actually the best dish as the oxtail was falling off the bone, and the sauce with this was even better than the previous dish. Again, it didn’t seem as Mexican to me, but the taste was fantastic, so I really didn’t care. I was also really interested to see that most of the dishes we ate weren’t on the regular menu; they were things that the chef came up with for the evening, so it really made for a special dining experience. As there was no dessert, I decided to order the flan. Honestly, I wasn’t super impressed with it. It was a warm flan, and for some reason the texture and temperature just didn’t do it for me.
I left the restaurant completely happy with my choice of dining here. It was definitely an amazing meal, and Mateo even came out to the table to present the dishes himself. He seemed really proud of what he was serving, and he seemed incredibly grateful and happy whenever we told him how good the food was. We did have some great service as well (but that could be due to the small number of people in the restaurant). I would definitely come back here and see what other tricks Mateo has up his sleeve for the tasting menu.
Mateo’s Cocina Latina
214 Healdsburg Avenue
Healdsburg, CA 95448