109 W. Chapel Hill St., Durham
Originally reviewed by Greg Cox on 2/1/2013
“Between shared raves over the procession of small plates that follow, Catalina (we’ll call her by her Spanish name) is able to confirm the authenticity of a number of other dishes. Even presentations that take minor liberties with tradition rate nods of approval.
Pan con tomate, which in its purest form is a humble dish of grilled bread smeared with barely a whisper of tomato and olive oil, is more lavishly topped here, with optional additions of boquerones (white anchovies) or manchego cheese.
Or petal-thin slices of ham, of which Mateo offers a stellar selection, from 18-month-aged Spanish serrano to Johnston County country ham. Consider starting off with a four-ham sampler, which provides shareable nibbling between tapas – which arrive, as they should, one or two at a time rather than all at once.
Catalina points out that the toasted bread crumb topping that’s sprinkled over coles de bruselas, a salad of shaved Brussels sprouts and smoked farmer cheese, are coarser than the fine-textured migas she recalls. We both agree that it’s a winning combination, regardless.
Mateo makes no claim to strict authenticity, for that matter. The restaurant’s motto is ‘Spanish Heart / Southern Soul’ — which accounts for the international ham and artisanal cheese selections, as well as the occasional appearance of items such as ‘chicken-fried chicken skin’ chicharrones and Nashville-inspired ‘hot chicken’ pigtails on the seasonal menu and nightly changing specials board.”
Read the full review and others at themenunc.com.