Restaurant News & Reviews

The Menu: Mateo is authentically delicious with Spanish flair

Mateo Bar de Tapas blends a menu of Spanish small plates with a taste of the South in downtown Durham.
Mateo Bar de Tapas blends a menu of Spanish small plates with a taste of the South in downtown Durham. jleonard@newsobserver.com

Mateo

1/2

109 W. Chapel Hill St., Durham

mateotapas.com

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.

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