Mexican Magician: Mateo Granados- Healdsburg
Mateo Granados may be the most qualified chef in Healdsburg. Stints at Masa’s, Dry Creek Kitchen, and a stage at perennial world number one restaurant El Bulli created a cult status for him in the late noughties when he was presenting at farmers’ markets and private events. During that mobile kitchen stint he became known for ‘Modern Yucatan’ but he has shifted ground with his permanent spot. Now the focus is wine country food with Mexican influence reduced to an accent (literally - chilis are used as a cogent flavorizer).
Mateo’s elan is evidenced by way he handles specials. He appears to be just throwing things together, only to emerge with a dish that is a coherent whole -- the genuine article. A case in point is the black trout that he grilled us, placed on smoked red pepper purée, and then adorned with arugula, smoked eggplant, and slices of green pepper. The sweetness of the purée combined with the fish flavors, the arugula adding spice and texture in a satisfying harmony. It is a light, but sophisticated dish.
Chicharrón, a genuinely Spanish component, forms the hard, crispy core of a starter salad with microgreens, flower petals, and salsa. For an appetizer, a bruschetta is rested on a bed of puréed cauliflower and radish and topped with cured red onions. This is food made from a profound understanding of flavors and how they combine.
As the son of a butcher it may not be a surprise that he breaks down his own whole animals and, for example, ages beef 25 days. That as well as making his own salumi.
Accompanying the menu is an enlightened beverage list. Over 30 tequilas, a similar number of mezcals show the patron’s palate. Gins (there are three) are all local. Beers likewise. Wines skew toward small production Sonoma bottlings like Cruess Fiano and Belden Barns Grüner Veltliner, although he also produced a 2017 Bodegas Muga Rioja just to shock the shock troops.
Mateo is a wizard with food, an irrepressible personality, a proud Yucateco who worships his Mexican soccer, what else? He also runs one of the best value establishments in Healdsburg. A three-course tasting menu runs $50++ and a wine pairing is $28. A five-course tasting menu runs $75++ (wine pairing is $48). Mateo’s Cocina Latina is a special place in Healdsburg and should be on every itinerary.