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chef's menus, Mateo's Cocina Latina, Healdsburg.

for Thanksgiving, Chef Granados will offer a multi course meal for $50, choice of turkey either in a north american style w. chestnut dressing or Mayan style (turkeys originally domesticated by mesoamericans before the euro invasion) with a mole blanco, and options for the other courses. the chef uses local and organic ingredients wherever possible.

from what we tried last weekend from the menu of chef's specials (didn't order from the regular menu at all), the Thanksgiving meal will be quite a treat. fresh seafoods were prominent in his specials. Marin Miyagi oysters came either raw on the half shell (delicious with just a drop of either of the signature habanero salsas), or perfectly fried in a light cornmeal crust on a salad, which also featured sweet, fresh Dungeness meat. a fried oyster also complemented the delicious soup made from roasted delicata squash (we bought some from the same source, Preston, and it has a unique richness), topped by a light Point Reyes bleu foam. Monkey faced eel (caught by poke pole technique near Half Moon Bay) appeared in two main courses ; what we enjoyed was a stew-like preparation with chorizo, roasted habanero and tomatoes making a smoky, deep, pungent broth and perfectly cooked sea clams (more than two dozen in our bowl) that complemented the pieces of rich eel filet.

fresh Dungeness also appeared in the amuse we had of taquitos (they're served like filled mini- cones), chunks of it in a vibrantly fresh guacamole with a bit of finely diced kiwi for acidity, and in another main course, 'albondigas y fideos', the meatballs actually deep fried fish balls, in a mild guajillo chile broth, clams, and topped with a touch of saffron aioli. the chef's menu also included some lamb entrees -- tried the lamb shank which melted off the bone, its dense meatiness complemented by its opaque glace viande. one ingredient not sourced locally was the delicious rice with the lamb shank, both fluffy and nutty, a specific Spanish variety that the chef bakes with olive oil. we also enjoyed a tasting portion of the white sea bass with heirloom beans entree.

folks who've enjoyed the platos from Chef Granados' mobile kitchens before he had this cocina know his deft hand with seasonal fruits and vegetables. among the ingredients that stood out in these dishes, providing bright or earthy or pungent elements, were watercress, persimmon, pomegranate, wild mushrooms.

the one dessert we tried was simple and perfectly executed, a transformed dessert crepe composed of blue corn meal, filled with vanilla gelato, a dribble of beautifully dark, complex local honey, sprinkle of toasted pepitas and touch of sea salt.

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  1. I just read about this place on Tasting Table. It sounds wonderful and I intend to check it out when we're next in the area. Thanks for a great review.

    Anybody else tried it???

    9 Replies
      1. re: c oliver

        you're welcome. if you were considering going later this month, Chef Granados won't be cooking in Healdsburg because he's appearing as a guest chef in his native Yucutan at a seaside resort complex in Tulum, Mx. Feb.21-24. his menus are very much based from the seasonal, local foods so what you encounter when you go will vary with the foods grown and seafoods harvested at that moment in northern Calif. [one of the courses for the valentine's dinner was local perch stuffed with Dungeness crab, for example].

        1. re: moto

          Actually, I was reading about that trip of his when I read about the restaurant. The restaurant itself doesn't seem to get a lot of mention on CH but it certainly sounds wonderful. We visit Sonoma a couple of times a year so a lunch in Healdsburg along with our stop at DaVero for oils and vinegar is definitely in our future. Thanks, moto and Melanie.

          1. re: moto

            Does anyone know how the food is when Mateo isn't there?

            1. re: Malcolm Ruthven

              I've been there three times. Shortly after opening in Sept 2011, then two months later, and again this past summer. The third time was the best food, more ambitious, not a single problematic dish, and Mateo was not working that day.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                And, as it's been discussed many times, that's how it should be. But stil nice to hear.

              2. re: Malcolm Ruthven

                have no idea, but calling there to find out what's on the chef's menu of seasonal specials, as opposed to the everyday one which is based on more conventional dishes, would be a good starting point. executing the normal menu would be straightforward for the kitchen when he's not there ; some folks who'd order only those items might also come away with the impression, oh it was good but not that unique.

            2. re: c oliver

              I've eaten there only once but would return again and again if I lived closer. Really fresh and complex tastes, a lot more interesting to me than say Berkeley favorite Comal (I know, different cuisine but the approach feels very similar to me). The local sourcing at MCL is rather impressive. A favorite was the picadillo.

              1. re: rubadubgdub

                The menu fascinates me for just that complexity and local sourcing.