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Split Decision

Mateo wants to serve good food and cater to a hip crowd -- but it can't do both.

Among our entrees, only the aforementioned bean dish -- the cassoulet, a rural creation from the Languedoc region that's named for the cassole in which it's cooked -- missed the mark. At Mateo, the whole pot is brought to the table, and the server ceremoniously lifts the lid to reveal the steamy contents; the presentation might have been more impressive had the contents been edible. But the mix of white beans, tiny pieces of duck confit and lamb, and a very generous helping of rosemary was so salty it would have been unhealthy to eat more than a few bites. Instead, we fought over a stunning lobster raviolo, one huge piece of supple, homemade pasta wrapped around the intact meat from two claws as well as other large lobster pieces, drenched in an "herb fondue" that was all about butter. The raviolo came topped with a salad's worth of peppery watercress, which helped cut the richness and provided some welcome texture. Even richer was the marrow butter that arrived on a plate of steak frites. A pan-fried slab of sirloin came with fries, watercress and a melting puddle of butter enriched with marrow, the fatty substance from the inside of a bone (usually a beef leg bone).

The desserts were pretty intense, too. While not rich, the trio of egg-shaped sorbets and ice creams boasted strong flavors; on one visit, the selection was mango, lemon and chocolate mint made from fresh spearmint. An order of profiteroles brought three cream puffs drizzled with good-quality chocolate. And the apple tarte Tatin was a textbook version, flaky and buttery, lined with super-soft apples spiced with just a hint of cinnamon.

Still, as we attempted to concentrate on a meal full of masterful dishes at once sophisticated and rustic, the music in the dining room changed several times, with the volume going up and down -- one minute a very mellow jazz tune played low, the next a thump-bump grind grew so loud that we had to lean in to hear each other. Every few minutes, the phone at the front of the restaurant would ring, and each time it sounded so much like an annoying cell phone that diners would turn, ready to give the evil eye to the offender. Occasionally an employee would turn the lights way down, then someone would turn them way up. And throughout the evening, we were treated to the sight of various members of the staff -- including some of the kitchen workers who were obviously done for the night -- trying to pick someone up at the bar.

See and be scene: Matthew Jansen is one of the owners who's turned Mateo into a hip hangout.
Anna Newell
See and be scene: Matthew Jansen is one of the owners who's turned Mateo into a hip hangout.

Location Info

Map

Mateo

1837 Pearl St.
Boulder, CO 80303

Category: Restaurant > French

Region: Boulder

Details

303-443-7766
Hours: 5-10 p.m. Saturday-Thursday
11:30 a.m.-2 p.m., 5-10 p.m. Friday

French onion soup: $6
Soup du jour: $5
Cobb salad: $9
Duck confit frisée salad: $8
Mussels marinière: $9
Shrimp-and-salt-cod cakes: $10
Escargots en papillote: $10
Cassoulet: $14
Lobster raviolo: $16
Steak frites: $15 Ice cream and sorbet: $5
Profiteroles: $5
Apple tarte Tatin: $6

1837 Pearl Street, Boulder

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Better that they'd picked up the restrooms: Paper towels overflowed from the wastebaskets in both genders' bathrooms. Or picked up on the fact that service should be efficient as well as cheerful: Bread that had been promised "right away" when we placed our orders arrived after we'd started our appetizers, and only once did someone pour more wine for us. Some of the menu spellings were incorrect or used the wrong accents -- which in a restaurant of this caliber was not exactly confidence-inspiring. Nor were servers who gushed, "Oh, that's delicious" without elaboration when asked about unfamiliar food items, such as the marrow butter. And by the time we plunked down big bucks for our meal, the staff was way too busy partying to give us a glance, let alone a thanks or goodnight.

At least you get what you expect in a strip club.

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