Looking for an authentic Iberian experience for your next foodie outing? Look no further than Matadora, the latest upscale dining destination created in partnership with COJE management, the team behind Boston’s social dining spots Yvonne’s, RUKA, and Lolita. Located in the newly renovated Hilton Boston/Woburn, the ultra-modern restaurant has an open kitchen concept that creates the feeling of dining in an urban European setting. A life-sized sculpture of a bull made of scrap metal greets diners. Matadora’s patio, complete with firepits and lounge sofas, flows seamlessly inside to a central bar with high-top leather banquettes. The dining room has rolling communal tables and stools, and a chef’s counter overlooks the open kitchen and grill. Reclaimed wood, distressed leather, and pops of terracotta and red punctuate the space. A series of murals depicting the matadora, the restaurant’s namesake, are painted on the walls throughout the space while a print of the charging toro is found on menus. But it is not only the cool décor that is the main draw to this new establishment; it is the food.
The menu, which was developed by COJE’s culinary director, Tom Berry, and is executed by Matadora’s chef de cuisine, William (Billy) Jimenez, is focused on tailored tapas and flavorful cuts of meat and fish from the kitchen’s centerpiece—the custom, wood-fired grill. Jimenez fell in love with cooking working part-time at Kay’s Kitchen while majoring in computer science at St. John’s University. Upon graduation, Jimenez went on to study at the Culinary Institute of America, and then to a host of upscale Boston eateries such as the Seaport Hotel, the Mandarin Oriental, and Casa de Pedro. “Tom developed the menu,” says Jimenez. “He is a perfectionist when it comes to cultivating the dishes he creates—he wants the experience to be truly authentic for the diner.” However, Jimenez is happy to have had input on some of the more seasonal dishes such as the rosemary chicken served with pumpkin polenta, Brussels sprouts, pecorino, and spiced pepitas.
To start the evening off, a pitcher of seasonally inspired sangria—Tempranillo, brandy, orange liqueur, juniper, and cranberries—comes to the table along with Spanish meats, cheese, and olives. The jamón serrano, an iconic Spanish meat aged 18 months, brings back the flavors of a trip to Barcelona I took years ago. Sliced paper thin, the ham is the perfect pairing with a sharp and nutty manchego cheese. Fried rosemary marcona olives kissed with paprika and sea salt accompany spicy green Gordal olives—lemon zest, thyme, and calabrian chilies give these “fatties” their intense flavor. The hint of sweetness in the sangria offsets the salty and spicy starters.
Tapas, translated from Spanish into “snacks,” has evolved into a whole dining experience, and chef Jimenez’s flawless small bites stream to the table next. Wood-charred Shishito peppers are drizzled with a sherry vinegar honey and topped with shaved manchego with a garlic crunch—perfection. Another small dish appears at the table, a tasty wild-caught shrimp atop spicy saffron butter and garlic toast. A kale salad with melted provolone, topped with a medley of distinct flavors and textures—chickpeas, olives, red onion, burnt raisins, crispy pumpkin, and pepitas arrives next. Not to be outdone by the previous plates, the charred octopus with eggplant puree, smoked paprika, lemon, and yogurt offers intense smoky flavors that mix with the creaminess of the yogurt. This symphony of plates was paired with a 2015 Bodegas Palacios Louro Valdeorras godello, a beautiful and complex Spanish white fermented in French oak casks for four months.
Dining in Spain is done at a leisurely pace over several hours—very different from our hurry-up-and-eat meals in the States. But if you have time and are game, don’t stop at the tapas—the true gem of this Spanish eatery is its savory wood-fired steaks, pork chops, and fish. The wood-grilled meats come a la carte. You can’t go wrong with the Niman Ranch bavette (or flank) steak (one of the best steaks I have had in New England) or the long bone-in pork chop. Hickory and applewood add unique flavor to the steak and chops. They are paired with a piperade, a sauce of onion, green peppers, tomatoes, and cumin, which adds a spicy zing to the meat. Rare yellowfin tuna and Faroe Island salmon are also available if you are looking for a bit lighter fare. This winter season, sides include honey-glazed carrots, pumpkin polenta, and manchego rosemary papas fritas or the Spanish equivalent to French fries. A robust, full-bodied 2015 Alvaro Palacios Camins Priorat cabernet sauvignon accompanies the main course,
creating the perfect marriage with the wood-grilled steak.
Classic Spanish desserts such as hot churros and Cantabrian ricotta cake grace the table to finish this tour de force of dining. Through the renovation and the introduction of this stellar restaurant, the Hilton Woburn has upped its game—Matadora is a dining spot where I’m sure Conchi Rios would feel right at home.
2 Forbes Rd., Woburn, 781-932-0999, matadorarestaurant.com