Matador—Has not yet tamed this bull



Joanna Carbone

Mexican food is a standout option on a night-out restaurant list. Matador is a Mexican-Spanish tapas restaurant and bar in Wayne. The restaurant is on the busiest restaurant strip, just in front of the Wayne train station—an easy trip from campus. Matador had a lot of potential: a great location, a unique menu and a wonderful decorative theme. But the food has the ability to overpower it all. 

The restaurant is a two-story location, which features a bar on both levels, a selection of large booths and small two-person tables. Dining on the first floor should be avoided if possible during the winter, because the restaurant’s double doors will flood you with cold air throughout the night. The restaurant is beautifully decorated with maestro and torero memorabilia. The menu has a wide selection of small plates divided by salad, soup, chicken, beef, pork and vegetarian. This visit included a trial of the tableside guacamole, sopa de tortilla con pollo, pollo fundido, carne asada and finished with tres leches cake.

Tableside guacamole is becoming widespread, but frankly Matador doesn’t do it right. The guacamole was bare-boned, barely garnished with cilantro and salt. To pay double digits for two avocados and a sprinkle of cilantro feels like I’ve been robbed. The menu does clarify that not much goes into their guacamole, but honestly, who would read the fine print on guacamole? You expect—no, you deserve guacamole with at least some chopped onion, tomato, jalapeño and a splash of lime juice. Is it too much to ask for?  I mean, honestly, not even lime? 

The sopa de tortilla con pollo (chicken tortilla soup) did not disappoint. The soup had the right texture and chunks of chicken and avocado—though they were oddly square, which raises some questions. The soup overall was a good choice and a good follow to the disappointing guacamole. 

Unfortunately, the pollo fundido did not catch the baton. This plate was described as grilled chicken in a tequila scented cheese and soft tortillas. What was received was a bowl of cheese with a few chicken chunks and three tortillas. To be fair, some people may love this dish if they love cheese and quesadillas—however, I felt nauseated by the end of one tortilla. The cheese overtook all other flavors, and I didn’t want to finish the plate. If the plate was garnished with a light salsa or even a lime wedge, it would have helped to break down the cheese-oils, but alas, there was no such luck—also this is a good time to point out salsa would cost extra, another thing I find inhumane. 

The final dinner dish was carne asada, sliced and grilled skirt steak. Luckily, this final dish was the best. The steak was perfectly tender, medium rare and came accompanied by a small green salsa garnish, and a light sauce. I could’ve just ordered two plates of this dish and been fully satisfied. It is a shame to see that Matador knows how to make a good dish—with the right garnishes—but doesn’t reach its potential in a majority of dishes. 

With the carne asada on my mind, I said yes to dessert and tried the tres leches cake—a dense sponge cake that is moistened or soaked in three milks: evaporated milk, condensed milk and heavy cream. The cake was not bad by any means. It was very flavorful and fulfilling for a sweet tooth. However, it was dry for a slice of tres leches. When made right, the sponge should be ready to burst with liquid, it should be moist and dense at the same time. This cake lacked balance  for what it was supposed to be, though it wasn’t a failure in the dessert category. 

All in all, Matador has some hidden gems, but the menu is a minefield. Nothing was revolting, but not everything was drool-worthy. There is better Mexican food on the Main Line, but if you do want to try tapas, then Matador is your choice—choose from their menu accordingly.