I love the warm, modern-casual ambience inside Mateo, a French bistro located just east of Boulder’s Pearl Street Mall. But it’s the confident, unpretentious, seasonally-conscious menu that always lures me back. This isn’t overly rich, sauce-laden French. Instead, it’s clean, ingredient-driven cuisine just like you’d find in wine country south of Paris.

On a recent Saturday night, I started a meal at Mateo with a chèvre salad—a tumble of mixed lettuces, Niçoise olives, and shaved fennel topped with a creamy-crunchy fried goat cheese croquette. Impressed by the clear, bright flavors, I opted for something similar for my entrée: a trout filet (pictured) topped with creamy melted leeks, peppery arugula, crunchy-earthy hazelnuts, and a dash of lemon oil.

All of chef-owner Matthew Jensen‘s dishes are like these two: they bring together several distinct tastes and textures to create a harmonious, comprehensive message. The small-but-impressive wine list, which focuses on small-batch French and Italian varietals, is an added bonus.

1837 Pearl St., Boulder, 303-443-7766