Food: Four stars
Service: Four stars
Ambience: Four stars
Address: 1023 Walnut St. Unit 400, Boulder
Contact: 303-444-1333, corridaboulder.com
5:30 p.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday
5:30 p.m.-10:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Noise level: Moderate. While there's a fair amount of hard surfaces in this eatery, the sound level isn't nearly as loud as one would expect. One guesses that Corrida's remarkable attention to detail played a key role in this design element.
Corrida is the latest entry into Boulder's fine dining scene, and this downtown destination fills a unique niche as a Basque-influenced steakhouse also offering seafood and tapas. Its sleek and modernistic fourth floor rooftop setting also sets it apart, as do the impressive Flatirons views.
Given this eatery's focus, it's unsurprising that menu offerings are heavy on premium steak and fish selections as well as authentic tapas. In some instances, the beef and seafood are sold by weight in predetermined sizes. For example, the two available fish selections, red snapper and turbot, were available only in whole fish portions exceeding 30 ounces, making these choices a non-starter for two diners wishing for more than one entrée selection.
One other noteworthy element of a Friday night dinner that stood out was the quality of service. Kirstin, our main server, was efficient, engaging and refreshingly unpretentious. Given the unabashedly high-end vibe, one could easily expect staff to dive into a sea of snootiness, but interactions were uniformly friendly. Close to a half dozen of her colleagues tended to our table, constantly ensuring that glasses were topped off, crumbs removed and plates cleared.
Tapas selections hew close to the Spanish tradition, spotlighting seafood, cured meats, and other ingredients closely associated with the Mediterranean, such as aioli and olives. Our first small bite, a bracing blend of $2.50 anchovy, peppers and olive on a skewer was pungently tasty, albeit not quite as subtle in flavor as the sublime $4.50 ceviche de navajas. This diminutive course consisted of sparkling fresh diced razor clam, lightly marinated in citrus and set off by a spot-on accent of tarragon. A heartier selection, the $9 patatas bravas, consisted of simple roasted potatoes, crisp on the outside, fluffy on the inside, accompanied by a luxuriously silky garlic aioli.
A $16 course of Spanish octopus worked well as a light entrée. For my money, the two main factors that separate top notch versions of this seafood from the also-rans revolve around flavor and texture. Corrida's pulpo ably succeeded on both counts, with as tender as a consistency as you'll find with this ingredient, no mean feat. It doesn't take much in the way of overcooking to render this seafood into something closely resembling a bicycle tire. Condiments of paprika aioli and herbaceous salsa verde added fitting contrasts to the appealingly delicate flavor, the unquestioned star of the show when it came to this course.
From the steak side of the menu, I selected a 16-ounce American Wagyu strip loin steak, aged for 21 days, and priced at a considerable $84. To cut to the chase, I can't remember savoring a more enjoyable steak in my entire life. From the standpoint of preparation, optimal medium rare cooking, with a hint of exterior char, brought out the best qualities of taste and texture in this rarefied meat. Simple adornments of coarse salt and a spritz of lemon in the Mediterranean style provided the ideal seasoning.
Wagyu is renowned for its flavor-boosting marbling, and this steak delivered on this promise, as well as a tender consistency that seemingly could be cut with nothing more than a withering glance. It's also worth noting that this course's inherent richness lends itself to sharing among two, possibly three, diners, and it would be more than suitable as a special treat for the beef aficionado.
A pair of $10 desserts maintained the dinner's high standards. Churros coated with crystalized sugar were on a par with those you'd find at a late night Madrid hangout, and there was nothing to criticize regarding the hefty but not overly sweet vanilla flan. More ambitious and at least equally successful was a white chocolate bombe encasing a gooey licorice-scented center alongside fresh berries and unique fennel candy. My friend was sorely tempted to lick the plate, and did receive encouragement from a staffer who said, "This is a judgment free zone."
While prices for some of the premium steak and seafood selections are considerable here, this is a fine spot for a special occasion splurge, or if you're one of those with a large offshore bank account. Lastly, in over a decade of reviewing restaurants, I can say without reservation that my dinner at Corrida is the best meal that I have experienced in this capacity. The combination of stellar yet unpretentious service, ingredient quality and preparation as good as anyone else's, as well as stunning views, make for an unparalleled local dining experience.