Bryan Dayton and Amos Watts are well aware of the tensions inherent in the corrida de toros, that cornerstone of Spanish culture for which their new Boulder destination is named. For centuries, bullfighting was celebrated as a contest of man’s artistry and skill against the power of the beast, which was (to mix a few animal metaphors) both treated as a sacrificial lamb and lionized as a god itself. Today, even the sport’s supporters — now a minority in the wake of the antitaurino movement opposed to animal cruelty — are as likely to root for the horns as the sword.
Such contradictions lie at the heart of Corrida. From one angle, it’s a steakhouse; from another, it’s a tapas bar. In some ways, it adheres strictly to Spanish tradition; in others, it reflects the here and now of Colorado cuisine. The rustic and the glamorous, the raw and the polished overlap and blur. Along one wall, naked and blood-red cuts of beef age in full view next to floor-to-ceiling wine racks.
For chef Watts, the thrill is in reconciling it all — Old World ritual and New World innovation, small plates and large platters, protein and produce. Die-hard chophounds can have their steak and eat it too, with tapas doubling as à la carte sides: “Instead of creamed spinach, you could have espinacas con garbanzos. Instead of sautéed mushrooms, you could have porcini asado.” Meanwhile, herbivores can feast on vegetarian and vegan fare galore. With harvest season underway at local farms, says Watts, “We’re starting to push a little bit now.” For instance, “I got some great tomatoes in Broomfield, so I already have gazpacho on the menu.” Here’s a closer look at the yin and yang.
“Our beef selection may be a little smaller than some steakhouses — but it’s about quality, not quantity,” Watts says. Indeed, it’s so dependent on availability from the ranchers he trusts (and the aging regimen that follows) that presentation and cost vary widely from cut to cut: Some are a set amount for a set weight, some are priced by the pound, still others by the ounce. “We fight that a little bit,” laughs Watts. “People are like, ‘Oh my God, what do they want me to do? I just want a filet!’” But the learning curve is worth the experience of sampling, say, Western Daughters’ grass-finished, 60-day dry-aged, bone-in ribeye next to true grain-finished Japanese Wagyu, aged for 21 days. At $40 an ounce, the Hokkaido ribeye requires a heck of a splurge — “but two ounces of that is like eight ounces of filet, it’s so rich,” Watts explains. “We cook it differently than most places, in a 1500-degree broiler, which makes a perfect crust.”
Seafood and pork
The current menu’s awash in mariscos, from razor-clam ceviche to softshell crab to on-trend tinned sardines and anchovies. But Watts is especially tickled by the rodaballo, or whole turbot, which is filleted and plated tableside: “We cook it over cherrywood in these special baskets” that he had to pay a tariff to import, he says. “But we really wanted to bring that experience here. The skin gets crispy, but also kind of gelatinous.”
Of course, Spain’s famous charcuterie — jamón serrano and iberico, chorizo, and so on — make their own splash here, while Watts produces the black-pepper sausage called botifarra in house, serving it per Catalan custom with white beans.
All that said, the chef takes special pride in showcasing produce from area farms such as Red Wagon, Isabelle, and Oxford Gardens (he’s even tending plots of his own for eventual use). At least half of the tapas on offer at any given time are or can be meat-free, be it classic pan con tomate or coal-roasted beets with goat cheese and pistachio-almond crumble. There’s even a vegetable-focused dessert: a vanilla-meringue sphere filled with candied fennel, coated in white chocolate atop a pool of black-licorice sauce. And what’s more, Watts promises vegans, “We use a ton of olive oil here. It’s nuts how little butter we actually use.” (Speaking of nuts, don’t leave Corrida without a taste of Spanish Sherry, famed for its nutty aromas.)