My Lunch: Rosa Mexicano (updated)

(Jennifer S. Altman for The New York Times)

I’m not sure what it has to do with Mexican food, but I love this wall-sized piece of modern art that greets you when entering the Rosa Mexicano near Lincoln Center.

On the other hand, I’m also not sure what to make of Rosa Mexicano’s cuisine, which I did not love, despite my usual passion for south of the border fare.

The special occasion (and for these lunch prices, it has to be an occasion) was my first week of work, and my boss was nice enough to take me out to a welcome lunch. Rosa was just up the street, and even though I had only been in the office for a few short days, I was already dying to try it.

We were seated outside and immediately ordered the fresh guacamole. While it wasn’t prepared table-side (is this service reserved for dinner patrons only?), the chunky green stuff was delicious; proof that when it comes to anything avocado, fresher is always better.

Having had a late breakfast and after scarfing down a bit too much of the guacamole, my eyes automatically went to the salads. I settled on the Ensalada con Atun: avocado leaf-crusted seared rare tuna served on a crispy black bean tostada over jicama, mango and cabbage slaw with papaya-habanero salsa.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, it wasn’t my cup of tea.

I definitely expected the tuna to be rare, but the pieces that were served were completely raw. Still not a problem, except this wasn’t a sushi restaurant and the fish had zero flavor. The rest of the dish, however, was flavor overload. There was spice coming from every direction, but no sweet or salty flavors to balance it out. The acidity of the slaw was overwhelming, and I ended up eating around most of the fancy stuff.

Maybe it’s my fault for ordering a salad at a Mexican restaurant, even one that wears its nouveau-ness on its sleeve. Next time, I will return to the tried-and-true and order something with at least one of the following: slow-cooked meat, cheese or a tortilla.

After all, everyone deserves a second chance in America. Even a successful Mexican mini-chain location that’s probably doing well enough without one.

UPDATE – 8/18/08

Well, that second chance came sooner than I thought. I stuck with the plan and ordered the Mexican Club Torta: a pressed sandwich filled with ham, grilled chicken, bacon, avocado and chihuahua cheese with a black bean-chipotle spread and served with sweet potato fries.

It had everything that the salad didn’t: lots of meat, lots of flavor and lots of itself. Even though I still think it’s over-priced, Rosa Mexicano definitely redeemed itself today.

I will return.

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One response to “My Lunch: Rosa Mexicano (updated)

  1. Did you know that cheese is commonly made in bathtubs at home and sold on the street in mexico? I am not suggesting this restaurant made theirs in someones bathtub. LOL. I just thought it was a nice tidbit of information.
    Note to self don’t buy street cheese in Mexico. *nods*

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