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5/15/12 Rosa Mexicano Report

There was tons of street parking when we went to Rosa Mexicana(RM) last night at 6pm (meters stop at 6 btw.) This is the opening week for this higher end Mex restnt, (the 15th RM to open in the USA.) RM began in NYC some 15 yrs ago , the outgrowth of a wildly popular street taco stand.,and it is in the middle of a major new phase of menu-revamping and aggressive growth.)

I don't know if it was because of the drizzly weather yesterday, but one bonus for going to the Seaport for dinner was the strong smell of the sea in the air. As we became conscious of it, we felt like "Ah, yes, we are in Boston ,and Boston is on the ocean....cool!"
RM is in a very large space, though it is surprisingly comfortable for talking. I must say that I was very surprised that the interior design was so bad. In fact, it makes me seriously wonder if there WAS an interior decorating firm involved. The whole thing kind of feels like somebody's rather boring rec room. Ugly wood floors and tables,forgettable fabrics,unattractive retro? lighting, the décor was completely disjointed. And in the midst of all this blah, there was one neat feature- a cobalt blue tile waterfall wall with tiers of small sculpted divers. While it could have been ever so much more interesting as an artwork,I still enjoyed sitting in a banquette opposite it and watching it all night.

The food concept at RM appears to incorporate both innovative and authentic, and they pay particular attention to their sauces, which are multi-layered and complex, a major plus for me.
We began with the trio of ceviche (tuna, scallops and escolar [fish of the day]). The ceviche are the creation of the new Executive Chef, Darren Carbone (formerly of Douglas Rodriguez's Phila. empire, and La Verdad here.)The stand-out was the scallops, as beautiful , silky- creamy as I've ever tasted, in a burnt orange chile vinaigrette with poblano peppers and hazelnuts. While I am a big time lover of sushi, most ceviche has left me cold, so I was really taken by surprise when I took my first bite, and fell in love. We quickly ordered a second serving. The tortilla and chicken soup had a smoothly complex chile pasilla base with moist chicken, ripe avocado and melted cheese, and though it was served underheated, we made quick work of it. The octopus with potato, yucca and olives was the only loser app. While all the subsidiary elements and the aioli- were very successful, the octopus itself had a very odd flavor (that I could neither explain or identify- maybe tin.)
My Love's entree was Escolar atop a Pipian Verde with roasted beet chimichurri and potato chorizo salad. A Pacific fish rarely served in the U.S. , the meaty white escolar was pristeen and perfectly cooked,and its unique flavor was allowed to be the feature of the plate, not drowned by its ground pumpkin seed tomatillo sauce. The chorizo potato salad was surprisingly insipid, but the bright flavors of the roasted beet chimichurri paired very well with the fish and sauce. My red snapper was marinated in a Yucatecan orange chile preparation and served with a very fresh tomatillo and roasted garlic salsa, a perfect foil for the subtle heat of the marinade. The refried black beans were elegant and flavorful and , for a complete surprise, accompanied by the best brown rice I have ever been served.(Now I HAVE to find out what made it so great.) The red sangria was fine and not over sweetened; one unusual aspect was the presence of a very refreshing cubed cucumber and fruit mix . Food delivery from the kitchen was well paced. Service was warm, welcoming and professional. Thanks to CHs for early reporting on this place; we enjoyed ourselves and look forward to returning.


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  1. Am I reading correctly from the Lone Star thread, that you did Lone Star and Rosa Mexicano in the same night?

    1 Reply
    1. Nice report op-chef. Need to get there. My mouth is watering to try the brown rice, as most Mex restaurants don't do rice all that great.

      1. Enjoyed my meal @ Rosa Mexicano's Washington DC outlet--good guacamole, but still pales compared to Oyamel.

        1. Thanks for the detailed report OC. I've been avoiding all the new upscale Mexican places, but your review encourages me to try this one. I"m guessing that the main dishes are the way to go here. Agree?

          2 Replies
          1. re: gourmaniac

            Not quite. That scallop ceviche was one of the most ethereal experiences I've had. Plus, the non-large plates list is quite extensive and we only had the soup and the octopus.

            1. re: opinionatedchef

              Glad you liked the scallop. It was our favorite dish as well. I was scraping the extra sauce onto anything available.

          2. I went with four people on the same night but had a different opinion of the experience. I liked the atmosphere, it was comfortable and not at all crowded or too loud. However we felt that the food was all about the presentation and rather mediocre.
            We had: fish tacos, chicken tinga enchiladas and some other chicken dish. All fair but not great. Every dish looked fantastic but the flavors lacked depth and were just blah.

            We had the guacamole (spicy although it really wasn't very spicy). The guac was good - everything in it was fresh and the home made tortillas served with it were fantastic.

            Overall - not bad but just not that great.

            1 Reply
            1. re: emc

              well darn. i WANTED those fish tacos but i guess i wanted red snapper more. So the sauce didn't do much, eh?

            2. Are you sure you were at the rosa Mexicano in Boston? I have never been to the seaport area and experienced tons of parking. You are not entirely correct about the meters ending at 6:00 pm. B street separates massport and Boston meters. Massport meters go to 8:00 pm. There are some Boston meters over by louis which also go to 8:00 pm.
              I was in rm before construction began. It is actually quite small and I compliment them for designing it so it appears large.
              I've been twice and like it. The bar came out very nice and already is a hot spot. Btw, it opened may 5th.

              2 Replies
              1. re: libertywharf

                lib, My Love did the parking; i just reported what he said. when you walk out the front door of RM there's a big pkg lot across the street; he parked on the N/S street adjacent to that lot. we arrived somewhere like 6:30 Monday. btw, the few times we've been to Seaport, street pkg was a major drag, which was why i asked about it (on another thread) before we went Mon. That's great that you had good times at RM.

                1. re: opinionatedchef

                  Yes, there is tons of parking if you include the lots. The metered parking is tough to get since the area became popular.

              2. Ewww, Why would you ever willingly eat Escolar, the world's most dangerous fish? I am betting the refritos beans were made with lard and butter. Although your review is eloquent and you appear to have liked your meal quite a bit, somehow in the translation I think I will just avoid this place. Sounds like they got the basics right but the adventurous dishes were punky.Going out for the best brown rice ever just isn't very motivating, neither is an 'insipid' potato salad.

                8 Replies
                1. re: ipsofatso

                  While I painfully waded my way through Sysco's homage to itself yesterday at the World Trade Center (a restaurant show so chock full of clandestine salesmen, I wonder if any restaurant people were even there), I ran into an old friend - now a Sysco corporate chef, formerly the chef of Harvest. He had had lunch at Rosa Mexicana and could not stop himself from gushing about it. I do like the original, myself. I trust him, but I'm not sure I will ever be inspired enough to make it to Seaport other than for business.

                  Incidentally I love escolar, but never for an entrree - very brave. I would not describe it as uncommon, and it lives in almost every temperate area of the oceans. My favorite escolar dish was from the Frontera Grill. When I worked in Chicago we served it often as an appetizer special.

                  1. re: almansa

                    escolar, ah yes, escolar. let's see if i will get into the long or short version here.
                    The short version is that it is said that the quantity eaten is the key. No more than 6 ounces.
                    (BTW,al, i didn't say it was uncommon, i said it was rarely served in the U.S.) My research, done 4 yrs ago, found that it mostly lives around Australia and that country is where you mostly see it. AND that country is where most of the medical research has been done on it and its potentially bad effect on people's tummies. When I did all this resarch, it was because I had just eaten a (very fresh, delicious) escolar dinner in CA. that caused me (I believe) to be nauseous for 2-3 weeks. And when i did some unofficial asking around in the town where I was served it, the local Whole Foods said they stopped carrying it because of complaints they got, and another local fish market said they never had any complaints about it.

                    every time I have eaten it since that disaster, I have first talked about it with the resident chef. Jason Santos served it at Gargoyles, followed the 6 ounce rule, and it was delicious. Darren Carbone at RM also knew and followed the 6 ounce rule, and My Love ( if anyone is going to have digestive problems, it will be him) loved it and had no subsequent problems. He was so entranced by its unique flavor, that he eschewed the pipian verde so he could just focus on the fish. I had 2 bites. Beautiful piece of fish.( Darren says he has his best fish vendor ever and he's right across the street.)

                    And we all know that if Rick Bayless serves it, that says an awful lot (I don't have any culinary gods but i really admire him.) Btw,al, I have never seen it offered as an app., only an entree.

                    So, that's the long version. I only go into it all because I knew nothing about it before i got sick from it , so i try to share what i have learned about it. Plse feel free to update me on recent research; it can only help all of us.

                    1. re: opinionatedchef

                      Apparently some people have no reaction at all, and some people have a violent reaction that can come on quite suddenly, even ingesting small amounts.

                      I'm surprised it's legal in MA. They should at least have to label it consistently, and with a warning, like most places do for raw or undercooked foods. Calling it 'white tuna' or 'butterfish' is really misleading.

                      1. re: nightsky

                        yeah, it's pretty much on every sushi menu.

                        i've walked by rm and really am shocked by how ugly it is, lol. the designer really should have his or her eyes taken out for that project. does it resemble the others?

                        jonathan waxman has signed on as their corporate chef, which i found pretty impressive, unless it's a stunt-move just for dough, like jasper did with legal's.

                        oc, thanks for the review and am glad you enjoyed it. i just can't get amped up about $25 tacos.

                        oh, and anybody thinking about heading down there this weekend, there will be graduations at the pavillion, fri, sat and sun so there will be zero street parking available. just fyi.

                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                          the waxman thing just HAS to be a pr move (joke, i think.)Talented he may be, but as fas as i know, He has never been known for Mex cuisine.

                          1. re: hotoynoodle

                            As mentioned there are lots which never fill up on weekends or week nights. The seaport garage can be paid with your fast lane tag.

                            1. re: libertywharf

                              Good to know about the Fast Lane. Which garage is this specifically?

                  2. Going tomorrow. Anyone been since the opening week? Any additional lunch recommendations (other than scallop ceviche and guac)?

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: ScotchandSirloin

                      the brown RICE of all things! and the seafood entrees.

                      1. re: ScotchandSirloin

                        I like their mole a lot so the Enchiladas de Mole de Xico would be a recommendation. I also like their Steak "torta." My favorite dish though is the Chamorro (crispy pork shank) which unfortunately is only served at dinner.

                        ...and I agree that the rice is pretty tasty

                        1. re: keith

                          Perhaps we ordered wrong but I ate here this past Saturday night and thought it was average if not slightly below. The table side spicy guac was pretty good but from there it went downhill. It took 20-25 minutes to receive drinks after they were ordered and many of the drinks had to be sent back as they were wrong. We had the salmon ceviche appetizer as well and that was so so. The corn was an absolutely pathetic attempt at copying Ken Orringer's rendition and had way too much spice (and I like lots of heat). For my entree I had the crispy pork after asking the waiter what he thought was better between that and the carne asada. The pork was very fatty and not in a good way. All in all I was not very impressed and much to my shock, I prefer La Verdad.

                          1. re: Gordough

                            Interesting. I've been a few times so far and have found only the ceviches to be somewhat disappointing (not bad, but nothing special). Everything else I've had has been a notch above any of the other "upscale Mexican" establishments in the Boston-area, in my opinion.

                            The crispy pork does have a little fat on it (it's a shank, so it's got to), but I found most of it to be rendered on the two occasions I've tried it, and would say about 80% of it was solid meat.

                            1. re: Gordough

                              The Toro 'elote' (maiz assado) is excellent, but I wouldn't assume that Rosa Mexicano copied them, particularly if they are using chile pepper rather than espelette. First of all, Rick Bayless Authentic Mexican is celebrating its 25th anniversary and had versions of this dish with both crema and mayo versions. Also I ate at Rosa Mexicano in NY before Toro opened and I vaguely remember them having a similar dish (the link below from 2004 before Toro opened seems to confirm that, although off the cob and might explain the spiciness). Olé in Cambridge also introduced it in their menu around the same time as Toro, although Toro may have been first. Although Toro has made it a much copied dish in Boston, that may not be the case here.


                              1. re: Gordough

                                since the RosaMex Exec Chef was the former Ex Chef at La Verdad, I can only imagine that a line cook was 'at fault' w/ your corn experience here.

                                1. re: Gordough

                                  I mostly agree with Gordough. I have been three times now, all for lunch, and I think it's pretty good but definitely would not go out of my way to eat there. I have had the enchiladas suizas with vegetables (fine), the budin de pollo (this was the most disappointing, it tasted identical to the weeknight "Mexican casserole" I make by baking crockpot pulled chicken, jarred enchilada sauce, pre-shredded cheese and corn tortillas), and the crispy shrimp salad (peanut dressing was overpowering, the rest was your basic salad). Guacamole was good, especially the spicy guacamole. But overall, nothing to write home about.

                                  1. re: Pia

                                    wow, wish you'd had that scallop burnt orange ceviche; i'm still dreaming about it(and the brown rice!)

                            2. Thanks for the recommendations. Got stuck at work. Hopefully will hit it up soon.

                              1. It got crushed in the Phoenix last week, was made to sound absolutely dreadful. Possibly a one-visit sampling problem, but still: http://blog.thephoenix.com/BLOGS/phlo... Also, she does say "I try extremely hard to like a place before I pass any judgment", which is one of those food-writing tropes that really grinds my geahs.


                                12 Replies
                                  1. re: MC Slim JB

                                    Having just eaten there myself, the Phoenix review is pretty close to dead on. Although I did like the guac.

                                    1. re: Gordough

                                      This is all very disappointing. I've been to the Rosa Mexicano in Union Sq in NY, and have been waiting for them to open here. Yes, the guac is over priced, but the guac we had was spicy and fresh. My cocktail was a knockout - I know I'm a cheap date, but whoa, it packed a punch. And the pork shank and churros were fabulous. Guess I'll wait to be able to go in NY.

                                      1. re: CookieLee

                                        It's almost exactly like the union square branch (other than the clearly inferior interior design). If you like your meal there you'll like your meal in Boston. My guess is the people who haven't liked it are not those who would like the NYC Rosas either.

                                        1. re: keith

                                          I don't know, there seems to be a lot of complaints about the service on Yelp. I do love the design of the one in NYC. Maybe we'll give it a try in the fall.

                                          1. re: CookieLee

                                            Fair enough. As a reference point though, I've lived in Union Square and have been to the NYC one many times. I now live in the South End and have been to the Seaport one 3 times. Food is definitely on par at each and many dishes are identical. Regarding service, I've actually had amazing service so far, where they've gone above and beyond what I would expect from a veteran restaurant, let alone one in their first few months of operation: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/8134...

                                            I'm sure, given that they've got a tiger team of Rosa veterans there training a bunch of new local recruits, that it's possible to get a new/bad/undertrained server, but for me that has not been the norm.

                                            If you did like the NYC version, I do hope you try this one (I certainly was happy to have a branch in my backyard), and would love to hear back on your comparison.

                                            1. re: CookieLee

                                              Just try it for yourself and come back to give us the comparison.

                                                1. re: Gabatta

                                                  Devra First reviewed RM in the Globe today:

                                                  I'm still willing to go, but I'll wait for the fall / winter when the tourist season winds down.

                                                  1. re: CookieLee

                                                    yeah, that was a pretty scathing piece. i wish she had tried that amazing scallop ceviche.

                                                2. re: libertywharf

                                                  ok, I will keep that in mind! I don't have much experience w. Yelp.

                                        2. Just found out that Darren Carbone is no longer the exec chef here, so that makes me hesitant to return. new chef is Keith Poole(i seem to know that name from years ago; i don't know if he is just subbing from the RM empire until a new chef is found or if he IS the new chef.)