Rosa Mexicano: refined fare on Lincoln Road

The original Rosa Mexicano caused a sensation in 1984 when it opened in Manhattan. Regional chilies and other ingredients had hardly been seen in the Northeast, and though liberties were taken in translating traditional Mexican fare, the foods were steeped in honest-to-goodness south-of-the-border flavors. The place successfully parlayed tacos and enchiladas into a modestly upscale dining experience.

Soon Rosa Mexicano Hospitality Group expanded to two more New York locales as well as venues in California, Georgia, New Jersey, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. It arrived in Miami in 2008 with a Mary Brickell Village location. But the crossover toward refined cuisine became fuzzier. The food still satisfied in a distinctive fashion, but it resembled something one might find at a Mexican Houston's. So when the latest branch premiered across from Regal Cinemas on Lincoln Road in late February, expectations were muted.

Surprise, surprise: The cuisine boasts clean, strong, sharply defined flavors; the service staff works with relay-team efficiency; and a festive ambiance prevails. As for a michelada of beer and beet juice — well, no one is saying the place is perfect.

Smoked chicken tortilla pie
Courtesy of Rosa Mexicano
Smoked chicken tortilla pie
Rosa Mexican's guacamole
Courtesy of Rosa Mexicano
Rosa Mexican's guacamole

Location Info

Map

Rosa Mexicano

1111 Lincoln Road
Miami Beach, FL 33139

Category: Restaurant > Mexican

Region: South Beach

Details

1111 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach; 305-695-1005; rosamexicano.com. Lunch Monday through Friday 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.; brunch Saturday and Sunday 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; dinner Monday through Thursday 4 p.m. to midnight, Friday 4 p.m. to 1 a.m., Saturday 3 p.m. to 1 a.m., Sunday 3 p.m. to midnight.

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Most diners start with the signature guacamole. The lack of complimentary salsa and chips encourages that trend, as does the tableside preparation; it has been shown in restaurant studies that people are more apt to order foods that get wheeled around the dining room. Truth is, a waiter mashing a couple of Hass avocados in a lava molcajete with sundry additions (onions, tomatoes, cilantro, jalapeño) doesn't make for spellbinding entertainment, but it does result in a mighty tasty, fresh, bright-green guacamole. The $14 order is served with chips and corn tortillas as well as salsas of spicy, smoky pasilla de Oaxaca and tomatillo-habanero. The homemade tortillas are terrific: coarse, rough-edged, with pronounced notes of corn and slaked lime.

Starters on the compact menu comprise mostly contemporary takes on traditional taqueria snacks. Red snapper tostadas featured a pair of fried corn tortillas topped with fresh, Serrano pepper-spiked (watch the kick!), lime-macerated cubes of fish sprinkled with baby arugula leaves, queso fresco, truffle oil, and bacon crisps. It was lip-smackingly delectable, as was zarape de pollo: moist, sassily smoked-and-seasoned morsels of chicken sandwiched with tomatoes and chipotle peppers between two corn tortillas — and bathed in a zesty yellow-pepper-habanero sauce.

Quesadilla spread with huitlacoche brought a crisply griddled half-moon of flour tortilla filled with the namesake black corn fungus, corn kernels, poblano chilies, and a small amount of Chihuahua cheese. Salsa verde cruda (made with tomatillos) and crema were served on the side. The huitlacoche was subdued in flavor but nonetheless much more gratifying than the typically queasy "cheesy-dilla."

A basket of corn tortillas came alongside the carne asada taco — juicy strips of grilled skirt steak bolstered by marination in guajillo and hot pasilla chilies. The beef was presented in a mini-cast-iron skillet with melted Chihuahua cheese around it and two grilled scallions laced across the top. Side cups of red-bean-chorizo chili, chile de árbol salsa, and corn esquites (kernels sweetly milked with crema and epazote) shared the plate.

Vegetarians can build their own tacos from a skillet of mixed vegetables (including asparagus, Swiss chard, and beets), red beans, and flax-seed tortillas.

Rosa's mellow mole Veracruz is one of the better restaurant versions you'll find in this city. The chili peppers (ancho, pasilla), aromatic spices, raisins, plantains, and nuts (hazelnuts, pine nuts) melded seamlessly into a piquant, slightly sweet sauce bathing two chipotle-enhanced shredded beef enchiladas. Sole gripe: It was served less than lukewarm.

A more unusual treat presented two roasted ancho chiles rellenos swelled with shredded lamb shoulder and cabbage. The rellenos were pooled in pipián sauce: a purée of toasted pumpkin seeds (pepitas) perked with garlic, onion, and cilantro — an ideal foil for the assertively flavored meat.

Pescado pibil likewise hit the spot. The fresh, whole butterflied snapper came smeared with a Yucatán-inspired paste of achiote, orange, and garlic; pink onions pickled with habanero crowned the fish, and tomatillo salsa (mashed in the molcajete) was plated alongside.

Other main plates ($15 to $27) include short ribs, pork shank, and steak and shrimp stew. All are accompanied by family-style portions of smoothly refried black beans and garlic-flecked short-grain yellow rice (on one visit served lukewarm).

Too many cooks might spoil the broth, but apparently this adage doesn't hold true for chefs: Regional executive chef David Sloane, Miami-based corporate chef Christian Plotczyk, and executive chef James Cawley all have a hand in presenting Rosa's rewarding cuisine.

Desserts ($7.50 to $8.50) are prepared in-house by pastry chef Jai Kendall. A trio of churros en bolsa was fried until crunchy on the outside; the cinnamon-and-sugar-dusted sticks were injected with caramel and raspberry sauces and supplemented with a chocolate dip. A more outrageous bang came via banana chocolate-chip cake funneled with peanut butter mousse and topped with chocolate syrup and cinnamon-swirled banana ice cream (a bit overwrought perhaps, but just say yes). Three ice creams/sorbets we selected from a list of eight fetching flavors were prickly pear/blueberry sorbet (crumbly, tart, not so great); chocolate mole sorbet (smooth, sweet, luscious); and creamy, sea-salt-speckled cajeta (dulce de leche) ice cream. We'll have to go back for the tres leches glazed with blackberry-hibiscus and bronzed with toasted meringue.

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10 comments
Ed gonzalez
Ed gonzalez

Visited June 9th, 2012 The place looked attractive and we thought Mexican food would be a great choice...BOY! DID WE MAKE A BAD CHOICE!!!!! This "ROSA" was full of thorns! First, we sat outside and within minutes the nazi hostess shows-up at our table. Not to welcome us but to advise us that in the future we must first see her to be seated (note: she was not there when we arrived and there was no sign indicating any seating rules. NO SOUP FOR YOU!) Second, The "Food"...I am not reluctant to pay for quality food and service but this was equivalent to getting held-up in a dark Mexican alley in Tiajuana. The menu was quite pricey for a "Mexican" restaurant but we figured that it would be quite worth the experience...OH,WE WERE SOOOOOO WRONG! The "food" arrived on plates that looked like ashtrays. On these ashtrays we discovered tiny portions at $31.00 a pop (keep your hands up and nobody gets hurt, cholos). Third, My suggestion: Next time you are on Lincoln Road, do yourself a favor and KEEP WALKING when you get to this black-hole of a "restaurant". Better food and service can be found at your local TACO BELL...RUN FOR THE BORDER!!!!! Ed Gonzalez Miami, Fl./Savannah, Ga What do you think of this review? 0 0

Coopers Pick
Coopers Pick

I often go after class at the Christian academy not too far away and have found that this is by far the best Mexican restaurant in South Beach. The others are over priced and dont have nearly as good of guacomole.

Interamerican
Interamerican

I happen to prefer Chipotle. Its cheap and fast :)

JugoDrink
JugoDrink

This article basically highlights how far our heads are up our asses in Miami regarding what good Mexican food is.....

Really..... Man.........

South Beach Local
South Beach Local

I could not disagree more with this article. I think the food here is over-priced and way under par. The service I received there on two occasions was horrible. The waiters are rude and not attentive to your neads. The water they serve was luke warm. One table will get a two avocado bowl of Guac and the next table over get one, where is the consistency? The drinks are South Beach over-priced but that is to be expected. Just once, where gratutity is forced on you by the restaurant would I like to be treated like me patonizing your establishent matters. In my opinion I would MUCH rather go across the street to Taco Rico and get some great authentic Mexican food, be treated like a paying customer and although not required at an establishment like Taco Rico, I TIP because the staff there cares and goes the extra step to make sure you are happy with your experience. Get a clue Rosa Mexicano, don't fall into the same group as 90% of the Lincoln Road dining establishments have. Treat your customers right and they will return, we are not all tourists you know!

- South Beach Local

Grove Native...
Grove Native...

Is that the same David Sloane, who was the sous chef at Janjo's in the Grove years ago...?

Hmarano
Hmarano

shut up rosas the best they make single and double guacs thats what you saw. As well gratuity is not included and for you to say taco rico is authentic its tex mex get your facts straight before you make stupid comments get a clue.

South Beach Local
South Beach Local

You must be one of those idiot waiters who work there. Enough said. Thank you come again!

Hmarano
Hmarano

No im not a waiter iam a guest, the place is always packed for no reason I guess! Come again toolmister!

 
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