Jonathan Waxman's Mexican food roots lead us on a winding road from Chez Panisse to Rosa Mexicano. Growing up in El Cerrito, California, apparently influenced his choice in "go-to comfort food," Last night we got a first taste of what it means to be Rosa Mexicano's "Culinary Advisor" with the debut of Waxman's "Eclectic Cuts" menu.
The offerings are a wintery mix of truly ambitious proteins including pork cheeks, lamb neck and veal tongue. Running through March, the focus here is on the "art of butchery," making every piece of every animal count for something. Something damn tasty. So, if you hesitate before eating the necks and glands, know this, some cave man way back when had to try the first chicken wing. Be brave and be rewarded with lots of braised, seared and barbequed offal flavor.
Although we love a basic queso and chorizo combo, we were presuming that Waxman's culinary concepts would elevate the norm; and of course, we were correct. Spring will bring a Passover-themed menu, and all other seasonal menus will be addressed with Waxman's special brand of Mexican flair. And now, on to the food!
The "mollejas con huitlacoche" - crispy sweetbreads with a sauté of Burns Farms huitlacoche mushrooms and poblano peppers, cabbage escabeche and a classic salsa verde.
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The "enchilada mestiza" - spicy braised lamb topped with a creamy roasted tomato and chipotle pepper salsa.
The "Mejilla de Cerdo Guisada" and "Carne Asada" - Pork cheeks braised with ancho chiles are served with roasted tomatoes and a soft tamale of organic grits (grits not pictured here). The traditional tri-tip steak is slathered in a tamarind barbeque sauce and accompanied by the roasted root vegetable mash pictured below.
The "soufflé frito" - a frozen Meyer lemon soufflé crowned with toasted meringue has a tart raspberry and pomegranate compote. Sugary coated Mexican sopapilla come on the side.