Rosa Mexicano leaves a lot to be desired

Mexican fare disappointing even on the good china

You can't really make a meal out of sides, but having tasted the fried plantains—almost candied, with a great texture, just soft enough—you might try to. And the short-grained brown rice that comes with every main is buttery, very faintly tangy with mustard, and pleasantly chewy. The refried beans are rich and creamy, just like they are supposed to be. And the corn tortillas are clearly made fresh in the kitchen, from good masa.

Then, on the dessert menu, out of nowhere comes Rosa Mexicano's secret weapon, a dish that must have been designed to make you forget all that came before. The Flan de Rosa is over-the-top in a way that suits the pink decor, with a thin layer of rich brownie on the bottom and an espresso flavor infused all the way through. It felt almost dirty, like hush money pressed into your palm after you witnessed some unseemly behavior, but so good you're tempted to accept.

The other desserts don't reach these heights, but none are really bad. Skip the chocolate flautas; they might as well have come frozen out of a box. The tres leches cake, robed in chilled fruit, doesn't have that smooth texture and fine crumb I associate with the classic dessert. The churros are delightfully cinnamony, but almost raw in the center. You will be willing to overlook this, however, once you taste the goat's milk caramel dipping sauce. This should come with a spoon.

E. Katie Holm
E. Katie Holm

Location Info

Map

Rosa Mexicano

609 Hennepin Ave.
Minneapolis, MN 55402

Category: Restaurant > Mexican

Region: Minneapolis (Downtown)

Details

Rosa Mexicano
609 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis
612.656.7144; rosamexicano.com
appetizers $7.75-$14; entrées $18.75-$28.50

It should be said that all of this, even those sad pork belly tacos, is served in a beautiful space. Rosa Mexicano seats over 300 people, but the individual dining rooms are laid out in a way that makes each of them feel intimate and small. Wide aisles, generous booths, individual lighting, and some great sound design make each table feel separate and private. Big round booths accommodate parties of eight or ten in a way that few restaurants in downtown Minneapolis can. The pink interior steers just shy of bad '80s mauve. And a mesmerizing water fixture in the center of the room takes up real estate that could have been used to cram in more tables.

These details, like flattery, go a long way. I can imagine a large celebratory group, all craving margaritas and guacamole and steak, who will be very glad to take up a big, round booth for the evening. But flattery isn't enough. We deserve better than gloppy cheese and flavorless chicken, and we know it.

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18 comments
Pfleetham
Pfleetham

I don't care for this writer's writing style

East Coast Doug
East Coast Doug

Minnesota is the only place I know of where people try and defend inadequate restaurants.No matter what the price, the food should be well prepared, represent the cuisine that's advertised, the right temperature, and delivered in a reasonable amount of time. This is what you pay for in a restaurant. If they cut corners, and hire inexperienced / noncaring / nondiscerning employees, good recipes can be executed in a very bland, lifeless presentation.

$100 for two meals - this will easily buy 4-5 day’s worth of groceries for two. At these prices, the food should be spot on.

But then again, think about the restaurants that are being replaced: TGI Friday, Applebee's, and the Hard Rock Cafe - everything out of a can or a Sysco truck and a deep fryer. As an East Coast transplant, it seems Minnesotan's have no lower limit / discernment in regard to food.

DickersonDon't LikeYou
DickersonDon't LikeYou

your contentious bullshit about where the other sites are located was nauseating and not germaine. i get the feeling you'd bitch if they hung you with a new rope. i dined there a couple weeks ago and found it to be a nice evening with very flavorful food. you won't last long here with your attitude. go away.

Dan Smith
Dan Smith

Hey Phil, thanks for enlightening us, New York style. Would it help to hear the opinion of someone who grew up in Albuquerque, or does everyone not from NYC lack proper perspective to judge Mexican food (or anything else for that matter)?

My impression of Rosa Mexicano in a word: Mediocre. I think the majority of what Tricia wrote rings true. Here's a quick rundown of my experience. Service: attentive enough to compensate for it being a little impatient and arrogant; Atmosphere: not bad; Guacamole: pretty darn good, although there was no discernable difference between one order deemed "hot" and the other accurately labeled mild. Drink: had a beer cocktail and found it bland; Entree: I had the Chile Ancho Relleno and was disappointed. You would be hard-pressed to find a relleno prepared like this in New Mexico. An ideal one is lightly battered, with the chile as the star of the dish, irrespective of the filling (which can vary, though the best ones I’ve had are stuffed with cheese). In this case, it was a pair of un-battered very thin-skinned chiles offering little in the way of flavor, stuffed to the bursting point with pork, which was dry and blandly seasoned. The bean-based sauce around it was nondescript. The menu indicates it as one of their spiciest dishes. It is anything but. What I was basically given was a serving of pulled pork.

The consensus of the four other people I dined with, including my boss from NY (who said she has enjoyed eating at one of Rosa’s NY locations), was that the experience and food were “OK.”

The prices are horrifying, particularly in light of the pedestrian outcome. I’ve been to absolute dives where I paid a quarter of what we paid at Rosa and received much better food. I guess the silver lining is the dinner was work-related, so the good ol’ employer picked up the tab.

Looking at reviews on Yelp, Open Table, etc., it appears that the objections Tricia brought up are pretty commonplace among the diners Rosa will depend upon to stay in business in Downtown Minneapolis. If it fails, I guess it’ll just be viewed as another one of those things from New York that Midwesterners weren’t worthy of. “The fact that they made the investment downtown and are helping to reboot the local economy shouldn’t be forgotten.” Wow. How’s that different from any other business that opens its doors? Seriously, if the intent of your posting is to help this establishment out, you might want lighten up condescension. From one outsider to another, people hate that around here.

amiller92
amiller92

It does seem that the proprietors have left out the spice. Maybe they don't think we Minnesotans can handle it. But I think this review is a bit too negative.

I really enjoyed the Chile Ancho Rellenos, and have had them more than once, although they could use a bit more kick. I also like the mole enchiladas, and while the "flavor profile" is similar to the black bean sauce on the rellenos, it's not the same.

As you say, the flautas are good, and actually do have a healthy bit of spicy. The same for the crab tacos, which I also enjoyed.

It's not perfect from top to bottom, but just for the decor and the style, it's a very welcome addition to downtown, where we're still pretty short on style.

CB
CB

If you think there are no good Mexican restaurants in the Twin Cities then you simply haven't looked. Forget the chain restaurants (Rosa, Barrio, Masa, etc) and look toward Eat Street and Lake Street--the places where people from Mexico are actually conceiving the menu, not just cooking. Pancho Villa, El Mariachi, Los Ocampo, Pineda, Taco Taxi, La Hacienda, Mercado Central...

EmDub
EmDub

Phil is drunk and full of pills (and I second curioso's theory about where he's actually employed).

phil lapidus
phil lapidus

That's quite a review Tricia and welcome to Minneapolis! I do think your review is a little mean-spirited. As an avid Rosa fan in NYC who moved to Minn last year, I've been thrilled with my experiences there. I work a few blocks from the restaurant and was so happy that Rosa came to MN. Their new design is stunning and their food and beverage matches to boot. The fact that they made the investment downtown and are helping to reboot the local economy shouldn't be forgotten. The food there has been nothing but great. I've been at least 10 times since they opened, for lunch, for brunch, for their amazing happy hour and for dinner. There have been a few bumps, but the management has always been around to help recover and I always left happy. While I dont love everything on the menu, their guacamole is to die for. Nobody adds limes to Rosa Guac...it's blasphemous since in Mexico that's not how it's traditionally prepared. I know that from my many visits to Rosa in NYC. I'm sure they would have given you limes if you'd asked for them. And how about those portion sizes you criticize? Isn't it a good thing to be given too much vs. too little food? Perhaps as a critic you know a little about a lot of things but you don't know Mexican food? If you've suffered through Minneapolis Mexican and that's your standard, perhaps a bit more education is in order before you tear a new restaurant apart...

Morchella
Morchella

You've hit this dead on in my opinion. At a business lunch, a colleague's chicken sandwich was the clear winner at the table. My salmon came with a "tropical fruit mole" that tasted like applesauce, not rich earthy mole. A pile of mashed beans, corn and zucchini tasted exactly like a pile of beans corn and zucchini with no discernable flavor.

One huge gap in the menu is there are no Mexican beverages- no hibiscus, no tamarind, no horchata- nothing. (The server offered me hot tea. When I asked if it was black tea and he said, "No, it's kind of brownish.)"

The restaurant is gorgeous. A good place for happy hour.

East Coast Doug
East Coast Doug

After just a few weeks of reviews Tricia, I really like your style, and observations. Adult, and to the point.

For 'real' Mexican recepies, get one of Diane Kennedy's ( a contemporary of Craig Cliaborne and Copeland Marks) books on the cusines of Mexico. They are probably out of print, but should be readily available. Also some of the Time/Life books of the 1970's have some great South American recepies (like matambre and chicken pibil - from Peru).

amiller92
amiller92

Well, Mr. Too Sophisticated for Minnesota. I spent a decade on the East Coast too, and I'm pretty confident in the quality of my palate.

Also, I've been to the Rosa here for dinner three times now (and the one in DC countless other times), and been quiet happy with it. The service has been very good every time, and I've enjoyed the food.

But yeah, look at what it's replacing. It's a major upgrade, which makes me quite happy, even if it isn't the most perfect high-end Mexican restaurant ever!

curioso
curioso

You seem to have overlooked the fact that Rosa started on your East Coast. And that most of the Minnesotans discussing it here don't like it. How does this reflect poorly on Minnesota, again?

If Minnesota is the only place you know of where people defend inadequate restaurants... you don't know many places.

Or You Either
Or You Either

nobody is very impressed by where you are from or that your boss is from New York. As in "whoopy ding"!

East Coast Doug
East Coast Doug

Phil lives under a bridge and sometimes forgets to take his meds.

curioso
curioso

I call BS on Phil Lapidus. I smell Rosa management trying to gin up the impression that someone actually likes this restaurant.

Just my wild speculation.

curioso
curioso

"whoopy ding"

There you have it, internets. Rebuttal of the century.

amiller92
amiller92

I like this restaurant. And no bridges, pills or working for Rosa here.

 
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