Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Passover meal with tortillas -- not matzo

Cover of "Rosa Mexicano"Cover of Rosa Mexicano
Rosa Mexicano Restaurant usually delivers delicious food prepared from scratch, as reflected in the cover photo of Chef -Founder Joseifna Howard's cookbook.

My best-laid plans for our one dinner out each week often go awry when my wife and son refuse to cooperate with my vision for the meal.

And on Saturday night, at my favorite Mexican restaurant in North Jersey, the kitchen let me down for the first time with an entree I chose from the "Passover a La Mexicana" menu.

They pass over menu

Although I told my wife and 13-year-old son I wanted to have a Passover meal at Rosa Mexicano in Hackensack and made a reservation, they didn't want to order anything from the special menu, which is available through Monday, April 25.

I couldn't get them interested in the crispy corned-beef tacos or the soft ones stuffed with beef tongue; the roasted brisket in a banana leaf; or the tropical haroset and spring noodle kugel.

No. My son insisted on ordering the restaurant's guacamole, which is made at the table from a single avocado for an exorbitant $12 (with handmade corn tortillas and two salsas). And he ate so much of it, he couldn't finish his entree from the regular menu; nor could my wife finish hers.

Only two non-meat dishes

For me, there was one non-meat appetizer and one non-meat entree on the Passover menu, but it would have been folly to order both at this expensive restaurant, where portions are large and everything is made from scratch.

So, I asked for Salmon-Stuffed Cabbage Veracruzana ($19) -- a twist on stuffed cabbage that my Sephardic Jewish mother made with rice and ground meat, and baked in a tamarind sauce until the cabbage was soft and could be cut with a fork. 

The menu promised a "sweet-and-sour tomato sauce with olives, capers, sweet peppers and raisins," but when my entree came, I found the sauce on the plate, around the two stuffed cabbage, not over or inside them.

And I guess by ordering only one entree from the special Passover menu, we didn't get two side dishes listed as "for the table" -- spicy, pickled cucumber, carrot and cabbage -- and a spicy salsa made with cilantro and garlic.

Undercooked cabbage

I was looking forward to salmon fillet wrapped in cabbage, but the fish was ground up and combined with rice -- a too-literal interpretation of traditional stuffed cabbage, and the cabbage was still crisp, so I need a knife to cut it. It was so bland, too, so I asked the waiter for some chili sauce to pour over it.

My wife ordered Alambra de Camarones ($24) -- shrimp over rice -- and  my son tried the Tablones ($25.75) -- 18 ounces of boneless short ribs in a sauce with onion, carrot and peppers. Two small bowls of herbed rice and refried beans came with their food.

The bill -- $117 with a 15% tip -- included a glass of kosher red wine for me ($9). I guess I'll drink to compromise and family harmony.

Rosa Mexicano, 390 Hackensack Ave., 
in The Shops at Riverside, Hackensack; 
201-489-9100. Web site


  1. You son ordered 18 ounces or short ribs? And you allowed him? That's like neglect.

  2. That's the portion, and I would have preferred he share it with my wife, but he took home enough to make another meal with leftover rice.

    How could that possibly be called "neglect"?

  3. 15% tip? You're either a cheapskate or stuck in the 1980's.

  4. Thanks, big spender.

    Are you a waiter working for slave wages, then taking it out on customers when you should be angry at your employer?

  5. I was never old enough to pay a tip in the 80s and I consider 15% to be the standard, regardless of what servers think it should be.

  6. I agree. And I never tip on the tax or on a bottle of wine, in the rare instances where I order one.

  7. You're the same guy who tipped like $1 on a lunch at Bergen County Community College, right?

  8. Yes. No tip is required there.

    Are you the same wise guy who questioned my judgment in allowing my son to order 18 ounces of beef?


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