Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Rosa Mexicano in Hackensack: Another victory over mediocre food

Rosa Mexicano in Hackensack has the best corn tortillas outside of Mexico. What other Mexican restaurant in North Jersey hand forms and grills its own tortillas? The thin, soft tortillas are made in the dining room and are still warm when they are brought to your table.


Nearly seven years after a branch of New York-based Rosa Mexicano opened in Hackensack, the restaurant continues to impress by making nearly everything from scratch.

And don't forget that gorgeous dining room, one of the nicest in North Jersey, filled with Mexican textiles, pottery, wall sconces and even a waterfall in the wall.

I became a big fan of free cooking demonstrations, along with a complimentary light breakfast, the restaurant offered after the August 2008 opening.

Although they have ended, the restaurant still delivers the bold flavors and complex sauces of authentic Mexican food, with its native, Spanish and French influences.

Special fiesta menu

To celebrate Cinco de Mayo on Tuesday, we made a reservation for dinner at 5 and were shown past revelers in the bar to a booth overlooking the dining room.

The special 3-course Fiesta Menu includes a shared appetizer, an entree priced from $16 to $25, and a shared dessert for a total of $30 a person.

The fixed-price meal must be ordered by everyone at the table, although I saw the parents of two small children in the next booth negotiating some sort of compromise with their server.

Spicier guac?

We started with Guacamole en Molcajete, which is made on a cart that is rolled up to your table, and asked for it spicy, but the woman mashing the single avocado with jalapeno, tomato and onion held something back.

I like eating this delicious guacamole, normally $14, mixed with the made-from-scratch salsa nortena you get with chips or wrapped in one of the restaurant's handmade corn tortillas.

Salmon Poblano was available as part of a Cinco de Mayo Fiesta Menu, which offers a three-course meal for $30 a person.

Alambra de Camarones, made with wild shrimp, was among 10 entrees on the fiesta menu.

Another entree on the fixed-price menu, Tampiquena de Carne Asada, a grilled skirt steak, came with a Chihuahua cheese enchilada.

 Salmon, shrimp, steak

Of our three entrees (normally $23, $24 and $25), I liked my wife's Salmon Poblano best, because it was moist and packed with flavor, even though she asked for it cooked through.

The salmon is described as a "natural" fillet served over Tuscan kale, chorizo and grilled corn in a poblano cream sauce.

(Poblano means in the style of Peubla, where the Mexican Army defeated the French on May 5, 1862, the unexpected victory that is celebrated to this day on May 5 or cinco de Mayo.)

Our son raved about the tenderness of his Tampiquena de Carne Asada, a grilled skirt steak marinated in guajillo chili and tequila, and topped with a roasted tomato sauce.

The wild shrimp in my Alambra de Camarones were terrific.

Grilled on a skewer, they were served over cilantro-mint brown rice and a roasted tomato-jalapeno caper sauce.

The only off note was the brown rice, whose kernels were hard.

A bottle of Negro Modelo, a dark Mexican beer, was $6, and a bottle of Boing Mango juice was $4.

Although Tuesday was the last day for the special fiesta menu, Rosa Mexicano's regular dinner menu offers a fixed-price meal for $25 that includes a choice of entrees up to $20.

If you really like your guacamole spicy, make sure the message gets through to the server who prepares it at your table.

Our entrees came with rice and refried black beans for the table, above and below.

A treat is to spread the refried beans on one of the warm tortillas. Add a little salsa for a humble taco.

We left the shared dessert, Churros en Bolsa, to our son. The fried dough was coated in sugar and served with chocolate and fruit dipping sauces. This dessert is normally $8.50.


Rosa Mexicano Restaurant, 380 Hackensack Ave., (at Route 4) in The Shops at Riverside; 201-489-9100

Open 7 days for lunch and dinner. Happy Hour promotions suspended during fiestas. We eat early, because a parking space in the surface lot is often hard to find.

Valet parking available Thursdays through Saturdays.

Web site: A victory over mediocre Mexican food


  1. Guacamole normally $14?

    1. You can't judge the restaurant by this one dish, which is a better value when ordered as part of a price-fixed meal like the one we had.

      Also, during happy hour on weekdays and all day Sundays,you can order as many guacamoles as you want for $14.


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