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Rosa Mexicano Union Square

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Rosa Mexicano Union Square

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Address: 9 East 18th Street
City: New York, NY
Zip: 10003
Phone: (212) 533-3350
Hours: Lunch: Monday - Friday: 11:30am - 4pm Brunch: Saturday & Sunday: 11am - 3:30pm Dinner: Monday - Saturday: Open at 5pm (Bar opens at 4pm) Sunday: Open at 4pm
Site: Visit the restaurant site
Map: Map
Cuisine: Mexican
Area: Union Square
Entree Price: $20-25


Walking into the Union Square branch of Rosa Mexicano on a recent evening was a little bit of a 1980s flashback: large, noisy crowds waiting desperately for tables, while empty seats awaited at other eateries just step away. It was easy to recall the same scene 20 years ago, when the cavernous space debuted as America. The appeal back then was a diverse menu, great drinks, and the occasional celebrity spotting. And in many ways, nothing has changed. Rosa Mexicano, the third NYC branch of this upscale south-of-the- border phenomenon, has a menu that goes miles beyond quesadillas and tamales, superb libations -- the pomegranate margarita is the house favorite -- and, our visit, the sighting of actor John Leguizamo having to wait for a table! Of course, the dťcor has changed, courtesy of design genius David Rockwell, who has imposed lots of bright colors and whimsical touches (such as his now-signature waterfall wall). And I donít remember if America even served guacamole; but if it did, it definitely didnít hold a candle to Rosaís version, heralded by many as the best -- and priciest -- in the city. (A standard order cost $14 and serves 2-4 people). Prepared tableside in the classic molcajete, the guacamole is properly chunky-creamy and generously studded with tomato, garlic, and onion. More important to some people, like my tablemate Lisa, Rosa actually understands the meaning of spicy, so if you order it that way, prepare for a proper kick in each bite. Fortunately, the guacamole kept us busy and satisfied as we took an unusually long time deciding among so many tempting sound mains. Lisa opted for beautifully seared sea bass accompanied by a zesty jalapeno-potato cake. I went the slightly conservative route with the tacos de carne asada, and was amply rewarded with an unusual and fabulous variation on the dish. Each component came separately to be assembled as you wish: slices of perfectly cooked skirt steak atop a coating of melted Chihuahua cheese in a cast-iron skillet, a bowl of yummy charro beans, superb roasted corn salsa, and fresh warm tortillas. (A fine side of rice and black beans was presented for Lisa and I to share). Portions being as generous as they were, we passed on dessert, though I hope to return for the fresh pistachio-strawberry shortcake. But I will try to come before 6, which is oneís best hope of scoring a table right away without reservation. Itís not the Ď80s anymore, and Iím a bit too old to stand around waiting for a table.

Review By: Brian Scott Lipton