First Bite: Rosa Mexicano

It’s tacos with a side of glitz at this big-box newcomer.

By Leah Mennies | Boston Magazine |
Rosa Mexicano

Photo by Michael Piazza

You’ve read all about the Mexican restaurants that have been taking over Boston during the past year or two. They come in all shapes, sizes, and varieties, but there’s one particularly notable subspecies: the flashy, upscale spot that’s characterized by tacos priced in the double digits, tequilas available in the triple digits, and ornate, extravagant décor. The latest to join the territory already occupied by Lolita, Papagayo, and Temazcal is Rosa Mexicano, a ritzy New York export themed around a hue — a hot magenta, to be precise, that colors everything from the menu to the signature frozen pomegranate margaritas ($9.75).

Rosa Mexicano may not have New England roots, but it’s taken steps to be a good neighbor. Chef Darren Carbone hails from La Verdad, and his familiarity with local farms (Sparrow Arc from Maine was highlighted when we visited) makes the menu read more like a thoughtful, well-tailored bill of fare than a corporate printout. Carbone, by the way, has great skill with ceviche, which is best exemplified in a sweet, tender diver-scallop version ($12) tossed with grilled pineapple, burnt orange–chili vinaigrette, and crunchy chopped hazelnuts.

The kitchen’s use of local produce is highlighted best in the vegetable tacos ($12 for three), which come with the spicy, kimchi-like cabbage escabeche and umami-rich huitlacoche, or corn fungus (trust us here). More veggies would have been a nice textural addition, though, to the big hunks of tequila-braised short ribs ($27.75), which were tender but swimming in a one-note chipotle sauce and accompanied by soft, salty rice and refried beans.

But let’s get to the important part: The La Sangrita micheladas ($7) are spicy and malty; those frozen pomegranate margaritas are bracing and boozy; and sweet-and-savory ­cocktails like the La Sandía ($11, pictured above), made with fresh watermelon, tequila, lemon, and rosemary, are herbaceous and refreshing.

It probably goes without saying that if you’re one who believes that a good taco shouldn’t cost more than a couple of singles, then Rosa Mexicano is not for you. But for those who like their sangria with a side of swank, this newcomer will hit the spot, tableside-chopped guacamole ($14) and all.

155 Seaport Blvd., Boston, 617-476-6122, rosamexicano.com.