When first faced with a lifetime of gluten-free eating many people envision a taste-free future of bland, tasteless meals of plain chicken and rice. When one is unfamiliar with the ingredients used by a restaurant there is little choice but to settle for such a bland but safe dish. A perusal of some of the amazing gluten-free food blogs reveals that one's taste buds can still dance with delight while being gluten-free. Mexican cuisine is a great option for creating a rich and spicy gluten-free meal. The corn tortillas, fresh meats, vegetables, rice, beans, fresh salsas and guacamole are typically naturally gluten-free. My stepdad and I made incredible homemade tamales last year, but when I want to satisfy my craving for Mexican food without an entire day of cooking I am lucky to have a few restaurant options in NYC.
Our office holiday lunch this year was at Rosa Mexicano, an upscale Mexican restaurant, started in NYC that now has locations in Atlanta, and Washington D.C. My first trip to Rosa Mexicano on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, was two years ago. It was disappointing at the time. The waiter only offered a few dishes that were gluten-free and was unable to confirm the gf status of their corn chips. My more recent trip exceeded my expectations, yielding a wealth of options and an extremely ‘gluten-informed’ server. While flour tortillas eliminate some options from the menu, I just viewed it as an aid in helping me narrow in on the other delicious dishes I COULD eat.
We started with the Ceviche, a citrus marinated tuna, shrimp appetizer and the empanadas.
I chose not to eat the empanadas, they are deep fried which I tend to avoid, but they were unable to confirm them as 100% gluten-free. The server was informed enough about their ingredients to let me know that they are fried in dedicated oil but that the corn masa they use for that particular dish comes from a facility where they can’t guarantee there is no cross-contamination. The level of specificity he was able to give regarding the sourcing of ingredients was truly remarkable.
I ordered the Alambre De Camarones – grilled shrimp marinated in a garlic vinaigrette with onions, tomatoes and pico de gallo. It confirmed that eating gf can be a spicy treat for the tastebuds.
Other gluten-free options include many of their tacos – served hot in a cast iron skillet with cheese, chorizo chili, salsa and fresh warm corn tortillas. The grilled, marinated steak and Chilean sea bass were two that piqued my interest.
And for those looking for a more traditional Mexican dish, there are always the enchiladas made with corn tortillas and served with refried black beans and house rice.
The dessert offerings are the least impressive gluten-free options, with only ice cream and flan. But I certainly didn’t have room for dessert – and was happy to avoid the excess holiday calories!
While eating out is always risky, an informed server and chef can provide a gluten-free diner with a plethora of safe and delicious spicy dishes.
Rosa Mexicano - additional locations in Washington DC, Atlanta and NYC
61 Columbus Avenue at 62nd Street
New York, NY, 10023
Tel. (212) 977-7700