La Rosa Mexican Grille
Where: Suncoast Casino and Entertainment Centre
Open: Daily 11am to 10pm, Fridays and Saturdays to 11pm
Call: 031 942 6749
“One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor” or so the old bar joke goes.
And, yes, an upcountry visitor is in precisely this predicament, lying prone in the smoking lounge while her partner and his mate continue their revelry. Luckily, the well fed mates didn’t hit the floor because no-one would have been able to pick them up.
We’re at La Rosa, the Mexican themed restaurant at the Suncoast Casino, which predictably has a fairly extensive tequila menu. (The drink is served in little skull-shaped shot glasses). We decided to skip the firewater for .something much lighter and ice cold ‒ a Corona ‒ and despite the unfortunate name, this is perfect for a Durban summer. And it certainly won’t floor you.
The restaurant is a vibrant riot of colour, from the murals on the walls to the brightly coloured tiles on the tables. On entering, you are presented with colourful sombreros ‒ we declined ‒ but the lady on the floor was still wearing hers.
I admit I have never been a fan of Mexican food, especially when filtered through either Texas or California, but was keen to try anyway.
Burritos have never been my thing. Basically it’s a wrap and I am not fond of wraps because they go soggy. Ditto enchilados. Ditto with fajitas, which is basically meat grilled with onions and peppers and folded in a tortilla. Okay, so it’s more calzone than wrap but it’s the same thing. But La Rosa offers an interesting array of both.
There are also some interesting mains like beef short-rib with cilantro rice and refried beans, or a traditional Mexican beef and potato stew with onion peppers, garlic and chili topped with cream and cilantro (read coriander here) and tortillas. There’s flame-grilled half chicken salsa de arbol (a tomato, chili and pepper sauce) and charred spring onions and the famed Mexican skirt steak as well as a fillet with chimichurri sauce.
Tacos puts things on much firmer ground with offerings like slow roasted lamb shoulder in adobo (a paprika stock) with shredded cabbage, pickled red onion, radish and cilantro; or fried calamari with avo, fresh chili, lime, cilantro and habanero mayo. There’s even achiote (a spice) pork slow braised in an orange, lime and roasted chipotle marinade, pickled red onion and cilantro salsa.
We decided instead to order an array of starters to taste as many different flavours as possible, although portions are large so we only got through four, leaving space for dessert.
These range from everything like tortilla chips with a house dipping sauce and guacamole, or a cheese dipping sauce, to nachos or nachos grande on which you could pile the whole works if you so desired.
The corn poppers filled with queso (cheese) rice and jalapeno (R65) were nice and crisp and had a good kick from the jalapenos. I liked that they were fairly light and the rice hadn’t made it all go heavy. They came with a chili dipping sauce.
Next up were two fish plates. The coconut and chilli crumbed prawns on mini tostadas with avo salsa and chilli mayo (R95) were an enjoyable if messy to eat. The Baja-style battered hake strips served with chipotle mayo (R65) were inspired. We enjoyed these immensely, even though they didn’t need the bed of pickled veg they were sitting on that tasted distinctly of vinegar. Other options included seared tuna with a dry chili rub, pico de gallo and lime dressing, or calamari with chourico, black bean paste, cilantro lime and cream.
By now there was movement in the lounge where the menfolk were rescuing the lady from her predicament on the floor. No doubt, there would be tears in the morning.
We were going to order the lamb meatballs with salsa verde or mini tostadas with pulled pork, but we were already too full. Instead we tried the Chili Dipper (R95), a bowl of good tasty chili con carne, topped with cream and cilantro and scooped up with tortilla chips. We enjoyed it.
Desserts include an orange cake and traditional rice pudding which both looked interesting, but my friend wanted churros (R65), the famed Mexican cinnamon crusted fried finger doughnuts. These were pleasant although I’ve had crisper ones. I think the caramel sauce was probably not needed.
Food: 3 ½
The Bill: R620
The Independent on Saturday