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Sunday, October 01, 2006

Taco Rosa - Review #6 (Guided Tour)

If you are looking for information on Taco Rosa's new Irvine location in the Tustin Marketplace then
The entry you are looking at now is about their Newport Beach location.
Date of Visits: August 9, 11, 18, and 31; September 1, 11, 21, 26 and 28, 2006
Taco Rosa
2632 San Miguel Dr
Newport Beach, CA 92660
(949) 720-0980

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Taco Rosa - Exterior/Nighttime

Okay, here I am with my sixth review (depending on how you count them all) of Taco Rosa in Newport Beach. Every place I've covered in this blog has something good to offer but Taco Rosa is easily my favorite Mexican restaurant in the county overall. They are so good that I constantly tell people about it or get people to go there with me and everyone seems to love it and many go back and bring other people along with them who then start going on their own. Why am I giving them tons of free marketing? I don't know. I guess I'm just loco enough to do something like that.

Taco Rosa - Exterior/Daytime

On your way in make sure to check out the area where one chef makes nothing but appetizers and desserts and the nearby chocolate fountain.

Taco Rosa - Interior
One shot from inside

Taco Rosa is tucked away in the corner of the Newport Hills Center which is dominated by a Pavilions supermarket. There's also an Ace Hardware and some other shops. This shopping center can be a little hard to find. When you are driving on Bonita Canyon Drive, which itself is a continuation of Culver then eventually becomes Ford, and you come up on the LDS temple (it has the big angel statue on top) turn south onto Prairie and keep going straight until you head into the parking lot. You won't be able to see the shopping center when you first make the turn, you'll feel more like you are heading into a residential area, but just trust that you are going the correct way. Right before you head into the shopping center's parking lot you'll actually need to be in the far left lane to go straight across the street. It's a little weird because the far left lane allows you to turn left or go straight, but the other two lanes only allow you to turn right, so be warned. Simple rule: just do whatever it takes to go straight once you turn on to Prairie. At least that's the way I go from where I live. If you are heading to it from the Fashion Island area just make a right into the last shopping center on San Miguel before hitting Bonita Canyon Drive.

Taco Rosa - Geckos

The problem is I haven't taken very good photos of their food before compared to pictures I've taken at other establishments. So a couple months ago I decided to go on a big Taco Rosa photo-taking binge amassing pictures taken over numerous visits. I took so many I think they started to think I was doing it to help out competition or something. Sorry, I'm not competition, just your friendly neighborhood food blogger.

Taco Rosa - Tree Planter

Don't walk past the specials board and ignore it. Pay attention to it. It'll tell you the specials of the day (usually a soup or two and one, two, or three special entrees) as well as the two aguas frescas flavors for the day. A new flavor of aguas frescas I have seen them offering recently that I hadn't seen before is coconut. Other flavors include strawberry (fresa), cantalope, watermelon (sandia), honeydew (excellent!), mango, jamaica (hibiscus; go ahead, give it a try), tamarind, horchata, and I believe papaya and raspberry. There is also the elusive grape flavor that I have heard so much about but I have yet to stumble upon a day that it is being offered.

Taco Rosa - Specials Board


For appetizers each party gets a complementary "botanas tray" with one item for each member in their party. These are usually mini-tostadas but could also be chimichangas or sopes. Each tray also comes with a helping of escabeche, a mixture of pickled carrots, cauliflower and jalapeños. They do serve chips and salsa upon request for when you are in the mood to be a little more Americanized.

Taco Rosa - Botanas Tray
Botanas Tray

There's also an appetizer sampler platter (Platon de Botanas, the first item on the menu) which features, "steak nachos, zucchini with blossoms quesadilla, taquitos de pollo a la plancha & stuffed shrimp jalapeños. Served with fresh guacamole, escabeche, pico de gallo, sweet corn tamalitos and real sour cream."

Taco Rosa - Platon de Botanas
Platon de Botanas


The lobster bisque is their house soup served ever day. Other kinds of soup I've seen there include Caldo Tlalpeña, or chicken and lime, or seafood pozole:

Taco Rosa - Seafood Pozole

Following are photos of assorted entrees from Taco Rosa:

Regular Items

These are items that can be found on Taco Rosa's regular menu:

Taco Rosa - Alambre Quesadilla
Alambre Quesadilla

Taco Rosa - Carnitas Pibil
Carnitas Pibil

Taco Rosa -

Taco Rosa - Blackened Chicken Taco
Blackened Chicken Taco

Taco Rosa - Chile Relleno
Chile Relleno en Caldillo

Taco Rosa - Enchiladas

Taco Rosa - Enchiladas Oaxaca
Enchiladas Oaxaca

Taco Rosa - Salmon Tacos
Salmon Tacos

Taco Rosa - Burrito

Taco Rosa - Salmon Tropical
Salmon Tropical

Special Items

The following are items found on the specials board at various times. Any of them could be featured again:

Taco Rosa - Empanadas

Taco Rosa - Tacos Volteados
Yellowtail Tacos

Taco Rosa - Chile en Nogado
Chile en Nogado

Lunch Specials

The following are items only available during lunch hours (11am-4pm):

Taco Rosa - Milanesa de Pollo
Milanesa de Pollo

Taco Rosa - Enchilada Platter
Enchilada Platter

Taco Rosa - Steak and Chicken Tacos
Steak and Chicken Tacos

Taco Rosa - Sopes Rosa
Sopes Rosa

Taco Rosa - Salmon Enchilada
Salmon Enchilada


Taco Rosa offers four kinds of desserts (postres):

  • Churros
  • Baked Cream Cheese Flan
  • Chocolate-covered Strawberries
  • Fried Sopapillas
When you're done with your meal help yourself to some postres. Make sure you save some room for them.

Taco Rosa - Fried Sopapillas
Fried Sopapillas

Taco Rosa - Cream Cheese Flan
Baked Cream Cheese Flan

Taco Rosa - Chocolate-covered Strawberries
Chocolate-covered Strawberries

The dessert sampler platter comes with flan, churros, and chocolate-covered strawberries:

Taco Rosa - Dessert Sampler Platter

Taco Rosa now has a MySpace Profile. I'm guessing it is not official but thought I'd point it out (UPDATE: found out later that MySpace page is not official but run by a Taco Rosa fan who no longer lives in California).

My most recent visit to Taco Rosa was with Joy and Carter, Omar from SqueezeOC, "Chubby Panda" from the Epicurious Wanderer blog, and "Elmo" from the Monster Munching blog. Read Omar's report on the experience. Reports from Elmo and Chubby Panda are pending.

Taco Rosa still maintains its five Speedy Gonzales rating:

Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales Speedy Gonzales

UPDATE (October 18, 2006):

Went back recently and got an Ensaladas de Frutas (fruit salad) to go. It has vanilla cream dipping sauce:

Taco Rosa - Ensaladas de Frutas

UPDATE #2 (October 30, 2006):

Went last Saturday for an impromptu lunch and got a pork pozole soup and huevos rancheros, neither of which I had ever seen before at Taco Rosa:

Taco Rosa - Pork Pozole

Taco Rosa - Huevos Rancheros

Important note: When people use Google to search on "taco rosa tustin" it is, for some reason, sending them to this entry (Taco Rosa - Review #6) which is about Taco Rosa's Newport Beach location and NOT about their Tustin location. To read about the Tustin location CLICK HERE.


Joy said...

Great photos, Christian! The food looks almost as good as it does in real life.

Mmmm, seeing a photo of that chile en nogado makes me hungry for it all over again. That was one of the best Mexican dishes I've ever had. I went home that night and looked up recipes and am going to try cooking it myself (but man, it's a complicated dish, eek).

I'd never seen it at a Mexican restaurant before so I thought it might be their own creation. Silly me, it turns out that it's a traditional dish (which means there are TONS of recipes for it out there). Here's a blurb describing it, from the Visit Mexico site:

"Chiles en nogada: Mexico’s signature dish available August through October. The poblano chile, Mexico’s spicy sister to the bell pepper, plays the key role in this culinary masterpiece, which is stuffed with meat, served with a white cream sauce and topped with red pomegranate seeds, resembling the colors of the Mexican flag and symbolizing Mexican independence. First created in Puebla, a UNESCO World Heritage site and home to what many Mexicans consider their country’s most refined dishes, chiles en nogada coincides with the time of Mexican national independence."

They neglect to mention the other key ingredients - the walnuts mixed into the meat filling and the sauce, and small chunks of apple that add extra juiciness and sweetness to balance against the richness of the meat and cream, the spiciness of the cinammon, and the heat of the poblano. Mmm, now I'm really get hungry for it again.

I'm so grateful to Taco Rosa for introducing me to this dish. Now I'll look for it every fall!

ChristianZ said...

I've only seen this particular creation there twice. Fortunately you were able to make it one of those times too.

Miss Yen Dang said...


I'm an fan and owner of the myspace Taco Rosa profile. I've been going there since they opened in September of 2004 and am acquainted with the Calderon Brothers and their kids. Anyways, I love eating there and miss it so since I now live in NYC. BUT, I am going back this Friday for lunch, as soon as they open. Your photos make me drool. Miss Rosa so much. I even dream about the food.

With your permission, may I use your appetizer photo as the TR main profile photo?