When I first arrived here in Sapporo, I had come from California and had a few cravings I was trying to satisfy. It seemed unlikely to me then (and it still does), but I wondered if I might find good Mexican food in Sapporo? (できますか？ できますよ。) Based on some of my earliest adventures, Rosa was of the first of my experiences with Mexican cuisine in this, the best city in the world. And here we are again, several years later, back at テックスメックス Rosa Mexican restaurant in Sapporo.
And I’m glad to be here. It had been at least a year, but the owner recognized me. He was as warm as ever; a good host.
The full name of this place is テックスメックス Rosa. That first part (in katakana) translates to Tex Mex, which is an abbreviation for “Texas Mexico,” and generally means a regional kind of Mexican food that would be more typical in Texas (which was part of Mexico for some part of history, and still has a lot of Mexican influence).
Rosa taco shop in Sapporo is located just beyond Sosei Koen, across from the touristy Nijo fish market (at the eastern edge of Tanukikouji). It’s down an alley, and then down a skinny hallway. If your love of tacos is strong enough, you’ll find it. Bueno swerte.
The first night I came here, I know I had some chips and a beer, and it wasn’t completely authentic, but it was a hint of home, and that beer went down rather easily. I came back on various occasions, bringing Japanese friends (and even a friend from China) for what was often their first taste of “Mexican food,” or a Sapporo vision of what Mexican food could be.
Now, a few years later, I’m back; In part as I happen to be in the neighborhood, and in part to add Sapporo’s Tex Mex Rosa to our list of tacos and Mexican food in Sapporo.
And they do have tacos. On this particular night there was a special menu for tacos in particular.
At the top of the list you’ll see that the tacos come on blue corn tortillas. (Blue corn tortillas in Sapporo? Fue una sorpresa.) And then, and you read down the page (if you can read the katakana), you’ll see the list includes what I believe is El Pastor (パスト-ル, a classic Mexican marinated pork), chili con carne (チリコノカリネ), a breaded shrimp option, a mushroom (キノコ) taco, an oven-baked sea bream taco, and several more. If you think our translations of Spanish words from Japanese into English might be only semi-reliable, we’d agree with that assessment.
To be completely honest, I didn’t fully understand the taco menu until after I had already ordered. And I am curious what Takeshi san’s blue-corn tacos are all about; I’ll have to come back and give those a try.
As it was, I had my mind set on something like a “taco plate” I ordered on my previous visit.
Tex Mex Rosa Mexican restaurant in Sapporo is basically Japanese-only (although I did not test his Spanish) and the menu is in Japanese. I have mastered enough of the local language to confirm I was ordering the steak tacos and confirmed that was what I wanted. And he has enough mastery of reading はくじんのかお (white people’s faces) to know I was uncertain; he took a moment to confirmed I wanted the “roll your own” taco plate?
Sure, I said. Sounds good. It was.
That was, in fact, what I was expecting; a plate of steak and some vegetables, with those soft, flour tortillas on the side, and I would indeed assemble my own tacos by hand. If I had to describe this dish, I would say it’s like a “stir fried” rendition of fajitas. Like so much of the “ethnic” food in Japan… テックスメックス Rosa’s food is always delicious, but always created with some degree of “creative interpretation.”
As I wanted to add a little more depth to what we could share here in this review, I also ordered a chicken enchilada. I was curious what that might mean, and I am happy to share the results of the investigation.
I don’t know if I have ever seen enchiladas done with flour tortillas (that might be illegal in Mexico), but that is how they come here at Rosa. I could smell the sweetness of the tomato sauce as it arrived, which in some ways was more like an Italian pasta sauce (it was pureed, and almost creamy, but it had some heat to it). Inside, white meat chicken. On top, some cheese. But also some red onion and cilantro (what they call パクチー, here in Japan) piled on top. The enchiladas were also a “creative” version of original dish, but were totally satisfying (surprisingly so).
If you come for tacos at Rosa in Sapporo, you’ll see it’s a small place. There is room for maybe five or six people at the bar (which wraps around two sides of the small kitchen), and then there are maybe two more high-top tables that could seat two to four people each. It’s little, basically a “taco bar;” much in the style of all the other intimate, small bars in Sapporo where a few people and the bartender socialize (in this case, with a Mexican theme).
While I was there for this particular meal, four other small groups came in and out (with one woman drinking wine at the bar the whole time), and the crowd was fun and friendly. I am interested in how the local Sapporo-jin informally socialize with strangers (I wrote about it in my review of Beer Cellar Sapporo and again in my tear-down of Sapporo’s Sun and Moon Brewery), and it occurred to me that is seems that smaller bars are better for meeting people than larger ones; where the tighter confines facilitate more sharing.
Speaking of sharing, nothing I ordered on this visit included any chips. And that hurt a little, as “a bowl of chips” is a staple at Mexican restaurants, which typically comes without asking (and for free), to give you something to eat while you wait for the main course (and to encourage more drinking).
Tonight, as I ate my food, a local guy came in, sat next to me, and ordered what I assume was the chili-on-carne, and it came with chips.
I was bold enough to ask him if I could steal a picture of his chips. He was friendly enough to allow that to happen. Those are hand-made chips, made from flour tortillas – which are pretty rare in Mexican culture, where the chips are almost always made from corn. A flour chip is lighter, and has more of a “pastry-like” quality to it. The chips at Rosa are special, and very good.
And while we are in no way suggesting Rosa’s house-made chips can compete with Phred’s world famous Chips and Salsa™, they do look tasty, don’t they.
I like Rosa a lot. It’s a great spot (and I am coming back for the blue corn tacos soon).
With that said, for our favorite Mexican in Sapporo, we have to recommend Sapporo’s El Tope (on the other side of Tanukikouji). El Tope takes a few liberties of their own, but mostly they delivering an incredibly good (and incredibly surprising) version of “real Mexican” (even though she has never been to Mexico). They do handmade corn tortillas there, which are rare anywhere, but especially in this part of the world. Come to Rosa, but get over to El Tope as well.
(And though it’s not in the city center, and the hours are a little irregular, Spatacos in Maruyama needs a mention, so for more of a “California fresh” style of Mexican, check that spot out as well.)
From the other reviews on this site. you’ll see I know several other places in this part of town. There is Indian-like soup curry at Delhi, a more standard Sapporo-style soup curry at Treasure and Sapporo’s famous Garaku, excellent sit-down “ham-bagu” at North Continent, and top-shelf food and surf movies at Sapporo’s Salt Moderate Hawaiian restaurant.