As I walk into the Incan world created by chef Ricardo Zarate, I am greeted by friendly hostesses and vivacious flamenco music. The bar, just to the left of the entrance, is festive and serves exceptional variations of the pisco sour (including the classic). I chose the ‘healthy’ sounding ‘Natural High’, a mix of ashwaganda, turmeric, atomized beets, and Tequila. This interesting yet somehow delicious cocktail is simultaneously refreshingly crisp and creamy. The hostess chooses to seat me at the Ceviche bar, an impressively entertaining area where the sous chefs maneuver around a small but extremely efficient kitchen. Watching them work is like watching a well choreographed vignette. To start I sample two different ceviche. The first, Kampachi mixed with pesto and a side of roasted yam, is quite delicious. The fish is tender and sweet and the citrus sauce leaves a nice zing that pairs exceptionally well with my drink. The ceviche crocante, a halibut ceviche with calamari is a complete 180. The sauce is not bad but there is just too much of it. The fish itself is tough and leathery. What lacks in the fish is balanced by the delicious lightly battered calamari placed carefully atop the bed of halibut. This calamari is not at all rubbery, possibly the best I have ever had. The friendly couple at the table neighboring me offer me one of their Causita Crocantes, which my server had suggested, but I ultimately did not order. This “fish croquette” is EXTREMELY fishy and greasy. A small bite is enough to know that, for me, the Cuasita Crocante is inedible. Next to arrive is the piece de resistance, the anxiously awaited Lomo Saltado. This gorgeously plated cut of filet with fingerling potatoes and a fried egg looks just as amazing in person as it did in the photo on their website. In reality, the fantastic cut of tender and succulent filet is cooked to perfection. It is not overly salty, a brilliant change from most restaurants in LA. Unfortunately, the steak and potatoes are literally DROWNING in a soupy sauce. As I watch the chefs continue their dance in the kitchen, I start to calculate a re-occurring motif. Huge globs of sauce fly everywhere, squirting all over everything. Sadly, every single dish is weighed down by an over abundance of liquid! As the beef cools a bit and the soupy sauce thickens. I can pick through the overkill of sauce and the combination of elements begin to work together harmoniously. The last dish served is the Chicharron de Paiche which is aromatically pleasing and flavorful yet…. saucy. I do wish I had tried the less soupy looking paella, which is their other signature dish (along with the Lomo).
Despite the amplitude of sauces, its worth noting each dish has had an interesting hierarchy of hidden flavors. It is exciting to slowly sample the food and with each consecutive bite discover a new layer of particularities. For example, the beef first has an unexpected hint of lime, and then as it cools there may be notes of unsweetened chocolate, and then in the next bite perhaps a hint of turmeric is revealed. In addition, it was fun taking a stab at playing chef, paring the remaining proteins with left over sauces from the variety of dishes. One may think, “It could be delicious to dip this meat into that zesty ceviche sauce” and determine “yes, that’s an interesting and successful combination.” These activities make the actual experience of eating at Rosaliné exceptionally fun.
The prices are reasonable considering serving sizes (abundant in my opinion). The ambiance was fantastic. The drinks were exceptional. The other patrons seemed radiantly nice and even shared their food. The kitchen was extremely well organized and effectively prepared for a huge crowd, the staff was highly accommodating and concerned with our happiness, and the bathrooms were spotless. I loved how entertaining and fun it was to watch the chefs cook behind the ceviche bar. Even parking was easy. I really want to give this place an A+ but sadly the food was drowning in sauce, and I’m not sure people really fancy condiments for dinner. Since everything deserves a second chance, I would like to go back and try the paella, at which time I will most definitely treat myself to some more of the Natural High Sours.