13 N. Village Ave., Rockville Centre
Salsa Mexicana is yet another creation of chef Art Gustafson, who seems to have culinary visions that he subsequently transforms into excellent restaurants. Chadwick’s American Chop House & Bar, Tony Colombo’s Italian Bistro, and Copper Pot Chicken Co. comprise his family of eateries, all are in Rockville Centre.
Ambience is warm, rustic and cozy, yet fun and festive. Piece by piece, from penchant lights to benches and mirrors, most of the décor has been imported from Mexico and Spain. Antique doors were purchased at a Mexican estate sale; bar shelves were cut from an entry archway of a Mexican villa. The colorful murals are actually wall-mounted tapestries painted by the late Barbara Listenik from Fierce Release Designs, who also did the antiquing of the ceiling and the portrait of Sophia Lauren at Tony Colombo’s. Seating runs the gamut — bar stools, high-tops and tables of various sizes. Servers are friendly, well informed and accommodating.
Warm nachos arrive with three salsas. Of the made-to-order Guacamole choices —Traditional, Chicharron-Queso Fresco, and Lump Crab Mango Ceviche with Smoked Jalapeno — we went with the first. Heaped into a large Mexican Molcajete (lava rock), this guacamole is mandatory for avocado lovers … delicious and plenty for sharing. Arugula Salad boasted fresh crabmeat with grape tomatoes, plantain chips and avocado over arugula dressed with lime vinaigrette.
Tacos — two for lunch, three for dinner, and an extra on Taco Tuesdays — come with rice and beans. Carn Asada had tender garlic-rubbed skirt steak with roasted tomatillo, salsa, Queso and Poblano peppers. Polo was filled with ancho-marinated grilled chicken, green salsa, red cabbage and Chihuahua cheese. Beef Short Rib included roasted tomato mole, Oaxaca cheese and crispy onions.
Paella Burrito is enormous — saffron Bomba rice, chorizo, shrimp, chicken, steak, black beans, mixed cheeses, olives, green onions, pimentos and herbs — a meal wrapped into a large flour tortilla. A popular dish (and rightfully so), are fajitas (chicken, shrimp or steak), served sizzling. We opted for Surf & Turf, a hearty mix of well-seasoned jumbo shrimp, tender steak, onions and peppers, with a traditional setup of guacamole, sour cream, pico gallo, cheese, rice, beans, and flour tortillas to wrap.
Salsa Mexicana Fried Ice Cream was like no dessert we’d encountered. A coconut-crusted ball of ice cream with a mango sorbet center came with banana coulis and chocolate sauce. Other options are Sweet Corn Crème Brulee, Sangria Cheesecake, and Mexican Brownie Tostada.
From the dinner menu, appetizers, cerviche, soups and salads are $7 to $18. Enchiladas, Taco and Platos Furtes (entrees), are $17 to $23, and Fajitas, $22 to $29. Desserts are $9. Children’s meals are $7. Brunch plates are $10 to $15.
Salsa Mexican opens everyday at noon, and serves until 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Happy Hour is Monday through Friday 4 to 7 p.m. and all day on Sunday, featuring half-priced drinks and $6 appetizers (at the bar only). Brunch is served from noon to 3 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Take-out and off-premise catering is available. Reservations are suggested and can be made online. Check the website for specials like Margarita Monday and Taco Tuesdays.
■ Arugula Salad
■ Pollo Taco
■ Carne Asada Taco
■ Beef Short Rib Taco
■ Paella Burrito
■ Surf & Turf Fajitas
■ Salsa Mexicana Fried Ice Cream