Battle of the Flan

Enough with the chocolate lava cakes, already! Here's a tip: When Dominos rolls out a dessert, it's time to take it off your Michelin-starred restaurant's menu.

While we're suckers for anything sweet, we much prefer the delicate flavor of flan, the creamy custard that was making its way onto colorful ceramic dessert plates long before we'd ever heard of a "pizza cookie." This week, we sampled traditional Spanish-style flan at two local Mexican restaurants in hopes of finding one that's muy delicioso.

In One Corner: Rosita's Fine Mexican Food
960 W. University Dr. in Tempe
480-966-0852

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Coco Loco: Rosita's flan is imbued with tropical flavor.
    

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Rosita's has been a staple of the ASU student's diet since...well, since long before we went there. It's a cozy, neighborhood joint with the touristy decor Arizona natives have regrettably come to expect in a Mexican restaurant: striped serapes and sombreros on the walls, maracas and more colors than a box of Crayolas. (At least the waitresses aren't forced to don ruffled peasant dresses and hair-flowers.) 

The restaurant is clearly a family place. Just about every table or booth seats at least four, and there are two side rooms that could each fit an entire family reunion. During our visit, a large table held at least three generations of a single household, possibly four.

Our dessert was presented simply -- an upside down saucer-shaped mold of egg custard with a light drizzle of sauce and a halo of whipped cream. The flan was thick and creamy, with just a hint of the curdled texture that sometimes accompanies egg and cream-based dishes. 

"The texture is interesting," said my dining companion. "It's slightly coarser than what I'm used to, but still manages to be creamy."

Absent was the eggy taste that we've (regrettably) come to expect with housemade flan. It is, after all, made with eggs. Instead, the flan was delightfully imbued with coconut flavor. As with real coconut, it wasn't super-sweet -- just sweet enough to tickle the taste buds, leaving no sugary aftertaste. That was due in part to the sauce, which is usually a syrupy homemade caramel. Rosita's flan had a lighter simple sugar sauce that was nearly clear.  

When our server asked how the flan was, our friend grinned and said, "It was so terrible, we had to lick the whole plate clean."


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