Chicago based celebrity chef Rick Bayless needs no introduction, he is just that famous already. His restaurants Frontera Grill, Topolobampo and now Red O are truly keeping his empire really busy. There are 4 locations in Southern California, West Hollywood, La Jolla, New Port Beach and Santa Monica. Whichever one you try you will be very surprised and excited about their Cal-Mex cuisine.
Since it’s meant to appeal to the beach set, the space has a decidedly more Cabo vibe thanks to wood beams, sand and rock textures, rustic tiles and a ceiling that takes cues from a palapa. There are even cabanas outside on the patio, which is a nice touch since the ocean is just across the street and down the hill.
Red O hosted me for 5 dining campanions for my Birthday dinner, and I have to say it was truly one of the nicest things that any restaurant has ever done for me in my culinary writing journey, thank you so much!! Nicholas Biglari set this up for me, what a great guy!! When you read all of what I tried keep in mind there were 5 diners total, so it wasn’t all of what I ordered, but I was able to taste everything.
Here’s what I tried:
House Margarita with Espolon blanco tequila, house-made limonada, triple sec. Served on the rocks with a salt rim. This drink will make you very happy, it has just the right amount zest and tang and the amount of alcohol will get your night going in the right direction.
Classic Guacamole, Fresh limejuice, cilantro, Serrano chile
Very ripe avocados make for a delicious spread.
Fresh Oysters, Dozen oysters shucked to order with chile cocktail sauce, atomic horseradish, fresh lime. Very nice little beauties, that taste like the sea!!
Fresh Corn & Goat Cheese Tamales, Fresh ground corn masa, laura chenel goat cheese, tomatillo salsa small little gems with great tangy flavor, and the sauce is to die for.
Mary’s Duck Taquitos, Slow-cooked duck, tomato-arbol chile sauce, wild baby arugula. One of favorite food items, the duck is super moist and stringy at the same time and the tomato-arbol chile sauce is one of Rick Bayless signature sauces.
Yucatecan Shrimp & Calamari Ceviche, with Mexican white shrimp & calamari, orange, lime, habanero, avocado, jicama, cilantro. Served with plantain chis this is one appetizer not to be missed.
Ahi Tuna Tartare, with Yellowfin ahi tuna, chile-cumin oil, guacamole, wakami, harissa aioli, pickled red onion, crushed tortilla. The presentation is fantastic and it has a nice sweet flavor, really a winner for me.
Organic Baby Kale Salad, Baby kale, avocado, cucumber, ruby red grapefruit, pepitas, grilled jicama, orange-habanero dressing. This salad has a bit of a kick, but it will really make you feel like you are eating a healthy salad.
Red O Caesar Salad, Romaine lettuce. Toasted pepitas. Cotija cheese, Caesar dressing, grilled white tortilla crisp. I just can’t get enough of this salad, I just loved it.
18 oz. Prime Cowboy Ribeye, Fried sweet plantain, crema, traditional black beans, mole Negro. This is a huge steak with great flavor and cooked to perfection.
Lamb in Mole Negro, with Roasted Brussels sprouts, organic baby kale, caramelized onion, nut crunch. Nice size lamb chops with great grilled flavors.
Filet Mignon Chipotle crema, cotija mashed Yukon gold potatoes, grilled Mexican knob onions. I did mine as a surf and turf with a Maine Lobster Tail on my plate. Both the steak and the lobster were very succulent and a brilliant combination, you just can’t go wrong!!
Jumbo Scallops, they did a small tasting for the sea scollops with put any of the accompaniments and they too were equally marvelous.
Maine Lobster Mac & Cheese with three-cheese sauce, poblano chile. A very comforting smooth dish that will keep the cold at bay.
Sautéed Baby Kale & Brussels Sprouts, for the health conscious a delicious way to get your vegetables in.
Mexican Street Corn, Poblano chile, cotiia cheese, cilantro. I just love corn done anyway and this dish dos nit disappoint.
Passion Fruit Butter Cake, With Grilled strawberries, passion fruit custard, coconut crumble, coconut ice cream I could eat this dessert day and night, it is buttery and silky, just wonderful.
Tres Leches, Delicate cake soaked in three milks, whipped cream, fresh assorted berries, mint, this is a nice dessert item but once you have the passion fruit butter cake forget about anything else.
Chocolate Tart, with fresh assorted berries, canella whipped cream, cajeta caramel sauce. I just love the caramel sauce so I would have to order this one again.
Cantabria, Spanish Red Wine. Very bright and bold went great with the lamb.
Mt. Veeder, Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, this wine was great with steak, filet or rib eye, its berry, jammy flavors were consistent with the overall flavors in the steak.
Ferrari Carano, Sonoma, Chardonnay, well of course any of the seafood would be just terrific with this lovely wine. I liked the lobster the best though with this buttery delight.
Red O is a world-class restaurant collection, which strives to deliver superior cuisine and service in a stunning vacation inspired atmosphere. Offering a unique combination of prime steaks and seafood using authentic Mexican sauces prepared with ingredients that are primarily sourced from local farms using sustainable practices to create dishes of un-paralleled flavor and quality. Red O’s team of friendly employees creates a welcoming atmosphere that parallels the luxury resort interiors of the restaurant. Red O also features an impressive bar and lounge, where you’ll find their specialty cocktails, an extensive tequila list and an award winning wine list.
THE CHEF – RICK BAYLESS
While many people know Rick Bay less from winning the title of Bravo’s Top Chef Master in 2009, others may recognize him from either one of his eight award winning cook books or his highly Public Television Series, Mexico – One Plate at a Time. Rick has also received other glowing distinctions including winning James Beard awards for: Midwest Chef of the Year, National Chef of the Year, and best American Chef of the Year.
As a pioneer in supporting sustainable practices, Rick received the Humanitarian of the Year award in 2007 by the International Association of Culinary Professionals for his work with local farmers. Rick and his team began the Frontera Farmer Foundation to attract support for small Midwestern farms. Each year, grants are given to local farmers for improvements to their family farms.
In 1987, Rick opened the casual Frontera Grill. In 2007, Frontera Grill won for Outstanding Restaurant by the James Beard Organization. Soon thereafter, Rick opened the elegant Topolobambo in 1989. Topolobampo is one of Americas’ only fine dining Mexican restaurants and the only one to receive a Michelin star. Rick recently opened his third restaurant XOCO – a casual service restaurant that features house-ground chocolate and wood grilled tortas. Rick and the Red O team launched the highly acclaimed Red O Restaurant on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles in May 2010, and in 2013 opened their flagship location in Newport Beach.
Red O is the perfect setting for all occasions including corporate dinners to holiday parties as small as 10 and up to 400 guests. They also offer offsite catering if one prefers your own venue. There’s also a daily happy hour (4-6:30 PM).
For those foodies out there that are Rick Bayless fans, you should be really excited that now there’s a local spot where you can try his signature sauces and cuisine right in our own SoCal Backyard!
Red O Restaurant
1541 Ocean Ave
Santa Monica, California 90401
* Note some text was taken off of their website.