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Rick Bayless Opens Second Red O in Newport Beach, California

Rick Bayless Opens Second Red O in Newport Beach, California

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The Chicago chef expands to a second outpost on the West Coast

Rick Bayless opens his second outpost in Southern California.

Rick Bayless, known best for his Chicago restaurants Topolobampo and Frontera Grill, has opened a second outpost on the West Coast. His Californian-meets-Mexican joint Red O has opened a second location in Newport Beach, Calif., in Fashion Island.

The second in Southern Califonria, the new Red O will have similarly Oaxacan-infludenced dishes, a press release says, like beer-braised short ribs, chipotle chicken, shrimp and goat cheese, plus Yucatecan shrimp and calamari ceviche, lobster jicama tacos, and Sonoma duck taquitos (served with pork belly sopes). The space, as it's in Newport Beach, features 8,500 square feet with an outdoor patio; Bayless' Chicago fans are probably jealous.

As for dessert, the press release promises dishes "inspired by American classics with a modern Mexican touch" like goat cheese cheesecake, caramel corn, and Mexican "root beer" sauce. To drink: a selection of 100 tequilas, 400 wines, plus beers and cocktails. Similar menu, different, OC vibe. Now if only Bayless will come save Mexican food in New York.

Share All sharing options for: Rick Bayless's Red O Hopes Goes Full On Surf and Turf in Santa Monica by August

One of the city’s most anticipated openings (since last year, in fact), Red O in Santa Monica has finally started to heat up in the former 41 Ocean space. The third location overall — there’s one in Newport Beach, plus the West Hollywood location — is situated right near the water in the former home of 41 Ocean, with plans to open by August 1.

Much like the other Red O locations, which have morphed and changed since the first one opened in West Hollywood in 2009, the menu plan from mega-chef Rick Bayless is to lean more heavily on surf and turf. Think of this as a Mexican-flavored steak and seafood spot for the moneyed crowd, with an emphasis on their wine program and cocktails. Chef Keith Stich will be on site to execute Bayless’ vision.

As for the design, expect a stunner from Judy Van Wyk of The Design Studio. Because of its proximity to the ocean, this Red O is going full-on resort decadence, including beachy sand and rock features and a ceiling that is reminiscent of a classic thatched-roof palapa on the beach.

Red O Brings Steakhouse Flavor and Cabo Vibes to Santa Monica

As promised, Santa Monica’s upcoming Red O will be debuting this August — this Saturday, August 1, in fact.

The third location from Rick Bayless’s team (the original sits on Melrose, with a follow-up at Fashion Island in Newport Beach) is just steps from the Santa Monica Pier, offering lots of big-window views to Ocean Avenue and the water beyond. The corner location means maximum light too, with a side patio for daytime relaxing and an interior dining room brimming with sun.

Judy Van Wyk of The Design Studio handled the look, giving off the well-worn tile feel of an upscale coastal cantina, from the weathered wood touches to the drought-resistant plants wrapping the exterior.

On the plate, Red O goes for a medium-end Mexican steakhouse feel, with white tablecloths offset by bright chairs and colorful takes on dishes from Oaxaca, the Yucatan, and beyond. That means bone-in filet mignon cuts with a mojo de ajo garlic sauce, or grilled sea bass with black beans and shaved escabeche. Drinks come from Dan Oliver and have the usual tequila lean, thanks to their looming wall of bottle options.

Rick Bayless Opens Second Red O in Newport Beach, California - Recipes

Best Happy Hour in Newport. Lots of menu choices and very reasonable prices. Gets pretty loud as the night goes on. Dinner is expensive, but the happy hour is most reasonable.

96 - 100 of 425 reviews

Business lunch, first time visit, lovely warm atmosphere, beautifully decorated. Food very good, all in all a good choice

All I can say is awesome. We started with the Corn and Goat Cheese Tamales. They were just the right size for two and were the best Tamales I have had in a long time. For the main meal I had the Mariscos Chile Relleno. It was terrific and I had enough to take back for a second meal the next day (which was almost as good left over as the first day). My wife had the same experience with the Crab & Shrimp Enchiladas. I would definitely go back and if we did not have other plans and leftovers.

Four of us ( adults ) we're disappointed with our dinner. Slow service ( but very friendly ) for food & drinks.
The food was the big disappointment. Chicken enchilada & vegetable enchiladas were bland. Spicy shrimp were waaay too spicy, and not a tasty heat, just heat.
Very high prices for such average food
We loved the decor and ambiance. But not enough to return.

Rick Bayless Opens Second Red O in Newport Beach, California - Recipes

My wife and I stopped in for a very late bite as we had missed lunch--the bar area was open, but the dining room had closed until dinner. We decided to order a few appetizers and also ordered two entrees. We thoroughly enjoyed both the Yellowtail Aquachile and the Queso Fundido---the Queso was so filling that we had to plan to take some home, knowing that we still had entrees coming. The seafood salad was exactly what my wife was looking for---again, it was a very fair sized portion. My Mariscos Chile Relleno was very flavorful--however, there was no way that I could finish all of it after the Queso Fundido---bottom-line, I had a second opportunity to enjoy those two good dishes the next day. Our server was very pleasant, she was prompt and also very helpful when we were making our entrée choices. The prices reflect that this is upscale Mexican-style cuisine. Very good food--you will not leave hungry. Check out my photos for more details.

11 - 15 of 425 reviews

We were served Salsa and Chips with out water directly after being seated. The Salsa was very fresh and good, but rather mild. They did had a Habanero version, but warned us about it. We asked for just a small amount and mixed it into the regular, making it perfect.

We ordered Mary's Duck Taquitos to start with. These were amazing, with an excellent crisp and great duck flavor. But, there were four small pieces for $16, that's $4 for each 3-inch taquito. She ordered the Beet and Kale Salad. The balance of the vegetation with the Guajillo Berry Vinaigrette was good, but was topped with Bleu Cheese. Goat cheese would have been much better. I ordered the Enchiladas Suizas in chicken. they had good flavor, but were smothered in melted cheese, something that's not truly an authentic Mexican thing. The refried black beans were a nice touch, but could have used more seasoning. The rice tasted like normal Mexican Rice, but I didn't eat much of it. Overall, the dishes were good, but the pricing was high, even being on the West Coast.

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Rick Bayless’ Red O headed to UTC

Red O, an upscale restaurant brand that showcases celebrity chef Rick Bayless’ authentic Mexican cuisine, is coming to San Diego where it will take the place of Donovan’s Prime Steakhouse.

The Irvine Co., landlord for the 825,000-square-foot Plaza office complex in the UTC area where the restaurant will be located, announced Monday its plans for the space that Donovan’s will vacate Jan. 3 before relocating to its new home on Prospect Street in La Jolla.

Red O and the Irvine Co., which will raze the standalone Donovan’s restaurant structure, expect to invest $7 million in creating the new 8,300-square-foot restaurant that will also include a 2,000-square-foot patio. The Irvine Co. will start construction in early 2015, with an opening expected in mid-2016 across from Westfield UTC.

The move marks the first San Diego location for Red O, which already operates in Los Angeles and Fashion Island in Newport Beach and will be opening in Santa Monica as well. Bayless’ cuisine, which is inspired by the food typically found in various regions of Mexico, most notably the Yucatan, Oaxaca and Baja California, is the centerpiece of Red O’s menu.

Bayless, while not technically a co-owner or partner in the Red O restaurants, has complete control over the menu, and his team trains all the chefs at his well-known Chicago restaurants, Topolobampo and Frontera Grill. Everything on the menu must be approved and tasted by Bayless personally, said Red O Chief Operating Officer Jason Miranda.

“We’re taking a steak and seafood restaurant and adding a Mexican twist so people would be wrong to categorize us as a typical Mexican restaurant,” Miranda explained. “Therefore it’s upscale dining with a ticket average of $70 plus per person, the same price point as Donovan’s.

“Obviously it caters to upscale neighborhoods, and La Jolla being an upscale neighborhood, it can support these type of cuisines because of the affluence in the area. We thought it could be a good fit.”

The move to San Diego is part of an expansion plan to bring the Red O concept to other locations across the country, with one to two openings planned a year, Miranda said.

Red O in Newport Beach is one of the top performing restaurants among Fashion Island’s nearly 50 dining venues, said Irvine Co. spokesman Michael Lyster. Bayless is a James Beard award winner and host of the PBS series “Mexico: One Plate at a Time.”

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Red O Fashion Island

Red o restaurant mexican cuisine by rick bayless features both authentic mexican and lighter california style dishes. From 2 to 300 guests red os courteous and professional staff will provide an unforgettable experience for you and your guests.

Menu Newport Beach Red O Restaurant

Red o features both authentic mexican and lighter california style dishes at locations in los angeles santa monica and newport beach.

Red o fashion island. Red os team of friendly employees create a welcoming atmosphere that parallels the luxury resort interiors of the restaurant. Red o restaurant store or outlet store located in newport beach california fashion island location address. Red o restaurant 143 newport center drive newport beach california 92660 rated 45 based on 853 reviews top chef master rick bayless is no doubt.

Every saturday and sunday from 11am to 3pm lucky guests can enjoy an amazing brunch courtesy of bravos top chef masters 2009 winner chef rick bayless. Red o restaurant combines atmosphere comfort mexican inspired prime steak and seafood for an exceptional dining experience. Red o also features an impressive bar and lounge where youll find their specialty cocktails an extensive tequila list award winning wine list and live entertainment nightly.

401 newport center drive newport beach california ca 92660. Red o mexican cuisine by rick bayless is revered for its outstanding menu of authentic regional mexican and lighter california style dishes.

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[Chef Change] The Review: Red O

Pull up in front of the new Red O on Melrose and, before deigning to take your car, a valet in an embroidered guayabera and natty straw hat will lean into the window to ask, politely, if you’ve got a reservation. It’s Mozza all over again. No reservation, no getting in. And on weekend nights, you’ll need to reserve a month out. Even on the weekdays, it’s the 6:30 or 9:30 routine. Try to get into the bar and the big guy posted outside the door, leaning on a lectern to make him look less like a bouncer, will nix that too. The bar is for patrons waiting for tables.

We all know the drill. This is the scenario that has played out at countless hot restaurants of the moment. Only it used to be dentists driving Hummers who pleaded to get inside, not cool kids driving a Tesla or Prius — or a Vespa.

In addition to the irritating treatment at the door, Red O exhibits all the trappings of this season’s trendy restaurant: a trio of hosts to vet the guests, a romantic tropical décor, a tequila lounge and long-tressed babes by the yard.

It’s different, though, in that there’s no sushi bar, no agnolotti with white truffle oil, thin-crusted pizzas or fusion cuisine either. Red O is a Mexican restaurant, the first showcase outside Chicago for chef Rick Bayless’ gutsy regional cuisine.

If you’re unfamiliar with Bayless, suffice it to say that he’s the best Mexican cuisine chef in the country, a favorite of President Obama’s, invited to cook at the White House for the president of Mexico the week before Red O opened. Bayless, winner of Bravo’s “Top Chef Masters,” has three über-successful Chicago restaurants: Topolobampo, Frontera Grill and the new Xoco, plus his own PBS show. And, I almost forgot, he’s the author of seven cookbooks and an obsessive Twitterer.

He’s not Mexican, just someone who fell in love with Mexican cooking early on, the way Alice Waters fell in love with French cooking. He’s spent big chunks of time in Mexico researching regional cuisine. And this geeky and driven American chef is probably more faithful to the cuisines of Mexico than many Mexican cooks in this country.

At Red O, the guacamole comes out unadorned, fresh and chunky, simply ripe avocadoes smashed and stirred together with lime and a little cilantro. The chips are golden and crisp and not a bit greasy, the salsas — either a lilting green tomatillo sauce or a complex, seductive guajillo salsa, wickedly balanced. I can’t stop eating any of it.

To get started, he’s assembled a beguiling collection of “bright bites” and “savory snacks.” Mazatlán blue shrimp tostaditas layer sliced “chips” of raw jicama with a pungent roasted garlic mojo, grilled shrimp and avocado for a vibrant taste of Mexican seafood.

Ceviche comes five bites to an order, each a triangular chip piled with lime-drenched fish to pick up like an hors d’oeuvre. I liked the Pacific sole marinated in lime with olives, heat-emitting serrano chile, cooling jicama and a touch of unconventional sun-dried tomato. Others, though, can be a bit dull.

For the sopes, masa is pinched into miniature tartlets and topped with — well, all of them are pretty great, especially the shredded short rib with a roasted tomato salsa or the soft, sweet plantains with rich ivory crema.

Tamales fall in the category of snack too, and they’re terrific. The dough is fluffy and suffused with corn flavor. You get three choices: Order all of them to share. It’s tough to choose between the one with fresh sweet corn with creamy goat cheese and poblano chile, or the one with shredded short rib with smoky chipotle chiles. Or the chicken tamale napped with Bayless’ intricate Oaxacan yellow mole on a banana leaf.

Bayless started his cooking career in Los Angeles but chose Chicago over L.A. when he was ready to open a restaurant, which was a big loss for us. I’m left wondering why now, why here for his first venture outside Chicago. He’s had offers for years, even turned down Las Vegas. He’s not an owner of Red O, more a creative consultant responsible for the overall culinary vision. The food is billed as “Rick Bayless’ Mexican Cuisine” and he flies in at least once a month, sometimes more often, to tweak the dishes and consult with executive chef Michael Brown and sous chef Armando Martinez, both of whom spent some weeks training with Bayless at Frontera Grill’s kitchen in Chicago.

However Bayless got here, it’s a win for L.A. I don’t know how he does it, but somehow he’s imbued everyone in the kitchen with the ability to turn out faithful renditions of his signature dishes. Red O is more Frontera Grill than the more inventive and formal Topolobampo, with a few " California light” dishes thrown into the mix.

His classic tortilla soup is nothing like the thick sludge some kitchens serve. The broth is rich and clean, laced with moist shredded chicken, avocado, a dab of crema, and embellished with toasted pasilla negro chiles and a thatch of the skinniest tortilla strips.

He knows his Angelenos, so he’s put some salads on the menu too, which are easy to miss given all the other, more unusual sounding dishes. But steak and heirloom tomato salad is killer with flavorful tomatoes and watermelon, smoky grilled scallions and sliced grilled skirt steak in a punchy red guajillo chile dressing.

And all that’s well before you get to the cazuelas for soft tacos. You get a terracotta casserole with, say, moist cubes of chicken and strips of roasted poblano peppers in cream to fold into fragrant warm tortillas. (Bayless grinds his own corn for the masa.) My fave, though, is the lamb in a gorgeous red-brown chile colorado sauce scented with cumin.

The menu just seems to go on and on. Enchiladas are excellent too, and if you like, you can have yours with mole instead of in enchilada suizas style.

But the real heart of the menu is the category labeled “Mexico’s Celebrated Seven,” which I guess means regional classics. That’s where you’ll find the grilled chicken in a subtle and sublime mole poblano, and carne asada made with steak marinated in a green chile rub and cooked over the coals to give the meat a smoky edge. Fold the finger-thick slices into some warm tortillas and that’s it. Striped bass grilled over wood is moist and pristine, served with three salsas and Veracruz-style rice studded with chunks of sweet plantains.

The pork for the cochinita pibil is, I’m told, raised at a farm just down the road from a tortilla factory, so these could be, in fact, tortilla-fed suckling pigs, marinated in achiote and cooked in banana leaves. Chunks of the tender pig come on a swatch of leaf, with pickled red onions, velvety black beans and a vivid roasted habanero salsa.

But cochinita pibil or tinga poblana? I’m hard-pressed to choose. The latter is very moist, falling-apart-tender pork shoulder and belly flavored with smoked chipotle chiles and braised with chorizo, roasted tomatoes and Yukon gold potatoes. Of the celebrated dishes, the weakest is the chilpachole, a seafood stew that’s on the pallid side.

The best thing on the somewhat weak dessert menu is the soft-serve ice cream. Think high-quality ice cream, soft and creamy, topped with pepita brittle, closely followed by Veracruz-style buñuelos, fluffy fritters served warm with salted caramel ice cream and a warm Kahlua chocolate sauce for dipping.

Right now, the success of Red O is getting in the way of the experience. Nobody likes being turned away at the door. Or the snooty attitude you get when you call for a reservation. There’s a disjunct disconnect between the quality of the food and some of the staff, who don’t seem to get that they’re working in a restaurant rather than a club. Maybe it comes from owners Mike Dobson and Rick Teasta, who also own Ma’Kai Lounge in Santa Monica.

Not to worry. It will eventually calm down as something new opens and the trend-seeking crowd heads elsewhere. It’s as inevitable as wrinkles. Meanwhile, expect a wait for a reservation — and sometimes for a table — but know that the food, once it comes, will be worth it. I’m crossing my fingers too that Bayless will stay just as committed for the long run as he is now.

Location: 8155 Melrose Ave. (at Crescent Heights), Los Angeles (323) 655-5009

Price: Bites and snacks, $7 to $13.50 salads and soups, $7.50 to $13.50 tacos and enchiladas, $12 to $18 specialties, $23 to $29.50 desserts, $12. Corkage fee, $25 per bottle, two bottle minimum, $35 for sparkling wines, and only if the bottle is not on the wine list.

Street Gourmet LA

I must admit, when I heard all the commotion about Rick Bayless coming to Los Angeles, I was excited. Rick along with Diane Kennedy, has done a lot to educate Americans about authentic Mexican cuisine--that is to say that they've gone to Mexico, learned recipes and studied the techniques, and then published legitimate cookbooks. Diana Kennedy currently lives in Mexico, and has done so for a long time.

I've dined at Frontera Grill and had a great dinner there with friends some years back, it was quality cooking and the plates were recognizable, but it wasn't anywhere near the best Mexican cuisine I've had in Mexico, or the U.S. I really see chef Rick Bayless as an enthusiastic American ambassador of Mexican cuisine, and a food anthropologist. Certainly, he is an outstanding chef, and worthy of being a champion on Top Chef Masters.

But, I thought--this can help raise the profile of Mexican cuisine, and perhaps contribute to the overall dialogue about Mexican cuisine here in LA, which has been increasing with the efforts of more chef driven Mexican cuisine here in town. John Sedlar, in the vanguard of Mexican cuisine, Jaime and Ramiro of La Casita, Rocio Camacho of La Huasteca, are some of these chefs representing L.A. And, not to mention the scores of regional Mexican restaurants in L.A., many of which are chef driven, or run by highly skilled specialists. These talented Mexican chefs, cooks, and specialists are the true spokespeople for Mexican cuisine here in town, a place that Rick Bayless really hadn't visited in 15 years.

In an interview on Feast while discussing the opening of Red O, Rick Bayless claimed to be bringing a cuisine no one has seen here in LA, because of the strong Mexican-American food culture. He is partly right--L.A. does have its own Mexican-American, or pocho food culture, but it is also home to the third most important center of Oaxacan cooking in the world--after Oaxaca, and Mexico City respectively. He mentions his southern complex moles as if we don't already have dozens of Oaxacan restaurants serving moles, and not to mention our Mexico City style restaurants serving mole, and the handful of Pueblan restaurants preparing Pueblan moles.

Yes Rick, many of our restaurants represent the simple cooking and antojitos of Jalisco,and in many cases these places are serving tacos, and burritos that are more Mexican-American. But, we have the largest Sinaloan and Nayaritan population in the US,and they have a sizable amount of restaurant presence here in LA. We have a broader range of recently arrived immigrants and established Mexican-American communities here in LA. Chicago has many "regional" restaurants with non-Latinos in the kitchens, but the best stuff in Chicago isn't at those places.It's in the Chicago Mexican-American neighborhoods.

But immigrants alone don't necessarily make the cuisine happen, especially since most Mexicans coming to the US are coming for manual labor jobs, not to be professional chefs. Skilled specialists and taqueros don't need to come to the US for work, they have enough work in Mexico. There are plenty of line cooks, but I haven't come across a true al pastor practician yet.

Once the initial hype died down, Rick Bayless let loose some tweets that led me to believe his involvement in Red O would be minimal.Are these Rick Bayless'recipes? Did Rick suggest a menu, did he train Michael Brown in a style of cooking, or did he run him through this menu like a drill sargeant?

Arriving n LA to help chef Michael Brown and the Red O team thru opening days! Many months of training tonight brings Frontera flavors 2 LA
12:47 PM May 26th via Twittelator

Day 4 of Red O in LA. Very please w what Chef Michael Brown is doing here! Frontera flavors in beautiful LA resto on Melrose.
4:14 PM May 29th via Twittelator

Frontera Flavors? Not recipes, just. "flavors." At no point has Rick really claimed ownership of the food here.

@Rick_Bayless: I am consulting on a restaurant, but i dont own it RT @Susie_LA @Rick_Bayless Is it true you are opening restaurant in Los Angeles? 5:43 PM Jan 30th from Twittelator

Consulting? Well, among the only writers to get their story straight was Amy Scattergood of LA Weekly's Squid Ink. The blogging community and other writers were believing this farce, and even blogging the wonders of Rick Bayless' cuisine at the media hosted opening dinner.

In a interview with KCRW's Evan Kleiman, chef Rick Bayless back peddled even more when asked about Red O.
Kleiman:"I have to ask you,what does Red O mean?"
Bayless:"You know. I'm not one of the owners of Red O, I'm just running the kitchens.."
The chef went on to state he was "heavily involved in the kitchen maintenance".."developing all the recipes".."all of the training". "quality control."

You can listen to the full interview here, about 23 minutes in, but all Evan had asked him was what Red O meant, and he was quickly distancing himself from any kind of ownership or accountability.

I was uninterested from then on, but more things came to light, as in this ridiculous door host, which is completely absurd. Some friends of mine were even insulted by these guys, others were just yelled at for breaching the restaurants outer defenses. It's the only restaurant in LA you can't walk in and try to get a table, grab a business card, or just have a look around.

I then got of hold of the menu. Mr. Bayless, these are dishes that LA hasn't seen? Really, did you have the respect to perhaps visit La Casita, La Huasteca, our many Oaxacan restaurants,our specialists and regional restaurants from so many states in Mexico? You say LA mostly has antojitos, yet Red O's menu is mostly. antojitos. There are the celebrated seven, well. we have all those too. And, I can tell you, that in most cases, I can name an infinite number of better versions here in LA than Red O's.And in the case of the two dishes that aren't well represented here in LA, chilpachole and cazuelas, I can find BETTER versions if I can find even just one place that serves those dishes.

If chef Michael Brown wanted to learn about Mexican cuisine, why didn't he go to Mexico? This I find quite insulting as someone who reveres the Mexican kitchen. A month of consulting and preparing Mexican food with non-Mexicans in Chicago? Even the non-Latinos that run all the kitchens of Rick Bayless' restaurants get to go to Mexico at least once a year to study.

Well, on the night of this impending meal, I met up with friends with the intent of having a good time. I followed all the rules so my meal wouldn't be tainted by an overzealous door host. Yet, two of our diners walked in without submission and were scolded by the door host.

With Josh, Allison, Zach, Tomo, and my friend Chris all assembled, we sat down for a shot of tequila to get into the mood.This was a tremendous group of people to dine with, all we needed were a couple of good eats.

It is a beautiful room, and certainly qualifies as an upscale Mexican piece of property.

The bar swings are pretty cool, too. Tomo and Allison had fun sitting on them before we left for the evening.

The tequila tunnel is--I don't know--I've seen these before, and I'm a little bit more about the juice. This is a shallow tunnel of commercial, straight to US market, and pricey, ordinary brands.The only gem on the list of anejos was Regional, which they were out of. After that, they have Arette, and Don Fulano, which are both excellent, but these are in just about any decent bar's tequila collection. So we went with the Don Fulano--everybody loved it--So far so good!

We ordered across the entire menu to really give Red O a chance. Up first was the guacamole served with salty, store bought chips. The guacamole was nothing special, and yes, it can be folks. All the money here is in the plate. It just was an average guacamole, not better than one you could make at home.

The crab tostaditas were bland, but not any way offensive. If you've spent any time in high end Mexican restaurants in Mexico, this type of plating should not set the hairs on your back to stand up. A bite like this should be action packed, and it wasn't.

Again,lots of blogs and reports talking about fine products and complexities, but the theme of the night, at best, was cloying, one-note flavors.This food has complexities if your idea of refinement is ketchup or alfredo sauce!

The sope felt more like a puffy taco, and the pork belly didn't wow. Sopes are antojitos and the realm of specialists like Nina's Food, Antojitos Carmen, and so many more here in LA.

The first real stinker of the night was the ceviche verde, or green ceviche. Zach and I went back and forth on the name of this new dish and settled on Guacaviche. It is the guacamole from the first dish with fish. The fish was a good quality fish, but the texture was grainy, and there was no acidity. Maybe Michael should have tried the ceviche verde at La Casita? Still not too late.

The duck taquitos didn't taste like duck, and the sauce was not special, nor did it do anything to this dish. Quack!

Tamales? You can get these for a dollar from our many specialists in LA, the masa here was a tad stiff, and over all, I've had similar types of tamales from 7-11. Of course they didn't come with a beef short rib, which is a nice idea, but it must be delicious, which is always a challenge in making tamales. Tamales are the realm of the tamalera, not a great choice for a restaurant, unless there is a master on hand.

What is a queso fundido? It's a cheese dish, and should focus on the cheese. Here, it was covered in chile strips and onions, with a bit of the chorizo we ordered with it.I don't care if it's Vella Sonoma Jack, it must be a proper melting cheese . In Mexico, this dish is done with local melting cheeses, which vary from region to region. This is another dish that is done best in the northern states, Nuevo Leon, Chihuahua, Sonora, and even down in Jalisco. How about La Casita's version that has four Mexican cheeses and is wrapped in a banana leaf? Red O's lacked flavor, was too busy with the chile strips, and the cheese quickly stiffened.

The chilpachole, which is supposed to be a spicy seafood soup, touted its fine seafood ingredients, yet the broth wasn't a chipachole I know. It isn't delicious and spicy, it tastes artificial. And the Carlsbad mussels? They tasted more like Long Beach! After Josh concurred that there was something foul in this dish, we sent it back. I haven't had to do that a whole lot, nor do I enjoy having to send a plate back, but this was exceptionally nasty.

These things happen, but even with a friendly mussel, this dish doesn't deserve to called a chilpachole. The version at Mi Ranchito, the kitschy Mar Vista Mexican restaurant that while is by no means serious kitchen, is looking pretty damn good right now.

The suckling pig cochinita pibil also has an unpleasant texture and I could only handle one bite. I wasn't expecting anything authentic, as this menu reads more like an El Torito, but I do expect it to taste good. This also had something artificial in the flavor that was off putting.

The pescado zarandeado was a first for me, on a couple of things. First, it came out in less than ten minutes after we ordered. A pescado zarandeado is a whole fish cooked on a metal grate that is flipped over a mesquite grill with a marinade--this is what they call a filete zarandeado in Mexico. Rick in his interview described this as a Pacific dish, but it comes from Nayarit, and is the state dish of Sinaloa. We have serious pescado zarandeado here in LA, from a region that Rick doesn't consider as being as interesting as Vera Cruz, DF, and Oaxaca? Well, why do a dish from that region?

This dish takes 35-40 minutes even on a kitchen grill, it came out in less than ten minutes as it is just a filet. It is done with snook, sea bream, sea bass, and other Mexican fish, but American stripped bass doesn't cut it.

I was so surprised by this dish that I asked one of the runners what it was. He replied, "fish". I said, yes, but what's the name of the dish? He fired back, "fish, fish!" I've never encountered such a rude runner, especially not a Latino. We had three runners, a floor captain, and a waiter, yet service was awkward, and clumsy. I asked another runner, this time in Spanish the name of this dish, and he said pescado zarandeado, the rude runner came back as he was putting down other plates and chimed in, " and this is chicken, this is pork..", without humor.

It wasn't a quiz, I just couldn't recognize this as zarandeado and wanted to know a little bit about the food. Our non-Latino waiter didn't seem to know the dishes either, at least not so much by their spanish names. Hey, the names are in Spanish on the menu!

Was this pescado microwaveado? It was no zarandeado, no magnificent splayed open tender fish oozing with flavor.It's just a grilled filet o fish.

Chef Michael, Rick isn't interested so much in Nayaritan cooking, I mean it doesn't turn him on, so maybe you should check out Sergio Penuelas at Mariscos Chente's on Imperial. He does a superb pescado zarandeado, whole fish, Mexican snook, and nails it every time. This dish is what El Torito would call a zarandeado.

Cazuelas, hmmm, another one of those "tricky" dishes. It's a stew in a cazuela, and can be amazing depending on what's in it. We do some great stews, called guisados in Mexico, here in LA, but not many are served in the cazuela, or casserole dish. Is that reason to stop the presses? Hardly. The chicken in salsa poblana should have been rich, and creamy, with a mild poblano heat, but no. watery, flavorless, and a bunch of chile strips and onions again. This isn't a hard dish to make, a type of simple tinga, or spicy meat.I love this dish and often make it at home, it is easy to make, brilliant, and not many places serve this since it's more of a home cooked dish. It's a perfect filling for tacos if Red O could make it tasty. This is reason alone to head back to the test kitchen. You can't make a chile cream sauce with any flavor?

There are plenty of places around LA though, that will give you a plate of something good to place in tortillas.Get an alambre plate from Antojitos Carmen, or Tacos Cuernavaca. You will get soft tortillas to make your tacos at these places, which is a lot of fun.

The camarones al mojo de ajo, another simple and satisfying dish found everywhere, was our replacement for the chilpachole a la Long Beach harbor.

It's garlic, butter and seasoning folks. Nothing to see here, make it at home or try one of the countless average to excellent versions we have around town. They will all be more satisfying, even at most Mexican-American restaurants. I'd even say to go to Serenata de Garibaldi for this if you long for a little presentation.

We ordered all the desserts, and by this point I was feeling so unsatisfied from this meal I was eager for some decent sweets. I'm usually with little room for such things but this meal left me hungry, just a collection of little sad bites was all the evening had afforded.

The chocolate mousse wasn't very appetizing, at all Again, something about the flavor.

The flan was a yawn, but the

I enjoyed the sorbet, and this little cake which I later found out was tres leches. Given the base flavors of the night I would call this un leche.

Finally, an intact dish emerged from this destroyed meal, the goat cheese cake. It's a fine dessert, deeply flavored, interesting, and a nice textural addition of a piece of popcorn atop this dessert.Bravo.

This past year has been full of so-called Mexican restaurants moving into LA, the awful Provecho(good ridduns), Rosa Mexicano and its tableside guacamole and bad commercial food, and now this? Do these people believe us to be fools? Pay a celebrity chef to exploit the public's infatuation with celebrity chefs so that they'll buy into this illusion.

Rick Bayless is a consultant, and a very well paid one at that. He is no stranger to such transactions as he lent his name to a Burger King commercial a few years back, even Emeril hasn't done that.

He's also started a fast food chain called Frontera Fresco, no doubt these will be coming to an airport near you.

But, this idea that non-Latinos from Chicago are cooking real Mexican, and Red O is this high end Mexican restaurant lifting up Mexican food here in LA is such a crock of beans.

It's not authentic, it's bad food, it's bad service, and this door host nonsense is not how we dine here in LA. Zach Brooks said it best, "If the door host stops you from going in, he did you a huge favor."

I would ask the blogging and writing community to look to our Mexican chefs, cooks and fine street food vendors for authentic Mexican. This isn't alta cocina, it's not authentic Mexican, and it is about as inspired as a Beverly Hills El Torito. As Gustavo Arrellano would say, " Ask a Mexican!"

Finally, the tinga poblana on Red O's menu goes for about $27. This is just spicy meat, the kind Nina and Carmen put in their antojitos for a couple of bucks. A whole quesadilla from one of these women will fill you up and leave you content. But luxury ingredients are not what this dish is about, it's about taking a simple piece of meat and elevating it with spice, and a Mexican mother's touch.Despite the high prices for Red O's simple fare, I can't help but wonder about how much of cost of the lousy food is Rick Bayless' pay-off and piece of the action, the door hosts, the runners, floor captains, waiters, managers, bartenders, hosts, expensive real estate, and costly interior. Tinga? Tinga tu madre Red O! This place is as empty as that tequila tunnel.

I respect Rick's love of Mexico, dedication to learning its cuisine, cookbooks and TV show, and know he is a talented and professional chef. I just question why he doesn't either remove his name from that sign, or fix that kitchen. I mean, far too many people are believing this is the real deal and that's a pity.

All photos for this report are courtesy of Tomoko Kurokawa of Tomo Style Blog

Red O
8155 Melrose Ave.
Los Angeles, CA

Watch the video: Discover RED O Newport Beach


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