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Red O by Rick Bayless, West Hollywood

May 27, 2010

I’ve been anticipating Red O’s arrival like a kid counting down the hours until Christmas. For a couple of months now, ever since news reported that Rick Bayless was opening his new restaurant in Los Angeles, I’ve been keeping an eyeful watch on the announcement of the opening date. Rick Bayless in my hometown? I was beyond ecstatic. After drooling over his masterful creations on Top Chef Masters and taking the grand win, I’ve been dying to go to Chicago just to taste his food. I even wanted to plan a marathon around it! So when the date was finally announced for the grand opening, my cousin Steph immediately got us reservations for Thursday night dinner, a day after the grand opening. Located in West Hollywood, Red O is surrounded by many well-known restaurants on 3rd st, Beverly and Melrose. Rick Bayless’s humble approach on food and his artful creations brings another dimension to the food he puts out. I had no idea how big the space was until I walked in and was half expecting that the pictures online were all crammed into a tiny space, like most restaurants in the area. It resembled a modern museum from the outside with a very staffed valet service

Before even walking in the main door, we were stopped by two gentleman asking for our names. I thought they were going to check my ID even though it was only 8PM! I guess they just wanted to make sure you were on the reservation list before wasting your time haggling the hostess. After getting checked off, we checked in again at the host table before we got seated. Wow, no words can describe the interior of this restaurant space. Not only was it huge, but every “room” seemed to have its own personality. The high ceiling in the main dining area with the plush lounge chairs brought an elegance to the entire restaurant. This wasn’t your typical swanky Hollywood cliché restaurant. This would be a great place to take a group of friends because of all the big lounge tables and laid-back atmosphere.

We were seated behind this masterpiece which looked into the bar area. Rick kept poking his head out, but never actually coming through the door into the main dining area. He probably would have been trampled by us paparazzi.

The cocktail menu was presented to us and we started off with

Red O Sangria-Crisp rose wine & tart Jamaica flower infusion with elderflower & framboise liqueurs. Layered with raspberries, strawberries, apples & orchids

This drink is perfect for someone who doesn’t really like the taste of strong alcohol. It was very mild and fruity, a perfect summer drink.

Mojito Mexicano-muddled mint, cilantro, Serrano chile, lime & agave nector. Arette blanco tequila shaken & served on the rocks

If there are mojitos on the menu, you can bet I’m getting it. This mojito gets a twist from the cilantro and Serrano chili, which I didn’t taste until the very end. I loved the spicy notes from this drink with the perfect dose of tequila.

The menu was 2 pages long and since there was only the 2 of us, we decided to forgo the main entrees and split a bunch of small plates.

Grilled Mazatlan Blue Shrimp roasted garlic mojo, avocado with jicama chips

I love the use of the jicama chip on the bottom of the shrimp mixture. It gave a nice unexpected crunch in every bite. This was a light and refreshing dish and the perfect way to start our meal. Both Steph and I agreed that it could have been a bit more seasoned as the shrimp and avocado mixture seemed to meld into one and lose it’s own distinct flavors.

Alaskan Halibut ceviche cilantro-serrano chimichurri, cucumber, avocado

At first glance, we thought the kitchen had sent out complimentary guacamole to our table! Resembling the said dish from the avocado, the ceviche was really well seasoned and had a slight tang from the citrus. Interesting how they sent it out with chips, as I would have never thought of using tortilla chips to scoop up ceviche, but it works!

Sopes (golden corn masa bites)-Shredded Creekstone Beef Short Rib roasted tomato-green chile sauce

This can easily be one of my favorite dishes ever. The shredded beef in the sauce soaked through to the crispy golden masa bites. We kept ‘mmmm-ing’ and ‘ahhh-ing’ at how delicious these little sopes were. I really couldn’t get enough of the tomato-green chili sauce as we pretty much licked the plate clean.

Charcoaled Creekstone Skirt Steak crispy onions, red guajillo chile salsa on tostada

Warm Spinach Salad bacon, chorizo, woodland mushrooms, & caramelized red onions

Tamales-Fresh Corn & Goat Cheese roasted poblano pepper, corn husk

We decided to go for some vegetarian options as we were pretty “meated out” if that’s even possible. The waiter said he didn’t bring out our original order because we were busy taking pictures with Rick and didn’t want the food to get cold, so he made us a new plate. The tamales were dense and I couldn’t really taste the goat cheese. Steph said there was a subtle hint to them. This was an okay dish for me, next time I would go with a tamale that had a meat filling on the inside.

Cazuelas for Soft Tacos-Albondigas al Chipolte beef & pork meatballs, smoky chipotle roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions, Yukon gold potatoes

I read somewhere that we had to get the albondigas meatballs. The sauce that these meatballs were bathed in had hints of spiciness from the chipotle. We were served an order of warm tortillas to wrap this mixture in and instructed to eat it like a taco. The diced potatoes and onions were caramelized and the tortillas were hot and fresh, the perfect vessel for soaking up all the sauce.

Pollo en Mole Poblano-grilled Mary’s young chicken, homemade mole poblano, black beans, watercress salad

Pescado Zarandeado: wood-grilled Silver Creek striped bass basted with achiote & red chile, three salsas,
Veracruz-style white rice with sweet plantains, arugula salad

Three Sorbets, Four Cookies-mango-passion fruit, raspberry-prickly pear & lime-mint mojito, served with pecan, Mexican chocolate, citrus, & dried cranberry, salted pepita polverones

We were stuffed at this point from all the food, but couldn’t pass up dessert. We stuck with something light and refreshing, even though the Creamy goat cheese cheesecake and Veracruz-Styl Bunuelos-with salted caramel ice cream, warm Kahlua chocolate sauce sounded really good. I loved the mojito and mango sorbet, not a big fan of the pear. Paired with the shortbread cookies, this was the perfect way to end an amazing meal.

Yes, they really do have a tequila tunnel!

Highlight of the night:

Can’t wait to come back and try more of Rick’s creations.

Red O
8155 Melrose Ave
Los Angeles, CA

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