It’s red hot fun and flavor from the moment diners step inside Red O, with outposts in Santa Monica, West Hollywood, and Newport Beach. Stylish, sleek dining rooms, freshly made tortillas, and a wide variety of Baja style cuisine awaits flavor-seeking diners.
There’s a strong emphasis on seafood in the small restaurant group, one that was originally launched by James Beard award winner Rick Bayless. Freshness is the main ingredient here in every dish, with even the sauces prepared daily on site.
Craft cocktails, beautiful prawns, tamales made from sweet corn masa – these are just some of the flavors that await. We found the restaurant’s Santa Monica location to be welcoming and warm, an elegant dining room with an ocean view, and cuisine that’s inventive but not overpoweringly so.
For us, a Mexican restaurant must pass the guacamole test, and Red O definitely did – tangy with serrano chile and lime juice, creamy but not so smooth it seemed processed. We followed the guac and house-made chips with the Corn & Goat Cheese Tamales, goat cheese perhaps not a common tamale ingredient, but it worked here. Even better were the soups and salads – the butternut squash soup was rich and creamy, and the Marcona almonds and raisins on top were a lovely touch; the Tortilla soup was a thick and fragrant broth with bits of chicken or chips thrown in here, this could be a meal. On the salad side of the starters, the Organic Baby Kale wowed with a mix of grapefruit, jicama, avocado, and of course, kale. Kale is often overused these days, if Orange is the New Black then Kale is the New Lettuce. But here it worked, in no small part due to the bite of the orange-habanero dressing on this salad, and the tenderness of the leaves.
We had a special tasting platter of several fish entrees: halibut and mahi-mahi as one of our entrees, and the fish was fresh and flavorful. Vegetable enchiladas were served with tomatillo sauce that made the mix of grilled veggies delightfully zingy. Our favorite dish was the street corn, which seems to be something of a signature dish here, topped with Cotija cheese, poblano chilies, and cilantro.
And don’t miss the Passion Fruit Butter Cake – delicate, sweet, fruity – or the churros with dipping sauces for dessert, either.
Come for dinner or come for cocktails: the Signature Red O Margarita is a find, an actual “craft” take on a drink too often slighted with a pre-made mix and salted glass treatment. Like the food, the ingredients in the drinks are fresh and zesty, too.
In fact, just about every aspect of Red O is top notch – and you can dine in LA or the OC and receive the same “craft” experience.
1541 Ocean Ave #120
Santa Monica, CA 90401
www.redorestaurant.com | 310.458.1600