Thursday, August 13, 2015

A Standing O for Red O

Red O Restaurant
143 Newport Center Drive
Newport Beach, CA 92660

Writing this blog, we have not only had the opportunity to eat at some of the best restaurants Orange County has to offer, but more importantly, we have had the pleasure of meeting some of the nicest people on earth, restaurant people. I'm not sure what it is, but people that work in restaurants are some of the greatest people. From wait staff to bussers, from executive chefs to management, we have met some really fantastic people that we would even consider friends.

One of those friends recently reached out to us about trying her latest place, Red O Restaurant. We met Lindsey when she was working nearby at Canaletto. She had us in for a wine dinner, and we ended up really having a great time, and really enjoying her and everyone's company at this event that we still look back on fondly, even though it was over two years ago.  We were very pleased that Lindsey would be joining us for dinner, as it gave us plenty of time to catch up with her, and also learn about this restaurant that we had heard so much about, but had yet to visit.

Red O opened almost two years ago, where Coco's used to reside, just across from Muldoon's at Fashion Island. The Coco's was torn down to make way for this restaurant, and Fig and Olive, which is right next door. Any talk about Red O of course has to start with its chef, Rick Bayless. I could use the rest of this post to list all of Chef Bayless's accolades, but I'll just leave it at this, he's won six James Beard awards, is the host of Mexico-One Plate at a Time, which is in its 9th season on PBS, he's written 8 cookbooks, and won awards for many of them, and as if all that was not enough, he also won the inaugural season of Top Chef Masters, beating out an impressive lineup of notable chefs. Simply put, we are extremely lucky to have a Rick Bayless restaurant in OC.

As if having a world renowned chef was not enough for Red O, the inside of the restaurant is something to behold. They are on record as saying that they are going for a Mexican resort kind of feel to the place, and I'd say they nailed it. From the moment you walk in, until the moment that you leave, you will have that sense of a vacation stay wash over you. The beautiful tequila display that catches your eye as you enter, to the red painted ceiling with white lanterns hanging from it, and the comfy booths with just the right amount of pillows, you will leave here more relaxed than when you arrived, just like a trip to the Mexican Riviera.

The menu at Red O can best be described as upscale Mexican, with an emphasis on steak and seafood. Yes, you can still get carnitas and a number of enchiladas, (I hear the short rib enchiladas are phenomenal), but there are no combo meals listed, and not a burrito to be found here. After a little debate, we made our selections, and I looked real forward to what would be making its way out for us. Let's check it out.

The kitchen at Red O is a scratch kitchen, and that includes their Chips and Salsas, which they make every morning. I could definitely taste the freshness of the chips, and the red and green salsas were pretty solid. The best though was the habanero salsa. It had a real nice kick to it. If you're a heat seeker, this is the salsa for you.

We were eating with Katie, so an appetizer of guacamole definitely needed to be ordered. Katie's a guacamole fiend, and she gave two thumbs up to this Classic Guacamole ($11). This freshly made guacamole was made up of tomatoes, fresh lime juice, onion, cilantro, Serrano chilies, and of course chunky avocados. They nailed this. The guacamole of course tasted great, but what really impressed me was the consistency of it. It was smooth, but still had enough chunk to it so you did not think you were having soup. A lot of places screw this up in my opinion, but not Red O.

So far this must have been Katie's dream meal. She's a big fan of guacamole, but an even bigger fan of ahi, so she must have felt like she needed to go out and buy some lottery tickets when this Ahi Tuna Tostadita ($19) came out next for us. After eating these, we were all winners, unlike the lottery. These little mini tostadas had a lot going on with them. Of course you had the very fresh sushi grade ahi tuna, then throw in the avocado, cabbage, harissa aioli, pickled red onion, habanero, and finish it off with a chile cumin oil, it puts this over the top. Lindsey had left the table before this arrived, and it was hard for us to save her one. We did manage, but it took a great effort. A must order for ahi lovers dining at Red O.

We left the ordering up to Lindsey, and she had the wonderful idea for the three of us to split the Red O Tablita ($125). This was a wise decision since I was busy filling up on the chips and guacamole, and still wanted to save room for dessert later. The tablita is made up of a 32 ounce tomahawk ribeye chop, topped with a chipotle crema and a one and a half pound Maine lobster tail. It's brought to the table sizzling, like a fajita platter on steroids. It made people in the dining room stop conversing, and stare in disbelief. It's presented at the table, then sliced tableside for easier eating. One of the more impressive dishes we have had recently. The steak was extremely tender, and went well with the very well made chipotle crema. The lobster was of course very decadent, and prepared nicely. It's always a treat to have lobster, and this time was no exception. It's definitely worth the inquiry to see if this is available when you visit Red O.

Also included with the tablita is the inclusion of Traditional Black Beans, Mexican Red Rice, Classic Guacamole, and their great Tortillas. A very good way to round out this special meal. I'm usually not a big fan of black beans, but these had a great taste to them, and I loved that they were topped with plenty of queso fresco. The tortillas are made all day long in the kitchen by the masa ladies, and after tasting these, I can safely say that they are excellent at their craft.

It's not included in the tablita, but the Cotija Mashed Potatoes ($9) are worth ordering. You wouldn't think of having mashed potatoes in a Mexican restaurant, but these were awesome. Made with Yukon gold potatoes, and then the cotija cheese is placed under the broiler, so it gets a nice and crispy texture. I'm still thinking of these potatoes. So good.

I have become addicted to butter cake. My addiction started at Maestros of course, and has followed me to every place that offers a version of this fantastic dessert. At Red O their version was the Passion Fruit and Coconut Butter Cake. A little more fruity than I like my butter cake, but the cake portion of this was right on point, and the coconut ice cream paired nicely with this. Like i said, I am not to into fruit, but Katie was a fan of the strawberries and passion fruit on the plate here.

We left Red O being very impressed by everything we had here. Not your traditional Mexican spot, but more of a steak and seafood restaurant with a Mexican twist is how I would describe this eatery after eating here. The restaurant was lively, and not stuffy like other high end places tend to be in this area. The staff was very welcoming, and our waiter Rigo, was not only very attentive to our table, but his others as well. He was very knowledgeable about the restaurant and its menu, and passed along some great recommendations to us and his other guests. The staff really helped facilitate the resort vibe that they are going for at Red O. We will be back soon, as I have heard great things about their Short Rib Enchiladas, Filet Mignon, and other menu items.

We would like to thank everyone at Red O for their fantastic hospitality, and great cuisine on this evening. A special thanks to our good friend Lindsey Goetz, the Director of Events at Red O, who was not only having dinner with us on this night, but checking in with two other events that she had going on this very busy Monday night. If you have an event coming up, and want to insure it's a great success, you should consider getting in touch with Lindsey and her team at Red O. Thanks for the invite to experience Red O first hand, and we look forward to seeing you again real soon.

If you would like to find out about Red O for yourself, you can find more information about them on their website by clicking here:

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