It’s a Monday night in Santa Monica, a night when most are more likely to fall horizontally onto their couches, depleted from day one of the work week, than to dine out on the town for a night of revelry and tequila. This is not the case at Rick Bayless’ third, recently opened Red O location on Ocean Ave.—this place is popping.
As designed by Judy Van Wyk of The Design Studio, this dimly lit, sexy eatery has elements like aged floors, wood beams and sand and rock textures to full embody that luxurious beachfront resort vibe.The ceiling design is a modern take on a Palapa, and is paired with aged walls, Moorish lanterns, and rustic tiles. There are even cozy cabanas for those to feel like they’re dining poolside on a sultry evening in Mexico (and sadly, Santa Monica is still overly sultry despite the fact that it’s now fall). Flickering candlelight and electronic music in the background gives this hot spot a vibe that’s equal parts sexy and fun.
The fare, for those who are familiar with Bayless’ signature cuisine, can best be described as “Mexi-Cali” with a focus on prime steaks and seafood. The Santa Monica location is helmed by Executive Chef Keith Stich, who trained under and works with Top Chef star Bayless. Stitch whips up a menu of thoughtfully prepared and and saucily presented dishes like the Surf ‘n’ Turf Seafood Tablita, an elaborate dish featuring a prime, 32 ounce Tomahawk Ribeye Chop and a Jumbo 1 ½ lb. Maine Lobster fileted and served tableside with a selection of authentic Mexican inspired accompaniments including corn and flour tortillas, pico de gallo, guacamole, vegetable escabeche, red rice, and black beans, and a Goat Cheese Tamale: a goat cheese and and masa tamale filled with Laura Chenel Goat Cheese and roasted poblano chiles.
Other standouts on the menu included the very citrusy Yellowtail Aguachile—Hamachi yellowtail sashimi, spicy lime broth, avocado, red onion, cucumber, Ahi Tuna Tostaditas (our favorite dish)—sushi grade yellowtail ahi tuna, chile-cumin oil, avocado, Napa cabbage, harissa aioli, pickled red onion and habanero—a fabulous tortilla soup with Pasilla tomato broth, sautéed onions, shredded chicken, avocado and tortilla strips and mouth-watering scallops served with angel hair pasta, roasted tomato chipotle sauce, avocado and shaved radish. You must not leave without trying the Passion Fruit Butter Cake: a baked-to-order confection served with grilled strawberries, passion fruit custard, coconut crumble and coconut ice cream.
Given that Red O really brings the party—and clearly on any day of the week—why not indulge in something from the extensive tequila list, or a custom-made cocktail? Director of Wines & Spirits Dan Oliver utilizes fresh seasonal ingredients, house-made syrups and bitters in his libations, of which include the sensational (and tequila-less) Summer Heat—Double Cross Vodka, mango, fresh lemon, and habanero honey—and the El Rac: Roca Patrón Reposado, Alvear Pedro-Ximenez Sherry, chocolate bitters and an absinthe rinse.
Final thoughts: we’ve said it before and so we’ll say it again—Red O is a good time any day of the week.