Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Red O (Los Angeles, CA)

Red O
8155 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90048
323.655.5009
www.redorestaurant.com
Wed 05/26/2010, 07:15p-10:00p




Red O Exterior


"Mexican Cuisine by Rick Bayless"

Exciting words, these. However, it must be noted that Rick Bayless won't be cooking at Red O on a regular basis, nor does he have an ownership interest in the business. The actual owners are the dynamic duo of Mike Dobson and Rick Teasta, the founders of Santa Ana-based oil changery EZ Lube (they also own Ma'Kai Lounge in Santa Monica, which, apparently, will also be converted to a Red O). The two have been partners for over two decades, but were best buddies before that, first meeting while working as doormen at the Red Onion in Redondo Beach. Red O, thus, pays homage to that original restaurant. Nevertheless, Bayless is responsible for developing the menu, and also took charge of teaching the staff, many of whom were brought to Chicago to train. Running the kitchens on a day-to-day basis, thus, is the realm of Executive Chef Michael Brown (of Patina Group and Wolfgang Puck Catering). Front-of-the-house duties fall on VP of Operations Jorge Pultera, who comes to Red O from Koi and The Ivy.

A brief Bayless bio: The Chef was born in Oklahoma City in 1953 to a family of restaurateurs, who specialized in barbeque. He thus grew up immersed in food, cooking even, but never thought about going into the restaurant business. Bayless took his first trip to Mexico at age 14. It was a family holiday, but he quickly fell in love with the energy, the vitality of the place. As a result, the Chef ended up majoring in Spanish and Latin American Studies during his undergrad years, where he formed dining clubs and also started to experiment with Mexican cookery. Afterwards, he studied Anthropological Linguistics at the University of Michigan, earning a MA degree, but dropped out in 1980, before he could attain a PhD. Around this time, Bayless also hosted a PBS television series called Cooking Mexican, started a small catering business in Ann Arbor with wife Deann, and headed the kitchens at famed Southwestern eatery Lopez in Cleveland. Following, from 1980 to 1986, Bayless lived jointly in Los Angeles (he was hired to develop menus for a Mexican-American restaurant chain) and Mexico, where he conducted extensive research on the country's culinary traditions, culminating in the publication of the seminal cookbook Authentic Mexican: Regional Cooking From the Heart of Mexico in 1987.

Armed with this newfound knowledge, Bayless partnered with some friends and opened Frontera Grill in Chicago, specializing in contemporary regional Mexican cuisine. Success quickly followed, and the next year, Bayless was named Food & Wine's "Best New Chef." 1989 saw the debut of Topolobampo, a more refined, James Beard-nominated, fine-dining version of the original Frontera. In 1991, Bayless won Beard's "Best American Chef: Midwest" award, with the organization's "National Chef of the Year" honor coming in 1995. He launched a line of prepared foods in 1996 under the Frontera Foods label, and went on to open Frontera Fresco, a quick-service restaurant concept, in Chicago in 2005 (a partnership with department store chain Macy's). Frontera Fresco debuted in San Francisco in December 2007. When Barack Obama took office in 2008, Bayless was considered a candidate for the position of White House Executive Chef, and in August 2009, he took home the title of Top Chef Master. The Chef's latest restaurant venture, Xoco, premiered in September 2009 in Chicago, and specializes in Mexican street food.

Red O Interior
Red O Interior
Red O's location, at the corner of Melrose and Kilkea, started out in 1977 as the legendary French bistro Moustache Cafe, which was later rechristened Chocolat under new ownership in 2005. The spot has been completely revamped with a sexy, seductive, Mexican-inspired decor by Dodd Mitchell Design and G+ Gulla Jonsdottir Design. The restaurant now features a large dining patio/courtyard with 14-foot chandeliers underneath a retractable, soaring glass canopy, flanked by a Bird's Nest-esque structure. There's also a bar/lounge area in the rear, which features a long communal table and swings, as well as a smaller bar off to the side, linked by a "tequila tunnel."

Red O Menu Red O Menu
The menu at Red O is rather vast (and neatly divided into sections such as "Bright Bites" and "Savory Snacks"), and features a variety of more traditional Mexican fare, as well as a number of "Cal-Mex" dishes. Currently, it's a dinner-only affair, but lunch service is slated to be added eventually. Click for larger versions.

Red O Cocktail List Market Margarita Mojito Mexicano
A very brief cocktail list was subsequently presented to us; click for a larger version. One of my dining companions chose the Market Margarita [$12], with fresh cucumber & honeydew melon muddled with agave nectar, Arette blanco tequila, lemon & lime juices. I, on the other hand, went back to my old ways and ordered the Mojito Mexicano [$12], composed of muddled mint, cilantro, serrano chile, lime & agave nectar, and Arette blanco tequila. It was actually one of the better mojitos I've had in a while, a great twist on the classic with the added depth and character of tequila.

Classic Guacamole
Classic Guacamole [$9.00] | freshly made, chunky, with warm chips & salsa
The guac was a must-order item, and indeed, it did not disappoint. I loved the dip's onion-y tang and tartish citrus finish, all intermixed with the lush creaminess of avocado. Overall, a very good guacamole, though not quite as strong as the version I had not too long ago at José Andrés' Oyamel.

Grilled Mazatlan Blue Shrimp Tostaditas
Grilled Mazatlan Blue Shrimp Tostaditas [$10.00] | roasted garlic mojo, avocado with fresh jícama "chips"
This was a surprisingly complex, balanced dish with rich flavors of blue shrimp, perked up by a bit of bite courtesy of the garlic. The crisp, refreshing counterpoint imparted by the jicama was much appreciated.

Alaskan Halibut Ceviche
Alaskan Halibut Ceviche [$12.50] | cilantro-serrano "chimichurri", cucumber, avocado
Humorously, we initially confused this dish for the guacamole--I'm sure you can understand why! In any case, here was a substantial ceviche, with the luxuriousness of the avocado beautifully moderating the considerable heft of the halibut, while the "chimichurri" added pricks of heat to the palate. Unfortunately, the flavors here were a bit overshadowed by the other, more aggressive courses served at the same time.

Woodland Mushrooms Ceviche
Woodland Mushrooms Ceviche [$10.00] | grilled knob onion, sun-dried tomato, serrano chile
You don't see many mushrooms ceviches around, but this dish turned out to be one of my favorites of the night. I loved the interplay of the earthy mushrooms with the sweet and vegetal notes of its various accoutrements, and how the heat of the serrano built up so eloquently on the long, lingering finish.

Shredded Creekstone Beef Short Rib Sopes
Shredded Creekstone Beef Short Rib Sopes [$9.00] | roasted tomato-green chile sauce
As expected, the beef itself was wonderfully tender, with rich, dark, hearty flavors, flavors which were augmented even further by the application of cheese. I really enjoyed the subtle smokiness imparted by the roasted tomato-chili dressing, but my favorite part was how the stout cylinders of corn masa so deftly tempered the meat's substantial gravity.

2008 José Maria da Fonseca Loureiro Twin Vines 2006 Tintara Grenache
With the cocktails dispensed with, we moved on to a couple bottles of wine. First was the 2008 José Maria da Fonseca Loureiro Twin Vines Vinho Verde [$37], a lightly effervescent, easy-drinking wine with juicy lemon-lime notes offset by a pleasant minerality--a great summer tipple. We also had the 2006 Tintara Grenache from South Australia [$39]. This was a more substantial wine, of course, and showed a nice peppery spice on the attack, when then led to very apparent, jammy notes of dark fruit on the midpalate--quite delicious.

Gleason Ranch Pork Belly Sopes
Gleason Ranch Pork Belly Sopes [$8.00] | black beans, salsa negra, sesame
It was interesting to compare these sopes with the preceding short rib versions. The flavors were actually noticeably more in-your-face, a smoky-sweet blast of salsa negra that really helped in cutting the fattiness of the pork belly. And again, I absolutely adored the little bites of masa.

Slow-Cooked Sonoma Duck Taquitos
Slow-Cooked Sonoma Duck Taquitos [$9.00] | tomato-árbol chile sauce, arugula
I found the duck here immensely flavorful actually, and quite liked how it played with the subtly spicy sauce. The arugula, meanwhile, contributed a slightly astringent contrast, but wasn't absolutely necessary for me. Nevertheless, a very enjoyable dish.

Chicken Tamale
Chicken Tamale [$8.00] | herby Oaxacan yellow mole, banana leaf
Here, what struck me first was the great exchange of flavors between the delightfully piquant mole, tasty chicken, and tangy onion. Arguably the best part of the course, though, was the corn masa, which had a wonderfully profound taste that complemented the chicken perfectly. Easily one of the best tamales I've ever had.

Homemade Chorizo Sausage Queso Fundido
Homemade Chorizo Sausage Queso Fundido [$8.50] | roasted poblano chiles
Cheese and chorizo, how can you go wrong? We're talking about enchantingly mild, melted Vella Sonoma Jack, paired with the subtly smoky, vegetal zest of peppers, all with the overarching saltiness and spice imparted by the chorizo. Superb with the included tortillas.

Sonoma County Lamb in Chile Colorado Cazuela for Soft Tacos
Sonoma County Lamb in Chile Colorado Cazuela for Soft Tacos [$13.50] | ancho & guajillo chiles, roasted garlic, cumin, black beans
A lovely lamb dish, with heavy, rich, "lamb-y" flavors aptly accompanied by a sweet-smoky-spicy ancho-guajillo sauce and an earthy entourage of black beans. This was delicious but a bit overpowering when eaten alone--tortillas are a must.

Achiote-Marinated Catfish Tacos al Carbon
Achiote-Marinated Catfish Tacos al Carbon [$15.50] | roasted poblano rajas, bacon-flavored charro beans, grilled knob onions, salsas
I first tried some of the catfish alone, and found it smoky, yet subtle and delicate, with a great texture. I then grabbed a tortilla, applied the various trappings, and chowed down. The resultant amalgamation was tasty enough, but I did feel that the sapor of the catfish was a bit lost in the fray--go easy on the accessories.

Pollo en Mole Poblano
Pollo en Mole Poblano [$22.00] | grilled Mary's young chicken, homemade mole poblano, black beans, watercress salad
Here, we were served two surprisingly large portions of chicken, which I found quite tender--albeit a touch dry--with a very pure, yet very mild flavor. It was a canvas on which the mole could really sing. The sauce itself, interestingly enough, was by far the most nuanced version I've tasted. It had the trademark flavors of sweet, smoky, and spicy, but the savor was far more integrated with the chicken than I'd imagined it would be--so complex, layered, confident.

Cochinita Pibil
Cochinita Pibil [$26.00] | tortilla-fed Gleason Ranch suckling pig, achiote-marinated & slow-cooked in banana leaves, black beans, pickled red onions, roasted habanero salsa
I'm a huge fan of Rivera's "Maya puerco pibil" dish, so I just had to get Red O's version. I still like Rivera's version better, which I find more succulent, though this, nonetheless, was a valiant effort. The meat was suitably tender, yet not without a bit of bite, which I appreciated. I quite enjoyed the pig's rich, deep flavors, perked up by a bit of achiote and countered by the application of arugula.

Tinga Poblana
Tinga Poblana [$22.00] | braised Gleason Ranch pork shoulder & belly, homemade chorizo, roasted tomatoes, smoked chipotle, Yukon gold potatoes, avocado, queso fresco
I actually preferred the tinga preparation of pork, which really represented a great mix of lean and fat meat, with a lovely char and great lingering spice. I was especially fond of the potatoes, which grounded and tempered the dish. One of the highlights of the meal for me.

Red O Dessert Menu
We were all surprisingly full by this point, but how could we pass up the sweet stuff? Click for a larger version.

Creamy Goat Cheese Cheesecake
Creamy Goat Cheese Cheesecake [$8.00] | caramel corn, Mexican "root beer" sauce
I'm generally a fan of cheesecake, and this was no exception. What was fascinating here was the sharp flavor of the goat cheese, which almost added a savory tinge to the dish, an element that played very well with the caramel corn.

Veracruz-Style Buñuelos
Veracruz-Style Buñuelos [$8.00] | with salted caramel ice cream, warm Kahlúa chocolate sauce
This was my favorite of the dessert trio. The buñuelos--sort of like flattened fritters of fried dough--had a great, addictive, cinnamon-y flavor to them. They easily stood by themselves, but the included caramel ice cream was a very apt, though somewhat expected, accoutrement.

Golden and Crispy Empenadas
Golden and Crispy Empenadas [$8.00] | with wild strawberries & mango, mojito sorbet
Empanadas are usually savory, but in Mexico, sweet versions are common as well. The light, refreshing fruit went well enough with the flaky pastry, but the star of the show here was clearly that mojito sorbet, which really did a tremendous job in conveying the essence of the cocktail.

Mexican food in the United States has come a long way since Bayless began his culinary career--it's no longer simply about burritos, cheese on everything, nachos, iceberg lettuce, and Taco Bell. Old habits die hard, however, and I applaud Bayless and his contemporaries for elevating the status of the cuisine, giving it the respect that it rightfully deserves.

In a way, with the opening of Red O, Bayless has come full circle. Before opening Frontera Grill, the Chef lived in Los Angeles, and was seriously contemplating opening a restaurant in the City (at a spot on Melrose, in fact!). He even had financing lined up, but, in the end, LA just didn't seem "right" to Bayless. The mentality--the cult of the new and novel, the hot and hip--didn't suit him. So why open a place now, over 20 years later? Some would say that it was the money, or that maybe Bayless has tempered down with age, or that perhaps LA, as a dining city, has just evolved into something worthy of consideration. In any case, for me, Red O is a welcomed addition to the Southland's restaurant landscape, and, I suspect, will do just fine. ¡Buen provecho!

37 Comments:

Blogger Evelina said...

Nice review! That Woodland Mushroom Ceviche looks delicious! I was very excited to see what Red O has to offer. Thanks for the insight!

P.S. you churned this out FAST!

Thursday, May 27, 2010 2:13:00 AM  
Anonymous Lauren @ delicateflavors said...

Wow! Looking at these food make me drool. I will have to try and recreate some of them for sure. Such creative and delicious dishes. Thank you for sharing the experience!

Thursday, May 27, 2010 6:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Andee (LAEasyMeals) said...

Wow great review! I can't wait to try some of the same dishes

Thursday, May 27, 2010 6:50:00 AM  
Blogger Charlie Fu said...

heading there tonight to get abused by their ridiculous $25 a bottle corkage policy.

Thursday, May 27, 2010 9:17:00 AM  
Blogger Nomsnotbombs said...

Impressive turnaround and beautiful job, Kevin! I'm intrigued to try Red O after seeing your pictures. Sorry to have missed this! I do think it's funny, though, how the restaurant's been sold given the fact that Bayless isn't an owner and won't be there on a regular basis.

Thursday, May 27, 2010 10:52:00 AM  
Blogger sygyzy said...

Great review. This looks amazing.

Thursday, May 27, 2010 10:54:00 AM  
Blogger David said...

nice review.
the prices you list for the appetizers are portions of one or four pieces per order? (ie the sopes, ceviche etc. are pictured with four pieces).

i just spent 2 weeks in oaxaca... curious how this would stand up.

Thursday, May 27, 2010 10:59:00 AM  
Blogger nelehelen said...

I wish I could've been there for opening night! I love tamales and that chicken tamale looks mouth-watering! Growing up in L.A., I am not used to upscale Mexican food. Upscale Mexican food, being an oxymoron, I always thought there would be no "soul" to the dishes. But, it seems like the true essence is all there with a sophisticated twist. I can't waittt to try!

Thursday, May 27, 2010 11:13:00 AM  
Blogger David said...

also, have you been to la huasteca or la casita mexicana? and how would you compare? i know its probably apples to oranges in general, but i'm more curious about the cooking of the meat and the sauces than to presentation and value.

Thursday, May 27, 2010 11:22:00 AM  
Blogger Jim said...

I've been looking forward to this post ALMOST as much as I have Rick to come to LA. Beautiful work as always. My table is booked for next week.

Curious. . . Does he offer a tasting menu?

Thursday, May 27, 2010 12:12:00 PM  
Blogger ila said...

oye, that post made my belly rumble.

Thursday, May 27, 2010 12:24:00 PM  
Blogger Steve2 in LA said...

Really useful review Kevin. I've got reservations mid-June and have been wondering how this place would play out.

Wondering, however, how valid my preferences are as I found dinner at Rivera to be middling.

Thanks for this and so many of your other reviews.

Thursday, May 27, 2010 12:29:00 PM  
Blogger Alba Truffles said...

Great choice. Three things I appreciate about your reviews are that you review relevant restaurants, they're timely and tons of photos. Looking forward to eating here and reading the LA Times review that should come out within the next 18 months.

Thursday, May 27, 2010 9:14:00 PM  
Anonymous Dan Wodarcyk said...

Red O appears to be very consistent with Frontera and Topolobampo. Great review as always and wonderful photos. I have wished for a place like Frontera Grill or Topolobampo in San Francisco and it just hasn't happened. Whenever I'm in Chicago I might visit Frontera twice in a 3 day trip. It's that good and Bayless always is there.

Thursday, May 27, 2010 10:35:00 PM  
Blogger PulledPorker said...

$8 for empanadas! Now you're just showing off. Only kidding, Kevin. Great review, I can always count on you to take great photos of new restaurants. - J

Friday, May 28, 2010 12:46:00 PM  
Blogger Kung Food Panda said...

Maybe I should have came after all! :P

Friday, May 28, 2010 2:26:00 PM  
Blogger Raquel said...

Was there on Friday night and absolutely loved it! I will go there time and time again. Great food, great ambience!

Sunday, May 30, 2010 11:26:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Evelina: Ha! I paid the price for my expediency the next day at work lol. BTW, when are you going to start blogging again???

Lauren: I'm looking forward to seeing your recreations. Which ones are you going to do first?

Andrea: Just read your post on Red O--great to hear you had an amazing time!

Charlie: How did it turn out? Which wines did you bring?

Misty: The fact of the matter is, Bayless' name is a huge draw. I don't think I'd have turned this around so quickly were his name not attached. ;)

sygyzy: Appreciate it--you need to go.

David: The prices are per plate thankfully--$9 for a single sope would truly be ridiculous! Interestingly, Oaxacan food is Bayless' favorite due to the complexity.

Helen: Yeah, I was a bit wary of "gentrified" Mexican food, but really things turned out beautifully.

David: Haven't eaten at La Huasteca yet. I've been to La Casita, and though I didn't really have comparable dishes, the flavors here seemed more refined, and definitely more varied. Casita might have a better mole.

Jim: Thanks! No tasting menu as far as I know, but from my Chowhound thread, I found out that you can have Bayless choose your courses for you!

Ila: Any plans to visit?

Steve: It's too early to tell, but I might prefer this to Rivera. Let us know how it turns out for you.

Waleed: Lol. Come on, give 'em at most a year! ;)

Dan: This place has really gotten me excited about Frontera and Topolobampo--next time I'm in Chicago I gotta visit one of them. You do have Frontera Fresco up in SF don't you? ;)

PP: Thanks man. Actually, I'd really like to see them do some savory empanadas--I'd even pay $10 for 'em!

Danny: Um yes, but I'm sure you'll come here eventually. It'll be interesting to see what you think of Red O compared to his Chicago restos.

Raquel: Good to hear. I could definitely see myself coming back to try out more of the menu.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010 3:04:00 AM  
Blogger David said...

if you havent already done so, you need to try some fine dining in DF. its a life changing experience.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010 3:03:00 PM  
Blogger Christie Bishop said...

During my two years living in Chicago, Frontera Grill and Topolobampo were two of my favorite go-to restaurants. Red-O's menu reminds me of a delightful fusion between the two. Reading your review is making me rethink my birthday dinner plans for on Friday night!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010 9:03:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

David: You mean the Distrito Federal? Went to a decent place in the Zona Rosa (where the best restaurants are?) several years back.

Christie: Hmm...interesting that Red O seems to slot between the Frontera and Topolo--I've heard others mention that as well. In any case, happy birthday!

Wednesday, June 02, 2010 1:16:00 AM  
Blogger Michael Allman said...

IMHO, Red O is markedly inferior to Frontera and Topolo. Red O is not Rick's restaurant, yet his name is attached to it. I'm not sure why. Anyway, his reputation is suffering because of it.

To make a comparison, the atmosphere at Frontera feels more like a labor of love, like Rick decorated it himself with art and bric-a-brac he collected from his years of travel in Mexico. There is no love, no passion from the (anonymous) chef in the decor of Red O. Yes, it's pretty. It's pretty like every other "pretty" restaurant in LA. *yawn*

The service is more personal at Frontera, and our waiter at Red O really was quite good. But I doubt he gives a crap about Mexican food, and I doubt he considers his job his career. You can tell the difference.

And of course, WTF is up with the bouncers? When I approached the door on the night of my dinner, I felt like I was about to be interrogated by the mafia. Rick can't be happy about this. I read that the owners met as bouncers at Red Onion. Hmmm.... you know "the apple does not fall far from the tree."

Apparently you need a reservation to even step inside the door. At Frontera, it's pretty much first come first served. You go in and grab a seat at the bar or a table. I think you can make reservations the day of. It was never a problem for me.

Maybe Red O will get better, but my impression is the owners like it the way it is. They own EZ Lube. How passionate can they be about running a restaurant?

I've wanted Rick to open a restaurant in LA ever since I moved here, but this isn't it. Oh well. His cookbooks are awesome. My solution to finding a "Frontera" in Los Angeles was to make my own at home.

Monday, June 14, 2010 1:32:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Those are all valid points Michael. Indeed, the restaurant isn't really Rick's, and the bouncers were quite off putting. However, I noticed that you didn't mention anything about the food! It sounds like the issue has more to do with the concept. Actually, I agree in that the place would probably do better if it were more like Frontera and less "LA," so to speak.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010 8:25:00 PM  
Anonymous Streetgourmetla said...

Kevin-Hello, first and foremost. "no longer simply about burritos, cheese on everything, nachos, iceberg lettuce, and Taco Bell" Mexican cuisine has never been about any of these things, anymore than Chinese cuisine evolvong from Panda Express and orange chicken. This is called Mexican-American, which is an American cuisine.

Rick is a fantastic culinary ambassador, and a student of Mexican cuisines. He is a great chef and puts his stamp on traditional dishes, but does not elevate the cuisine. That is going on in Mexico where Rick travels, eats, and studies each year.

And, no the Zona Rosa isn't a destination for fine dining in DF, but there are plenty of bottle service clubs(table dance),hotels and tourist restaurants. There are some good places to dine in La Zona if you look around, not to mention some good street food, but it is one of the less interesting parts of the city for food.The question is...have you dined at fine restaurants in Mexico City? Did this place have a name?

There's definitely more to DF than fine dining, but if so inclined, I would recommend Polanco and Condessa for a starting point.

It's a bit peculiar to state that La Casita is capable of producing a superior mole which requires much more skill than duck taquitos, or mushroom ceviche, but their other dishes are less complex at La Casita? This seems more speculative than informed.

Rick Bayless has studied for years, this guy spent a month, not in Mexico. I had a great meal at Frontera Grill and would go again, but nothing compared to places experienced in Mexico.

I would also recommend trying La Huasteca,La Casita,Babita,Chichen Itza,etc.Some of the traditional Mexican items on Rivera's menu like his tamales, cochinita pibil, and mole,you can experience DF level sophistication.

That said, I do appreciate you giving me a good peek at this place before I take the plunge.And, I do think this restaurant and Rick Bayless' input raises the level of attention on Mexican cuisine, but is it as relevant as Kenny G is to jazz? Saludos.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010 9:17:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Bill, that was a lengthy comment (I would expect nothing less from you!), so I'll address each paragraph separately:

Kevin-Hello, first and foremost. "no longer simply about burritos, cheese on everything, nachos, iceberg lettuce, and Taco Bell" Mexican cuisine has never been about any of these things, anymore than Chinese cuisine evolvong from Panda Express and orange chicken. This is called Mexican-American, which is an American cuisine.
Completely agree. I was trying to convey what much of the populace in the US has historically perceived as "Mexican" cuisine.

Rick is a fantastic culinary ambassador, and a student of Mexican cuisines. He is a great chef and puts his stamp on traditional dishes, but does not elevate the cuisine. That is going on in Mexico where Rick travels, eats, and studies each year.
Certainly, there are things going on in Mexico that transcend Bayless, no doubt. I was merely representing a US-centric perspective, and in that regard, I do believe that Bayless does elevate the cuisine in the eyes of many Americans.

And, no the Zona Rosa isn't a destination for fine dining in DF, but there are plenty of bottle service clubs(table dance),hotels and tourist restaurants. There are some good places to dine in La Zona if you look around, not to mention some good street food, but it is one of the less interesting parts of the city for food.The question is...have you dined at fine restaurants in Mexico City? Did this place have a name?
It's been nearly a decade since I visited the DF, so the names have been lost to time. I was just starting to get interested in food, and was a college student at the time, so I mostly stuck to street food during my summer in the City. I was there working at a NGO called the Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos.

There's definitely more to DF than fine dining, but if so inclined, I would recommend Polanco and Condessa for a starting point.
Any particular restaurants in these two areas?

It's a bit peculiar to state that La Casita is capable of producing a superior mole which requires much more skill than duck taquitos, or mushroom ceviche, but their other dishes are less complex at La Casita? This seems more speculative than informed.
I don't believe I mentioned "complexity." But Red O does excel in diversity, ingenuity, and polish.

Rick Bayless has studied for years, this guy spent a month, not in Mexico. I had a great meal at Frontera Grill and would go again, but nothing compared to places experienced in Mexico.
Agree.

I would also recommend trying La Huasteca,La Casita,Babita,Chichen Itza,etc.Some of the traditional Mexican items on Rivera's menu like his tamales, cochinita pibil, and mole,you can experience DF level sophistication.
Appreciate the recs. I had some of those places in mind already, so it's great that our lists coincide.

That said, I do appreciate you giving me a good peek at this place before I take the plunge.And, I do think this restaurant and Rick Bayless' input raises the level of attention on Mexican cuisine, but is it as relevant as Kenny G is to jazz? Saludos.
Kenny G is regarded with derision in the music community right? I would hope that Bayless garners a bit more respect!

Thursday, June 17, 2010 12:20:00 AM  
Blogger Michael Allman said...

Kevin,

It's been so long since I've been to Chicago—about 3+ years—that I can't do a fair comparison of the food at Red O and Frontera. I do think that Rivera is very good, FWIW, and their relatively low Yelp rating puzzles me. As for Mexico City, I've always wanted to try Pujol: http://www.pujol.com.mx/.

My main beef with Red O is the execution and the management. On that note, I've got a relevant little story to share.

By now everyone on this thread should know that the EZ Lube and Red O owners are the same. I recently had to replace my car's belt. The old belt showed little wear but it was a POS that started making noise a couple weeks ago. Turns out I had it installed by an EZ Lube a couple years ago before I found my gold-standard mechanic—Craig at ISE Automotive. (Shameless plug for ISE—they can do no wrong. Read their Yelp reviews. Pretty much impeccable.)

To drive my point home, not only did EZL put in a substandard belt, they charged me twice what ISE did to put in an awesome belt. The moral of the story: don't go to EZ Lube. Oh yeah, and Red O is run by a couple of crooks.

It's a shame. Didn't Rick do his homework before he got into bed with these guys?

Saturday, June 19, 2010 8:30:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Yeah, I've also been quite puzzled about Rivera's 3.5 star Yelp rating; it's worthy of at least a 4 in my opinion. As for Pujol, it looks quite good.

Indeed, I would never take my car to EZ Lube. They're a bit shady, I know. I think Rick may have been given an offer he couldn't refuse.

BTW, what kind of work does ISE do? And what makes do they service? I think I need to find an alternative to the dealer.

Sunday, June 20, 2010 7:27:00 PM  
Blogger streetgourmetla said...

"excel in diversity, ingenuity, and polish" Sopes, enchiladas, and cazuelas? Really. Again, you would likey reconsider that if you'd some fine dining experience in Mexico.

I would recommend Enrique Olvera's Pujol, Patricia Quintanilla's Izote, Contramar, or even El Bajio. Additionally, there are so many more and places like Biko, not Mexican, but very much a part of the dining scene that make DF so amazing. There is also more ingenuity in the simple fondas, cantinas, and comida corridas in Mexico City, and street food that is more refined than an El Toritoesque cazuela.

The menu for Red O is only separated from El Torito by Fajitas.

Where's the ingenuity? Shrimp enchiladas?

In respect to Kenny G, this isn't Rick's restaurant. He was a consultant, to whatever extent that was, only he knows. This is the same guy who lent his name to a Burger King ad, Rick, that is.

In respect to your implication about Mexican cuisine, one would have to assume. Read simply, it seems that you are telling people that we've evolved from Taco Bell to Red O. It's not clear in your post, but NOW I know what you meant.

I do hope you are able to get out to the places we have in town, and eventually to Mexico City. Pujol will present an all together different perspective. Provecho!

Sunday, June 20, 2010 10:26:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Regarding the "diversity, ingenuity, and polish" comment, I guess the issue is that I'm representing a US-centric perspective (not having your experiences in top notch Mexican cuisine), hence the disconnect. Certainly, the best of what's available in Mexico is clearly in another league--that much is evident from looking into the places that you mentioned. Thanks for the recommendations.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010 11:20:00 PM  
Blogger Michael Allman said...

Kevin, ISE does general auto repair work. They don't do tires, body work, or mufflers, but they've given me excellent referrals for those jobs.

I recommend them 100000000%. Craig treats my car like it's his own. He goes way above and beyond the call of duty to take care of it, and he doesn't charge like it. I've never had less than a great experience with ISE, and I've been going there for at least a couple years now.

Check them out. If you swing by, ask to speak to Craig and tell him I sent ya.

Jeeesh, talk about OT!

Thursday, June 24, 2010 12:18:00 PM  
Anonymous kIM FOX said...

OK FIRST OF ALL TO ALL YOU HATERS THAT THINK THAT THE OWNERS OF EZ LUBE ARE GOING TO RIP YOU OFF!! SUCH BULL.. I USE TO GO THERE ALONG TIME AGO, THEY DON'T OWN EZ LUBE FOR SOME TIME, AND ALL YOUR PROBLEMS ARE FROM THE NEW STAFF AND OWNERS NOT THEM!! SO DON'T JUDGE, WHAT THEY DID IS OPEN A FABULOUS RETURANT THAT IS AFFORDABLE TO THE PUBLIC, GIVE THEM A CHANCE.. THATS THE PROBLEM WITH THE WPRLD!! YOU JUDGE CAUSE YOUR MISERABLE WITH YOUR LIFE AND GOING NO WHERE , DON'T HATE. AND WHO WOULD WANT YOU THERE ANYWAYS!! THAT PLACE HAS A GREAT VIBE.. AND GREAT ENERGY WHY RUIN IT WITH NEGATIVE ENEREGY AND MISERABLE PEOPLE. I LAUGH AT THE POST OF EZ LUBE.. HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH IT, AND IF YOUR SMART INVESTIGATE ON WHO OWNS IT?? WHEN I HAD A PROBLEM IN THE PAST THEY FIXED IT!! SO WHO EVER IS TALKING CRAP!! ENJPY YPUR MISERABLE LIFE!! IF YOU HAVEN'T TRIED IT YOU SHOULD!! AS FOR rICK BAYLESS HE HAS BEEN THERE, AND THE FOOD IS AMAZING!! IF YOUR A HATER THEN DO US ALL A FAVOR DON'T RUIN FOR ALL THE REST OF US THAT ENJPY LIFE!! TRY IT GUYS!! GIVE IT A CHANCE AND DON'T JUDGE!!

Thursday, June 24, 2010 12:21:00 PM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

Michael: Thanks, I'll keep ISE in mind next time I have issues with my vehicle. They do have great reviews on Yelp.

Kim: No need to yell. I read that Dobson and Teasta sold a portion of the company to Goldman Sachs and GSO, but they still are owners, as well as EZ Lube's two key executives, right?

Friday, June 25, 2010 4:22:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

nope, they no longer own it, .. i found out throught a freind when they were finding out that there employess were ripping off the customers. they decided to revamp the whole chain and then got investors involved, they are the ones that were running it and ran it to the ground (the investors)and made things worse.. put this way teasta and dobson are very great guys, and have always help others, there not out to rip people off, it upsets me when someone judges when they dont know what treuly happen, unfornatly it gave these men a bad rap.. but to know these men you will understand!! ..

Saturday, June 26, 2010 7:19:00 PM  
Blogger Active Foodie said...

I was just looking to make reservations at Red O and I knew I could count on you for a fantastic review and overview of the menu! What what I do without your fabulous reviews,thank you Kevin!

Friday, July 16, 2010 11:01:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

You're quite welcome Sonja. Looking forward to reading your review!

Friday, July 16, 2010 4:24:00 PM  
Anonymous Jan said...

Great review. All of the food looks beautiful. I wish I could have made opening night.

Monday, March 26, 2012 11:39:00 AM  
Blogger kevinEats said...

I wonder how this place is holding up Jan. Lot of hype up front, but it seems to have disappeared off the map.

Thursday, May 31, 2012 12:28:00 AM  

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