Restaurant: Red O
Location: 1541 Ocean Ave #120, Santa Monica, CA 90401. (310) 458-1600
Date: April 30 & November 23, 2016
Cuisine: Mexican / Steakhouse
Rating: Tasty, but expensive
Red O is a new (small chain) entry to the crowded, high turnover Ocean Ave dining scene. I knew nothing about it prior, and am judging it purely from the experience. It seems a pricey upscale take on straight up Mexican food combined with some modernization and a pretty full steak menu.
The space, which I forgot to photo is large and very attractive with a big bar. I’ve eaten here when it was at least 4-5 other restaurants, including most recently 41 Ocean. It’s a great looking space, but obviously the rent is high and there has been a lot of turnover. 20 years ago it was the (then) ultra trendy Zen Zero!
Great view of the total mob scene that is always Ocean Blvd in decent weather. A pain to drive too (I’ve lived/worked near here for 22+ years). You can hardly turn for all the pedestrians, bicyclists, and cars.
This is a (sorta) Mexican restaurant, so I had to order a serious Margarita. They had 5 on the menu. This was the Signature Red O Margarita. Cabo Wabo blanco tequila, jdk & sons o3 orange liqueur, house-made Limonada. Served over ice with salt rim.
It’s closest to my own Margarita style. Not bad at all except for the $16 for a smallish ice packed drink (I easily went through 3).
Classic Guacamole. Chunky avocado, tomatoes, onions, fresh lime juice, cilantro, serrano Chile. A well made Guac. Not exactly gigantic for $11.
Queso Fundido. Melted Monterey jack, mezzaluna fontina and beehive white cheddar cheeses with caramelized onion, roasted poblano Chile and choice of homemade chorizo. Super tasty, particularly with the chorizo, but I think I like the gooey slightly orange classic queso.
Ahi Tuna Tostadita. Sushi grade yellowfin ahi tuna, Chile-cumin oil, avocado, napa cabbage, harissa aioli, pickled red onion, habanero. A little bit of a kick.
Yellowtail Aguachile. Hamachi yellowtail sashimi, spicy lime broth, avocado, knob onion, cucumber and orange. very zesty!
Fish special, halibut I think.
Wild White Mexican Shrimp Enchiladas Suizas. Creamy tomatillo sauce, melted Monterey jack cheese, lime-garlic dressed arugula, Mexican red rice and beans. These were tasty. The green sauce was very tangy. My mouth was buzzing from citrus too from the Margaritas.
Passion Fruit Butter Cake. Baked to order and served with grilled strawberries, passion fruit custard, coconut crumble, coconut ice cream. This was certainly a 9.5/10 dessert. Common, butter cake, passion fruit, coconut ice cream? How could it not be.
Service was great the first time. They even called the next day to see how I enjoyed it — not sure I’ve ever had that happen before! The space is beautiful, although too loud (as usual – boo). Food was quite tasty. Everything I tried was on point. It didn’t blow me away or anything (except maybe the butter cake), as they were fairly typical items, but they were extremely well executed. But the prices are very high for what it is, at least double what a similar (likely less well executed) version might be at some medium-high-end Mexican restaurant. Portion sizes aren’t huge (but were certainly fine). It’s new, but it was easy to book on a Saturday night, so given the obviously high rent, I wonder if it will last. Truth is, almost nothing does on Ocean Blvd. Perhaps only Ivy by the Shore and Ocean Ave Seafood (now Water Grill) has been there for more than 10 years.
On my second visit, very similar experience, except that the service while nice, was oddly a bit slow and disjointed. They confused a couple orders (but made it right) and mysteriously didn’t refill our water for what seemed like forever. Food is still tasty but expensive.