Border Crossing

Master Chef Rick Bayless brings the authentic flavors of Mexico to Santa Monica

Written By Michelle Lyn | Photos courtesy of Red O and Joe Greto

Last month, Ocean Avenue welcomed another new kid on the block: Red O, by Rick Bayless, debuted in Santa Monica with pristine views of the Pacific Ocean, a resort-inspired look and chic atmosphere that effortlessly transports diners to a luxurious beachfront oasis in Baja.

The original Red O opened in West Hollywood five years ago; a location in Orange County soon followed. True to form, the restaurant’s third incarnation serves Bayless’ signature Mexican cuisine, with an emphasis on authentic sauces from the southern Mexican states of Oaxaca and Yucatan, as well as Baja. Diners flock to Red O for the familiar flavors of Mexico juxtaposed against elevated cuts of beef like Filet Mignon and New York Strip.

Bayless, a James Beard award-winning chef, has crafted a unique menu that includes items like Bone-In Filet Mignon with mojo de ajo, black kale and amarillo sauce, and Jumbo Scallops Fideos—Georges Bank seared jumbo scallops served with angel hair pasta, roasted tomato chipotle sauce, avocado and shaved radish.

The Surf ‘n’ Turf Tablita, a house specialty, features a prime 32-ounce Tomahawk ribeye chop and jumbo 1 1/2-pound Maine lobster fileted and served tableside with a selection of authentic Mexican-inspired accompaniments, including red rice and black beans. For dessert, the Passion Fruit Butter Cake is baked to order and served with grilled strawberries, passion fruit custard, coconut crumble and coconut ice cream.

Equally impressive is the restaurant’s interior, designed by Judy Van Wyk of The Design Studio, whose portfolio also includes The Biltmore Santa Barbara. “We integrated elements like aged floors, wood beams, and sand and rock textures to give guests a true coastal experience that maximizes the stunning ocean views,” says Van Wyk.

The stylish ceiling design is a modern take on a beachfront palapa and pairs seamlessly with the aged walls, Moorish lanterns and rustic tiles. Outside, cozy cabanas and high-top seating cultivate the perfect alfresco dining experience.

Not to be overlooked, Red O’s Mexican-influenced cocktails showcase fresh, seasonal ingredients, and house-made syrups and bitters. Specialties include the Summer Heat with Double Cross Vodka, mango, fresh lemon and habanero honey; the Old Fashioned with Casa Noble Reposado tequila, Clement Creole Shrubb, raw sugar and bitters; and the El Rac with Roca Patrón Reposado, Alvear Pedro-Ximenez sherry, chocolate bitters and an absinthe rinse. A signature tequila wall also displays the restaurant’s dedication to providing a complete culinary experience.

With happy hour daily from 4-6:30 p.m. and live music seven nights a week, it just became a lot easier to get an authentic taste of Mexico on the Westside, no passport necessary.

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