There are moments you will always remember fondly and then there are moments you will never forget. Tonight has to be one of those nights, it will go down in my foodie history book. A couple weeks ago, my elusive foodie cohort found out that Rick Bayless was consulting a restaurant here in LA. Like white on rice, we jumped on the bandwagon and miracle of miracles, we were able to get a reservation for "opening night". When I got the text message that we were attending opening night, I just about peed my pants.
Red O, cooly located on Melrose Ave, in West Hollywood, is designer chic, classic Mexican elements doused the interior with a dash of modern hipster edge. The photos don't honestly do this restaurant justice, but it give you an inkling of the precision and attention to detail that the designers paid when creating this beautiful space. It feels homey and is far from a stiff drink in atmosphere. Even the servers and staff were decked out with Levis 501s, red Adidas and blue work shirts.
To start the evening, I ordered the tamarind margarita - semi-sweet, balanced and refreshing. I'm not the most enthusiastic about margaritas, but this one could convert me, if it tried. And I'll be honest, ir didn't have to try too hard now. An appetizer of guacamole and chips to wet the palette - Bayless studs his guacamole with sundried tomatoes and onions. Simple, this guacamole could've come in a bathtub and I would've soaked in all of its goodness. I thought it was well seasoned - creamy and delicious. The "house" salad consisted of arugula, romaine and watercress with "angel hair'" strips of tortillas, pickled red onions. The greens were dressed with a roasted garlic lime dressing that popped in your mouth like pop rocks (remember that candy from your childhood). Tart and bright citrus flavors pierced your tongue, along with the sweet and savory notes of roasted garlic.
It was a toss up between the striped bass grilled with red chile and served with rice, sweet plaintains and three salsas or the roasted suckling pig served with black beans and a green salad and pickled red onions. Guy, our server, twisted my arm and I ordered the roasted suckling pig, which was a good decision on my part. The roasted suckling pig was wrapped in banana leaves before it went to roasting heaven. So tender, and no need for a knife, the pig was succulent, juicy, smoky and juicy. Wrapped up some of the roasted pig in a tortilla with some black beans, pickled red onion and salsa. O.M.G. Guy brought us a tasting of three salsas, a roasted tomato salsa, salsa verde and habenero. My favorite was the habanero and the salsa verde. Each salsa was distinct, sweet, spicy and robust. My foodie cohort ordered the Carne Asada Brava - ribeye served to perfection. Beautiful marbling on this steak, juicy and uber tender as well. Melted in your mouth like butter. The sweet corn tamales topped with crema were tasty as well - creamy, hearty, comfort food in Spanish.
With room for dessert, I was immediately drawn to the Bunelos served with salted caramel ice cream and a warm Kahlua chocolate sauce. The bunelos were light, crispy, rolled in cinnamon-sugar goodness. The kicker for me was the salted caramel ice cream - genius lies in this deadly combination of opposites attract. It was a light dessert, but a perfect way to end the meal.
To finish the night with dessert wasn't the "cherry" on top though. Guy hooked us up with a chance to meet Rick Bayless and get our photo opp! Rick was pleasant and seemed pre-occupied with dinner service, it makes sense. He seemed like a genuinely nice guy and we were honored to meet him and take a picture with him to document this foodie adventure! It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening, gorgeous and tall LA eye candy and a few celeb spottings while we were there too. I'm definitely grateful to live in a city the embraces culture, food, and art, tonight I totally felt like I was living the dream.