When most people think of celebrity chef Rick Bayless, they think of upscale Mexican food. After all, Bayless’ Frontera Grill in Chicago prides itself on its regional Mexican cuisine, with a menu that includes suaderno, birria and moles. Red O has a slightly different take on things. Yes, there are still traditional Mexican dishes like tamales, cochinita pibil and carnitas, plus authentic sauces from the southern Mexican states of Oaxaca, Yucatan, and Baja. However, Red O is really looking to make its mark as a steak and seafood house, and it succeeds.
The decor is resort-inspired, with a palapa roof, colorful tiles, and cabanas out back, but it’s still very recognizable as an upscale steakhouse. It’s the kind of place you would take your meat-and-potatoes boss or dad when you are tired of the same old thing but don’t want to scare them. The beef and seafood at Red O are of the highest quality and the cooking is spot-on. Your guests will definitely be impressed. The prices are equal to the quality, but hey, you might get a raise. Or maybe dad will finally give you his old Roadster.
At a recent press dinner, we loved Mary’s Duck Taquitos made with low-cooked duck leg and a tomato-árbol chile sauce. The Fresh Corn & Goat Cheese Tamales, although perhaps not so “authentic,” are delicious. People in our group either loved them or hated them. I loved them. The tamales also come as a side dish with the New York Strip (Carne Asada Brava). The seafood in the Red O’s Yellowtail Aguachile and Ahi Tostadas is sushi-grade. As with any good steakhouse, they have a Caesar Salad, although we prefer the Grilled Romaine hearts with pepitas and such colorful dressings it looks like an exploding pinata.
If you’re going to splurge, splurge. We recommend doing it with the 10 oz Prime Bone-In Filet Mignon ($58). I have never even seen a bone-in filet mignon before. Just as tender and flavorful is the 12 oz Carne Asada Brava ($48). The Asada is a wood-grilled prime NY Strip, with roasted tomato salsa huevona. If you are not a red meat person, the kitchen also works wonders with fish. The fish of the day at our dinner was Alaskan halibut finished with guajillo chimichurri (Market Price). It was fork-tender, flaky, and not at all fishy. The full 10-oz. lobster tail is also a dish meant to impress. As a side dish, the only logical choice during the summer is their take on Mexican Street Corn “deconstructed” with Cotija and serrano-cilantro crema. The corn is so fresh and delicious, I could eat it as a main dish. The asparagus is also nice, or during the winter months, try their brussel sprouts and kale. But seriously, corn.
There is a huge bar, and a fancy wall full of wine bottles. We really enjoyed Red O’s signature skinny margarita made with agave. Wines poured at the dinner were Albariño, Mar de Frades, Rias Biaxas, Spain 2013 (Glass $13 Bottle $52) and Tempranillo, Bodegas Sierra Cantabria, Crianza, Rioja, Spain 2010 (Glass $13 Bottle $52). The dessert selection is also tempting, with a Dark Chocolate Ganache and Goat Cheese Cheesecake, but you will only remember the steak.