The douchebaggery at Red O starts before you even go inside the restaurant. A bouncer guards the door and won't let you in unless you have a reservation. What?
Rick Bayless, have you actually been to your restaurant? I don't think your kind, easy-going self would like this nonsense. I think you should pay a visit and fix this ridiculousness. You shouldn't have to wait 40 minutes for your reserved table. That's not how restaurants work, Mr. Bayless.
To its credit, the food at Red O is not bad, notwithstanding the general lambasting by the Los Angeles food blogosphere. It's not Babita, Chichen Itza, Guelaguetza, or La Casita Mexicana. You shouldn't expect it to be. Apples and oranges.
With that mindset, you won't be terribly disappointed with your meal. You know what you're getting into, people. In any event, at least the service at Red O is excellent.
That is, after you finally get seated.
Guacamole and chips ($9).
When you pay $9, you think, "Man, this better be the best fucking guac I've ever had." It wasn't, but I can't deny that it was pretty good. Score one for Red O.
Slow-cooked Sonoma duck taquitos, tomato-arbol chile sauce, tiny local greens ($12).
Queso fundido with homemade chorizo and roasted poblano chiles ($13).
Very good. It's hot cheese with sausage. This is hard to mess up.
Savory beef short rib tamale, smoky chipotle chiles ($13).
Masa was lovely and moist, but there should've been more meat. Sauce was also bland.
Crab and shrimp enchiladas suizas, creamy roasted tomatillo sauce, fresh-made corn tortillas, melted Sonoma Jack, black beans, ensaladita ($22).
Quite a respectable version, but I thought this could use a bit more punch, too.
Camarones al mojo de ajo -- wood-grilled Mazatlan Blue shrimp with slow-cooked garlic in olive oil, Bloomsdale spinach, Veracruz-style white rice with sweet plantains ($25).
Probably the best dish of the night. It had the bold, strong flavors that were lacking in the previous dishes.
Tinga poblana -- braised Gleason Ranch pork shoulder and belly, homemade chorizo, roasted tomatoes, smoked chipotle, Yukon gold potatoes, avocado, queso fresco ($27).
Pork is always a winner. This was no exception. Of course, I thought it should be spicier. Sense a pattern here?
Seasonal sorbets with cookies ($10).
Veracruz-style buñuelos, salted caramel ice cream, warm Kahlua chocolate sauce ($12).
Fried dough should be inherently awesome. These were just not nearly as good as they should've been.
Mr. Monkey says that my opinion of this meal was largely colored by my irritation by the bouncer, 40-minute wait with a reservation, and the other clientele. Even so, that's enough for me not to return.
If I were Rick Bayless, I would be a bit embarrassed by Red O.