Overall, 8.5 of 10. And that makes Red O the best authentic Mexican restaurant experience in the country, IMO.
Went there on one of the opening weekend nights, and was pleasantly surprised at how well oiled the machine at Red O is already. Very psyched to finally see an Alta Cocina Mexican restaurant in LA, done the LA way. The interiors are gorgeous -- what you would expect for a new joint on Melrose, as is the people you will encounter (stars + foodies + usual suspects).
With no disrespect to Rick Bayless, I totally understand why the owners or Red O hired him JUST for his name, menu and teaching the staff how to cook it. You certainly wouldn't hire the rest of the Bayless entourage that puts up fuddy duddy interiors like they do in Chicago.
Ok, to the food: I am a Mexican chef and a stickler for Alta Cocina dishes done right. So we put Red O to the test and tried some classics: Pollo en Mole Poblano and the Chilpachole (seafood in rich broth). And the sopes. These are dishes that you may see on a Mexican menu often, but they are the ones that are always screwed up in large restaurant kitchens because they require many steps and intricate care from kitchen to table.
But at Red O, these classic dishes were PERFECT (fyi, Bayless was there hawking over the staff all night...he cares that much). The mole had the layered depth and integrated chile heat that only comes from a 4+hour process and a couple of days in the fridge. The Chilpachole had 5 seafood elements in it requiring different cook times, but they all came out perfectly. The sopes came out sizzling hot from the oil (rarely done in a Mexican restaurant), and had russet potato in the batter which added greater flavor and texture.
My one complaint is the wine/tequilla list and service. Too many misfit wines for the food on the menu. I don't think a wine director is on the job yet. I asked to see the sommilier, and they said they don't have one. So I bet one of their booze suppliers did the list for them. That's the only way to explain why there are at least 8 wines on there like Beringer Knight's Valley Cabernet -- something you can find in any Safeway. No sane wine director would allow this, even though distributors beg to put such names on the list.
Regarding tequilla, all the right small-batch names are on there, but serving it is clearly not the strength of the bar staff. They don't really know what they are talking about yet, but pretend to. That said, I think these guys should hire one more person with strength in wine and tequilla, who could walk around and make all the various audiences feel comfortable about ordering the right thing for their food. And that same person could put a few other whites and reds that complement spicy Mexican food.
4901 Durfee Ave, Pico Rivera, CA 90660
8155 Melrose Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90046