For such a lavish-looking restaurant, the week-old Red O had a relatively subdued opening and is settling quietly and comfortably into its 9,000-square-foot spot across from UTC. Rising in Donovan’s former domain, it is the new upscale dining centerpiece of The Plaza by The Irvine Company. In addition to offering a new lunch, dinner, happy hour and weekend brunch spot to local residents, the eatery also feeds the surrounding office campuses. Modeled after a luxurious Mexican resort, the indoor/outdoor space spans a luxurious chandelier-crowned main dining room; a glassed-in kitchen sits at one end while a tree springs up in the center to anchor a suite of cushy booths. There’s also a soaring bar and lounge, stocked with more than 200 tequila varieties, and two outdoor patios.
As Red O’s culinary director, famed chef Rick Bayless might be more figurehead than fixture, though the lauded restaurateur, television host and cookbook author, whose Topolobampo in Chicago just won the James Beard Award for Outstanding Restaurant, does consult with corporate chef Marc Johnson on the menu and lends some of his signature dishes, including his recipe for tortilla soup, to the menu. We’re hearing that Bayless, who often passes through San Diego on his way to Mexico, is scheduled to make a pitstop at the La Jolla restaurant soon.
Day to day, the kitchen will be led by executive chef Seth Vider, who has been with the Red O company for over two years. Describing the cuisine as mostly influenced by Southern California and Baja along with regional Mexican dishes including Oaxacan black mole and a poblano chile-based variety from Mexico City, Vider oversees Red O’s core menu including the favorite fresh corn and goat cheese tamales and 12 ounce prime New York strip steak with roasted tomato salsa huevona and grilled Mexican knob onions. The company rolled out a batch of fresh plates at all locations just before the La Jolla opening, and Vider tells Eater that he also plans to run weekly specials along with launching dinner events paired with wine, beer and tequila.