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O, Fabuloso!

BY Brandon Matzek | June 29, 2017 | Feature

A long-awaited, celeb chef-driven, high-end Mexican restaurant brings fiery flare and contemporary coolness to the local food scene.
Lamb in mole negro; carnitas in red guajillo chili sauce.

Upon entering Red O, you’ll find the bustling bar straight ahead, where guests carouse and live acoustic music sets the mood. To the left, friends gather around fire pits on a breezy patio. To the right, a vast dining space evokes the casual elegance of a coastal Mexican resort. The menu, created under the culinary direction of celebrity chef Rick Bayless, designed by corporate chef Marc Johnson and realized by executive chef Seth Vider, is an alluring mix of modern Mexican cuisine, prime steak and seafood.

Begin your Red O dining experience with an inventive cocktail or two, such as the luxuriously smooth Grant Margarita—served with an extra shot on the side—made with El Tesoro Añejo tequila, lime juice, agave syrup and Mandarine Napoléon, and garnished with a gold-dusted dried pineapple slice. For lighter refreshment, the Getaway is a vodka drink infused with mango, guava and ginger.
Equally intriguing small plates include yellowtail aguachile, in which raw hamachi slices crowned with orange segments, serrano chilis, avocado, cucumber and knob onion are gently cooked tableside in spicy lime broth. Fresh corn and goat cheese tamales consist of custardy, steamed masa wrapped around sweet corn, goat cheese, poblano chili and caramelized onion; rustic tomatillo salsa on top provides a hit of fresh acidity, while crumbles of Laura Chenel goat cheese add tangy richness. Braised duck taquitos topped with a nest of wild arugula have a shatteringly crisp exterior, a meltingly juicy interior, and the heat and smoke of tomato-chile de arbol sauce.

Grilled mains and seafood entrees are expertly crafted. A succulent Maine lobster tail, blackened from the grill, is split and sauced with bright Tajín butter, and served atop fragrant cilantro-fennel rice. Juicy and charred, double-cut lamb chops served with black mole, a traditional Oaxacan sauce that’s sweet and intensely flavorful, come with lemon-spritzed asparagus and buna shimeji mushrooms, toasted Marcona almonds, golden raisins and fiery bits of chile de arbol.
Red O also has a number of traditional entrees and sides, all elevated with high-quality ingredients. The tender short rib enchiladas are prepared with housemade corn tortillas, melty jack cheese and a spicy guajillo chili sauce. Don’t neglect the accompanying red rice and refried black beans, which are packed with flavor. Served in a cast-iron skillet, the grilled Mexican street corn is topped with chopped cilantro, salty cotija cheese and poblano chili.
For a sweet finish, you must order the rich, golden butter cake. Although not a traditional Mexican dessert, when paired with tangy passion fruit custard and a scoop of coconut ice cream, this confection takes on a distinct Latin flair. It’s simply perfect with a hot cup of Illy coffee.

Red O
4340 La Jolla Village Drive, San Diego, 858.291.8360,

Small plates, $11-$22; entrees, $19-$49; desserts, $12

Open Sun.-Thu. 11am-10Pm; Fri.-Sat. 11am-11Pm

Photography Courtesy Of: