LOS ANGELES Chicago’s Rick Bayless, a James Beard Award-winning chef, is set to open his first restaurant outside the Windy City with the April debut of RED O on Melrose Avenue here.
The restaurant will combine Bayless’ signature Mexican cuisine with lighter “California-style” menu items and an extensive tequila list. Bayless, author of six cookbooks and host of the PBS show “Mexico: One Plate at a Time,” said he will create new menus seasonally, train the kitchen staff and oversee the beverage program.
“I’m flattered that they would want my food and culinary vision in Los Angeles,” he said.
Bayless blazed a trail in the restaurant industry for authentic Mexican dishes made with local American ingredients in 1987 when he opened Frontera Grill and Topolobampo in Chicago’s River North neighborhood. Since 2003, he has invested in and supported small, organic farms in the Midwest through the Frontera Farmer Foundation. His latest Chicago restaurant, XOCO, opened last year in the same building as Frontera Grill and Topolobampo and serves Mexican street food and snacks.
Jorge Pultera, whose management career of more than 20 years includes stints at high-profile Los Angeles restaurants like the Ivy and KOI, will oversee RED O as vice president of operations. Two design firms, Dodd Mitchell Design and G+ Gulla Jonsdottir Design, created RED O’s decor, which features an open layout with a 14-seat communal table, a semi-private dining room, and a “glass tequila tunnel” showing off the restaurant’s selection of spirits that winds from the dining room to the adjacent Tequila Lounge.
The menu will feature a “Bright Bites” section with ceviches and tostadas, larger “Cazuela” entrees meant to be shared, classic Mexican dishes in an “Enchiladas and Tacos al Carbon” section, as well as a selection of Bayless’ specialties like striped bass zarandeado. The “Savory Snacks” portion of the menu will offer smaller items like pork belly sopas, while the dessert list will have classic American treats with a Mexican accent, such as a goat cheese cheesecake with caramel corn and Mexican “root beer” sauce.
RED O will be open for dinner only initially, but lunch and brunch service are expected to debut later this year.