Event - Gorging on Red O Restaurant's Brunch Buffet

As a general rule, I try to stay away from buffets because knowing myself, I will really attempt to have a little bit of everything. This fact about myself held true once coming upon Red O's brunch buffet one Sunday morning upon invitation. It was a sumptuous feast. An overflowing abundance. A varied multitude of tastes. Red O Restaurant at Fashion Island in Newport Beach has only begun to offer brunch in the recent weeks but the reception seems to be quite good considering how many seats quickly filled up around us. There are offerings both inside and outside for the empty stomachs on the weekend, and we tried our best to indulge in just about everything.

When we first heard of Red O and saw the onslaught of reviews, we always saw a remark or more about the decor of the restaurant. Admittedly, it is an impressive display of a purported Mexican ambiance. Your first look at the restaurant comes in the form of walls of tequila in the foyer. Then you walk through a well-stocked and upscale bar area to either sit inside at a homestyle booth/table or outside at long banquet tables that nearly seemed to have a Moroccan feel (I thought it was a Mexican restaurant?).

Every Sunday from 11AM to 3PM, you can indulge in Red O's brunch buffet at an emptying $45 per adult which does not include alcoholic drinks. We tried out two cocktails and their Endless Cocktails option which entitles a guest at an additional $20 to endless sparkling mimosas, Bloody Marys, and Tequila Sunrises. The cocktails were the Alacran Margarita ($15 - Sauza Hornitos Reposado, JDK & Sons O3 Orange Liqueur, VeeV Acai Spirit, housemade Limonada, and serrano chile syrup served on the rock in a Tajin-rimmed goblet) and the El Maya ($14 - Akvinta Vodka, Yellow Chartreuse, JM Sugarcane Syrup, fresh lime, and pineapple juice served up). Considering the costs of the drinks on top of the minimum price per person, we would rather have stuck with their available agua frescas and non-alcoholic drinks.

Seafood plays an important and large part in the brunch buffet ranging from the freshly shucked oysters to the ceviche to even the enormous paella outside. The Fresh Oysters came with a tomatillo-habanero mignonette and a smoky chipotle-garlic salsa with the ability to also add in limes; I enjoyed the variations on the two condiments but the oysters themselves were fine undressed. If anything, I'd suggest going for the mignonette since the smoky salsa is fantastic on its own but can easily overtake the shellfish's subtle brininess. There were also options of Ceviche from the Yucatacean shrimp and calamari to the classic Albacore, both of which were great but the shrimp possibly being better as it was less sour. The Paella was a key showcase piece in the enclosed patio area made with vegetables, seafood, chicken, and chorizo and being of interest to the visual eaters with the lobster heads around the border; however, my excitement at paella quickly dissipated once I realized how mushy the rice had become from sitting out during the long brunch hours. There were also made-to-order stations such as the Made to Order Huevos Rancheros station that allowed any combination a guest wanted of freshly made corn tortillas, refried beans, Colorado or creamy tomatillo sauces, eggs, and other toppings to be put together. It was a show in itself.

What actually held me tightly to the meal and made me go back for seconds was part of the Taco Carving Station which holds wood-grilled steak and carnitas alongside other pieces of a taco puzzle. The carnitas melted in my mouth and incited a frenzy to get more. There were also Made to Order Chilaquiles which quite frankly disrupted the entire notion of chilaquiles; after all, aren't these supposed to be dishes made from leftovers and stale chips? These were made "stale" by being made soggy in a pan over the portable ranges.

If you are more a fan of the desserts that buffets can offer, Red O certainly brings out quite a bit of them. There are several tiers of miniature desserts from baked goods to individual filled mini ramekins. These are listed as "Mexican inspired" and do rotate so what you may see here will likely be different by the time of your own visit. However, count on the Sundae Bar which is created via liquid nitrogen ice cream station manned by a staff member who will make your tasty, cold treat to order.

The options were too many to capture but there are also fresh fruit displays, cornmeal pancakes with topping station (very good pancakes), salads, different guacamoles, and even pan dulce. Those looking to indulge more in alcohol for brunch can get Red O's Margarita Pitchers starting from $35 for the sangria and moving upward for other specialty margaritas (for four).  We did enjoy bits and pieces of the buffet but definitely know that it is not a lightweight on the wallet. Come here if you are looking to splurge and fill up! Our thanks to all for their great service.

Photography by Duc Duong. More photos available on Facebook here.

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