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Sep 30, 2006 02:08 PM

Gourmet Mag Top 50 Restaurants, Los Angeles

Gourmet Magazine's top 50 Restaurants in the USA was just released. Restaurants located in LA are:

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  1. Spago is the 4th best restaurant in America? It must be those great canned soups.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Walters

      YOu must expand on your canned soup experience. Such hyperbole when it's farthest from the truth.

      1. re: Walters

        I don't know whether or not they use canned soups at Spago, but I have to say that I have never ever had a meal there that I thought was great. The restaurant is perfectly pleasant and out of towners in particular like being taken there because it seems so "L.A." to them, and even if you are nobody like me, Wolfgang Puck may come over to your table to say hello (which impresses those aforementioned out-of-towners), but I have just never had a great or memorable meal there. Perhaps it's because I'm more of a fish person than a meat person and they just don't know what to do with fish or maybe it's because the restaurant really is nothing special food-wise.

        1. re: omotosando

          Have you ever ordered a Tasting Menu there? It's their speciality. I can't believe you won't be overwhelmed when you finally experience one, some of the finest food in the USA. I'm not an Out of Towner and I can tell you that SPAGO BH is filled with Locals all the time. Below is a basic Tasting menu enjoyed by some Hounds a couple of years ago. Yes , they are all locals.

          Several Amuse-Bouches

          Tuna tartare in sweet black and brown sesame

          This is the signature Spago appetizer. I was
          struck by the texture of the cone: it didn't
          seem to contain any flour, so it had a very
          delicate soft crunch. I would guess it's made
          out of caramelized sugar, miso and sesame paste
          with sesame seeds -- maybe a little rice flour
          as well.

          Foie gras mousse on kumquat tart

          I thought the sweet and sour kick from the
          kumquat almost overpowered the foie gras mousse,
          but others at the table really loved it.

          Smoked salmon on lemon-scented blini with creme

          The blini batter was made with lemon zest,
          yielding nice light lemon overtones.

          Fava bean bruschetta wrapped in lardon

          This dish was visually very cool. The pureed
          fava beans contributed a really saturated green
          veiled by the translucent lardon wrapper.

          "Pastrami-cured" foie gras terrine on toast,
          sandwich style

          The pastrami-style spices work amazingly well
          with the rich foie gras. There's a tang from the
          peppercorns that's met by the deep savory rush
          of the liver.

          Bacon confit en croute

          Oh, man. Bacon in rich crumbly pastry.

          Wine: Billecarte-Salmon Brut Rose Champagne


          Crumbless crab cake with basil aioli and salsa
          Wine: Costa del Vento (Timorasso grape)

          The aioli was dolloped along the side of the
          plate in a row of little dots. The crab cake
          itself was intense. There was pretty much just
          lightly-sauteed crab meat and nothing else. The
          salsa, aioli and microgreens scattered atop it
          provided seasoning.

          Austrian white asparagus with fava beans and
          tomatoes Lobster-asparagus soup with caramelized
          Wine: Lorimer Gruener Veltliner (Austria) 2002

          A very thoughtful two-parter: a mini-"Iron Chef"
          white asparagus battle. The soup was ultratasty
          asparagus essence tinged with seafood flavor and
          the sweet chewiness of the shallots. The whole
          asparagus was really a salad -- "redolent of
          springtime," as I might say if I felt especially
          pompous. The fava beans were whole, lightly
          cooked. There were small wedges of heirloom
          tomato. There were also very sugary wedges of

          Hudson Valley foie gras with black cherries and
          morels in balsamic vinegar reduction
          Wine: Chateau Raymond Sauterne 2001
          Wine (BYOB table): Suduiraut Sauterne 1997

          A superb, superb piece of foie gras succulently
          betrothed to the cherries and mushrooms. The
          cherries were such a great foil to the foie gras
          they almost rendered the Sauterne superfluous.

          Pan-seared skate with Fruits de Mer and tomato
          Wine: Alsace Riesling 2001

          A nice, understated, refreshingly ocean-y fish

          Sweet pea agnolotti stuffed with mascarpone
          Wine: Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru 2002

          Tiny, delicate pasta shells bursting with pea
          essence (the mascarpone must have been mixed
          with pea puree to make the filling) served
          alongside fresh baby peas.

          Squab breast and bacon-wrapped leg with carrots
          and ramps
          Wine: Bucklin Old Hill Ranch Zinfandel 2001

          I thought these butter-pat-sized slices of
          pigeon breast -- rich, gamy, and thoroughly
          umami-drenched by their reduction sauce -- were
          amazing. Until I tried the leg. The crispy
          Applewood-smoked bacon wrapped around the tender
          leg meat just took the back of my head off. The
          carrots and zingy ramps brought me back down to
          earth. *woo!* said, "what a dish! Our favorite
          of the lunch!"

          Rib-eye steak with Armagnac peppercorn sauce and
          fontina-laced pureed potatoes
          Wine: Arbios Cabernet 1999

          This was an add-on course requested by the BYOB
          table. *woo!* again: "Had to have SOME beef
          with all the GIGANTIC reds that we brought ...
          what else is new?" A perfectly-cooked piece of
          beef. The potatoes were amazingly thick, rich,
          and sticky. The waiters served them in a special
          mixing vessel and stirred them before serving.
          You could have cemented bricks with it, but it
          was sublime! The cheese permeated every cell of
          those potatoes.


          Assorted Cheeses including one Epoisse

          Wine: Graham's 20-year-old Tawny Port

          Stone fruit (peach, nectarine, et al) cobbler
          served with buttermilk ice cream and blueberries


          Unfortunately I couldn't stay for the cheese or
          dessert! So I can't report on it. I will say
          that they wrapped up some petits fours for me
          and they were delicious.

          The BYOB Wines (an excerpt)

          2001 (?) Pillar Rock
          Rayas white
          2001 Colgin
          1995 Chateau Lafite Rothschild
          1990 Lynch Bages


          I have to admit, we blew out the normal cost
          structure for this lunch what with our extra
          courses and our corkage fees and all. However, I
          have been to a Spago Tasting Menu dinner where
          we stuck with the original plan and the bill
          came out in the realm of the sane. So I'm going
          to list the sane prices here.

          Tasting Menu
          $85 + $15 (18% tip) + $7 tax = $107

          Tasting Menu with Wines
          $135 + $24 (18% tip) + $11 tax = $170

          Tasting Menu with and without Wines,
          averaged for two people (each couple splits
          each glass of wine)
          $110 + $20 (18% tip) + $9 tax = $137

          Final Words

          Here's what I personally like about Spago. No
          matter how rarefied or high-flying the dishes
          get, they are always grounded by some earthy
          (or oceany) element. It might be a truffle or
          other mushroom, a root vegetable, a gamy meat or
          a briny fish -- somehow they keep you connected
          to the source. I'm not sure if this is Wolfgang
          Puck's contribution or Lee Hefter's or some
          combination thereof, but it's what makes this
          place a true Chowhound destination. Why?
          Because the earthiness, the pungent quality, is
          the base of the craving that forms in your
          memory. I like to think that this is the
          Austrian influence working at a deep level in
          this cuisine, and in my opinion it's what makes
          Spago unique.

          1. re: omotosando

            I agree with the above. The tasting menu is disproportionately exquisite to LA cuisine. It's unbeatable. People at neighboring tables were eyeing the food jealously and wished out loud, "I should have gotten the tasting menu!"

            What I love about Spago, in addition to its food, is the service. Some may say it is haughty or what not, but I have always received the best. Whether or not Wolfgang himself is there. He's a very nice man, btw. During the tasting, for example, I asked if I could have black truffles (I was craving this throughout the season). They said yes and innovated a delicious risotto, generously topped with truffles. I had asked for black truffles at Melisse and got a blatant no. Another example -- I got extra vanilla bean ice cream at the end of one of my other meals, just because! Moreover, they never cease to replenish my drinks, unlike many other places where I have to personally request. I always get the requested tables, like a booth for lunch. And the food always comes out just like we ask.

          1. I agree. High-end, foodrobot propaganda. How about Sona, Hungry Cat, Shima, AOC, Cora's somebody help me...

            1. These are not in any particular order on the list. Please read the article again.

              1. they are all ranked and numbered in the october issue or perhaps i don't understand your post. can you please clarify?

                three of the top five are in california! maybe l.a. rated so high because ruth was here for such a long time. i was surprised at the number of restaurants in texas. i don't think trotters should have been ranked as high as it was.

                did you also see the taiwan branch of din tai fung featured in the article on taiwan?

                i must agree. alinea is the best restaurant in the country...perhaps the world.