Spago - oh no
- Julefish Mar 27, 2007 11:46 AM
Went last night for dinner and had the angleotti (wasn't good enough to look up the correct spelling), pea soup, steak, and beet salad. what's all the fuss about and why are there so many asian offerings? i've been to a few lovely parties there, but dinner for two was just ok. i was so unimpressed with the meal that we didn't even stick around for one of Ms. Yard's treats. we had pinkberry instead. has the restaurant gone off? and why is everybody eating there 80 years old?
Not when I went. People of all ages..lot of hipsters.
Maybe the reason is that you went on a Monday?
My parents and I dined at SPAGO last week for the first time and here's my take. It's a very well oiled machine, but has a bit of a mass produced pseudo artistic feel. In the same way that Starbucks has this quizi bohemian decor with writing scrawled on the wall, Spago's decor is one step past elegant towards kitch. Stained glass windows with cheezy designs, paintings that look mass produced. The art isn't exactly high class.
In much the same way, the presentation of the food is just a bit too much to be truly classy and elegant. It's kitchy. Too many dolups, drips, colors, layers.
The food itself is busy with flavors, but are the flavor choices always thoughtful or just boastful?
Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the food very much, but felt that both the food and and atmosphere were trying very hard to put on a flashy show.
To start we shared the MARINATED JAPANESE HAMACHI & TUNA SASHIMI with Soy-Yuzu Ponzu, Sticky Rice, Wasabi and Pumpkin Seed Oil ($21). The slices of fish were wrapped around each other to form a fez shape and the sauces were dribbled onto the plate around the tower. Both the hamachi and the tuna were extremely fresh and delectable and created a wonderful flavor texture when dragged through the unusual pumpkin seed oil infused wasabi drizzle. Yes, it was delicious, however the presentation was too much- it came off ostentatious.
For the main meal my mother ordered the SAUTEED DIVER SEA SCALLOPS with Lemongrass, Keffir Lime, “Thai Spices”, Peanuts, Holy Basil and Pad Thai Noodles ($32). The scallops were cooked perfectly and were placed around a tuft of delectable pad thai noodles. The dish was rich with sweet, salty, sour, and a hint of spicy and was wonderfully prepared. It didn't feel very thai, but it was delicious.
My father ordered the LINE CAUGHT WILD STRIPED BASS with Littleneck Clams, Sauteed Spinach, Garlic-Potato Puree and Marjoram-Clam Broth ($30). This was a majorly disappointing entree because the fish was dry and overcooked. I only had one bite of it and so I can't really tell you any more details about it other than I didn't like it at all because it makes me really angry when fish is overcooked, especially when it's $30 worth of fish.
We all agreed that the best thing on the whole menu was its simplest item: ORIGINAL VEAL “WIENER SCHNITZEL” with Fingerling Potato Salad and Young Mache ($39). My austrian grandmother used to make me schnitzel growing up, so I just couldn't resist ordering it, and I was not disappointed. Not only was it excellent, it was simple. I drizzled lemon over it and went to town. The crust was perfectly browned, crisp, savory and flavorful. The veal inside was soft, buttery, just the right thickness, clearly a very expensive cut of meat. Best schnitzel ever, but for a $39 schnitzel it had better be.
After the successful schnitzel, I was very excited about the apfelstrudel for dessert, as I have yet to find a good apfelstrudel outside of Vienna or my mother's kitchen. Sadly, they were all out, so we decided to go with the apple crumble served a la mode. It was simple and wonderful, but of course not as good as a warm flakey slice of apfelstrudel would have been.
I don't agree with some of the Spago reviews that say the chef doesn't know how to do Asian dishes. I enjoy the marriage of German food with Asian food that Wolfgang Puck has created and find it fun, exciting, and innovative. My biggest complaint is the art both in the restaurant's interior design and the way the food is arranged on the plate.
Been hearing some buzz about the schnitzel at 3 Square Cafe in Venice which is owned and operated by Hans Rockenwagner. About a week ago, a few associates who had just finished their lunch at 3 Square were GAH-GAHing over their schnitzel... don't know if it's worth your time to check out but...
I for one think that the agnolotti with black truffle (when it's in season) is the single best dish in LA. It combines the craftsmanship of handmade pasta and proportionate filling, the subtlety and velvety mouth-feel of the creamy sauce and the aromatic divinity of truffle. For what it's worth, Chef Lee Hefter was the only LA-based nominee for the James Beard award for most outstanding chef, and Spago is still the measuring stick by which other fine dining experiences are measured.
So no, it doesn't seem the restaurant has gone off at all.
Strange thing about Spago - it's nothing special. Until you order the tasting menu. The chef seems to get fired up and we have observed a dramatic change in the wait staff and wine steward, also, when the tasting menu is ordered. Several times we have watched a disinterested staff and overpriced menu turn into one of the great restaurant experiences in America (wines included). I would never go for the regular menu, but we reserve once a year for the tasting blow out.
Check ahead because they don't serve it when they're booked up. For details see hundreds of posts about this extravazanga.
That's actually a good thing to add: Disinterested staff. Totally disinterested. Not excited about the food, not recommending things, just sort of blah. I was excited about the black truffles, but they were really tasteless. Truffles are one of the few things i will pay a LOT to eat and was happy to pay $32 for the appetizer agnolotti but when you can't taste them, that's a disappointment.
OMG - that was my thought EXACTLY!! The agnolotti were delicious, but no flavor whatsoever from the truffles - dried out pieces of seaweed - and it was $38, if I'm correct. I tried to gently point this out to Wolfgang & he wasn't interested in my thoughts on his truffles. Could have made a scene, but I didn't. Our server was fine and somethat personable, after the condenscending recommendation of Pinot Noir & all it's 'go with anything qualities' for our wine (oysters?!). I ordered a Gruner Veltliner (new computer - need to set up my German!) & that shut him up. It was ok - I've had better. My tuna wasn't all that exciting & rather gray. I can't even remember what my husband had & all came to $240, without dessert. Never again unless we do the tasting menu! Even the cookies they sent home with us were rather blah - never thought I'd meet a fresh macaron I didn't like, but...
i don't know what it is about spago but apparently it's day and night between ordering a la carte and getting the tasting menu. there seems to be so many negative posts from diners ordering off the menu yet so many positives from the tastings. i've only done the TM so i can't comment on the alternative, but once again i've got nothing but praise for the food, wine, service.
I love it via a la carte or TM, lunch or dinner, Monday or not. Sure, a greater % of clientele are older and have bigger wallets, but there is always a fair amount of young couples and young, solo diners. The TM is obviously outstanding, but one of the reasons why I love Spago is that even with the 'regular' appetizer or entree, it never fails to execute well. I can trust to order a dish and not be wary if it will be good or not. Of course, tastes very, and perhaps you expect a fine dining restaurant shouldn't have so many of what you perceive as asian-inspired dishes? Service is always well there (one mishap once when the waiter never returned my credit card, and it took 15 min. arguing with the server that he didn't return it to me before he found it under the table - he's served me many times before, but I don't think I'd want to deal with him again), even if I don't drink. So, no, I believe the restaurant for the most part is still at its peak.
Just to add that after my visit from NY, I'd include Spago as one of the best overall meals (yes, tasting menu) I've had, taking into consideration the food, service and space.
I also have to comment on the age issue--places like Spago are expensive. Usually, to have the extra money to spend on a meal at that level you've been around, saved some money, etc. If you are young enough to notice how old everyone is around you, and you can afford to eat there, then consider yourself lucky. When I was that young, I was eating at the neighborhood Italian for the $3.99 salad/pasta/cheesecake special.
I'm just posting to comment that for those who don't know (I didn't), WIENER SCHNITZEL is just a breaded fried thin piece of veal. IMO very BOOORING. Nothing at all special, I thought I was eating at a diner (the sides of potatoes and veggies were excellent). $42 for fried veal was way out of line.
I've been to Spago twice before, both times having the tasting menu with wine, so I was very disappointed. Ah well, next time.