HOME > Chowhound > Los Angeles Area >
Brewing beer, curing meat, or making cheese?
TELL US

Are tasting menus worth the $$$

b
Bully Oct 24, 2008 07:58 AM

They look expensive, but I like to try everything. I always have a hard time choosing from big menus, and want to try everything. That's why I like sushi bars.

I have heard of Spago and Sona. I know some sushi bars sort of do it.

How are they, and where are the best?

  1. burumun Oct 24, 2008 09:26 AM

    I love tasting menu at Sona, since each person on the table gets a different item - then you get to try more!!

    Also love Providence. Never had Spago's tasting menu but their regular menu items are good, so I'd imagine it'd be good. Good sushi omakase are at Sushi Zo, Sushi Mori.

    --burumun
    http://gourmetpigs.blogspot.com

    1. kevin h Oct 24, 2008 12:05 PM

      The ultimate "tasting menu" is perhaps Urasawa. It's 30+ courses so you pretty much do get to try everything: http://www.kevineats.com/2008/10/uras...

      From what I've read, it seems like people's experiences with Spago are much better with the tasting menu than ordering a la carte. I haven't ordered from the menu, but the tasting I had at Spago was one of my best dining experiences in LA.

      Sona is good (the tandem tasting is nice), as is Providence. Other tasting menus to consider are Bastide, Craft, Hatfields, Melisse, Ortolan, and Valentino. As mentioned, the omakases at Mori and Zo are very nice, but a notch below Urasawa by most people's standards.

      9 Replies
      1. re: kevin h
        burumun Oct 25, 2008 10:22 AM

        oh yes yes!
        Undebatable that Mori and Zo are a notch below Urasawa, but so are their prices :)

        --burumun
        http://gourmetpigs.blogspot.com

        1. re: kevin h
          aliceyoo Jan 15, 2009 09:05 PM

          I'm starting to really get jealous about Kevin H's food excursions. Oh how I wish I could go to Urusawa!

          1. re: kevin h
            c
            ceviche Jan 16, 2009 09:50 AM

            that's interesting about spago. i went last year and everyone in my party ordered off the menu, and i wasn't that impressed. perhaps i should give it another try. is the tasting menu a set menu that they do all the time, or does it change by season/ingredient availability?

            1. re: ceviche
              kevin h Jan 16, 2009 09:57 AM

              It definitely changes, though I'm not sure how often.

              The current menu is drastically different from what I received: http://www.wolfgangpuck.com/restauran...

              1. re: ceviche
                k
                kevin Jan 16, 2009 10:38 AM

                yes, i concur the full on tasting menu (in the evenings) at spago is really good.

                the regular menu not really and if you think about the difference in price is not that much.

                120 per for the tasting menu. (think about 8-9 hours, with a couple tidbits thrown in for good measure)

                appetizer on regular say 16 bucks, entree 55, and dessert 16, and you're already at 87 bucks for a meal that is not even half as good

                1. re: kevin
                  kevin h Jan 16, 2009 10:57 AM

                  "8-9 hours?!?" You must mean 8 or 9 courses. You can easily get out of there in half that time.

                  1. re: kevin h
                    k
                    kevin Jan 16, 2009 01:48 PM

                    my bad. yes, i meant 8 or 9 courses, thanks for the correction.

                    i guess i'm suffering from the Times syndrome.

                    anyhow, i think you could get out in 3 hours. too bad they don't have that foie gras mousse with kumquat chuntey on a pastry tartlet anymore.

                    the scallop tartare with black truffles were great, the agnolotti was great at the time (though i tried in a few times on the regular menu and started to get sick of it), along wtih great duck, and the baby rack of rabbit, so cute and tasty as hell. the only thing possibly wrong with my tasting menu was that the desserts were just not that interesting. Suffice to say, we finished off by ordering additional desserts from the dessert menu. I've only tried the evening Tasting Menu at Spago one time, and the lunch tasting a couple times (the lunch tasting is seriously not worth, unless perhaps you know Lee Hefter or whoever else is the head chef there now, personally).

                2. re: ceviche
                  l
                  lizziee Jan 16, 2009 10:48 AM

                  See here for some of Spago's tasting menus:

                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/545317

                3. re: kevin h
                  a
                  Alice Jan 28, 2009 04:54 PM

                  wholeheartedly agree with kevin. urawasa is a must try ultimate tasting menu.

                  spago tasting menu was one of my best dining experiences and favorite meals of all time.

                  have never been to sona, but looking to try grace.

                4. m
                  mstringert Oct 24, 2008 12:17 PM

                  Along with asking yourself if they are worth the $$$, you should ask yourself if you want that much food and if you have that much time. If yes and you're in the mood, then a tasting menu can be great and a lot of fun.

                  I've done them at Bastide (in its many incarnations), where they only serve tasting menus, and have been pleased every time, though it was best under Alain Giraud.

                  I haven't been, but I would guess that Melisse has great tasting menus. They just received two Michelin stars.

                  Also, I usually skip the wine pairing and get a bottle of whatever I feel like drinking. The whole food-wine pairing thing can be interesting but a bit precious and I prefer to drink what I like.

                  Happy tasting!

                  1. a
                    AquaW Oct 24, 2008 04:33 PM

                    If the mood is right, yes. With tasting menus I think chefs make the extra effort to showcase the best they have to offer, and you can also eat a lot greater variety of dishes and take your time to soak up the environs and savor the food.

                    I know quite a few friends who are not the tasting menu type -- they like to eat quick and fast and won't have the patience to sit through hours at a restaurant, and there are those who simply feel the price tag is not worth it.

                    If you chowhound search you'll find quite a few topics already posted on great tasting menus around town. I'm particularly partial to Providence & Spago, myself. Melisse & Sona are on my to-try, though.

                    ~H.C.
                    http://la-oc-foodie.blogspot.com

                    1. michaelinps Oct 25, 2008 07:28 AM

                      I love tasting Menus. It is true that you certainly have to be in the mood. Experiencing a tasting menu can take hours. It is best that if you are traveling with a companion that you both choose the tasting menu. Some restaurants even require it to ensure proper timing of the meal.

                      Another option that I find just as interesting is to create your own tasting menu from the starters portion of the menu. Instead of ordering an entree, order several starters and ask the server to bring them out in a specific order. I find that often times the starter courses are more sophisticated and complex than the main course.

                      I also often when traveling have a starter course at several restaurants a night. The appetizer menus are often offered at the lounge. This way I can experience many venues in one evening and get a taste for the culinary trends of the city. I often rate the best and make reservations for a full meal at a later date.
                      Michael Fietsam - Palm Springs, CA
                      www.michaelfietsam.com

                      1. BombayUpWithaTwist Oct 25, 2008 10:44 AM

                        Maybe a good start for you would be at Michael Mina's new restaurant XIV. I haven't been yet, but so far the reviews have been good,. It's a different concept in a tasting menu since you get to make up your own. Most of the time with a tasting menu I don't like everything that is served, so XIV sounds like a good option.

                        Here are two extensive reviews by Exilekiss & KevinH:
                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/565617
                        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/565397

                        I recently had an excellent one at Ortolan.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: BombayUpWithaTwist
                          aliceyoo Jan 15, 2009 09:04 PM

                          I'm also a huge fan of XIV. Great decor and wonderful tasting menu. Highly recommend it.

                        2. truefoodie Oct 25, 2008 11:36 AM

                          I love TM's - and last night I finally had the chance to indulge in the Omakase at Urasawa -- and yes - it is super expensive but I have to say, I totally felt like it was worth every penny (which is more than I can say for Sona - although Hiro said he loves Sona) - Spago & Providence both get high marks from me and this year we did my b-day at Ortalon and I thought it was fantastic - elegant, creative, and yummy. For less $$ and a more casual environ where you can still enjoy great grub, personally, I love Bashan. But as to the question: are TM's worth it? After last night I would be willing to forgo months of eating out just to experience Urasawa again (so much for the once in a lifetime experience rationale - I already can't wait to go back!!) IT was THAT GOOD and THAT worth it. I'll try to post more later -- now I am off to an Obama calling party...

                          1. l
                            ldodb Jan 15, 2009 10:56 PM

                            How are the Tasting Menus at Spago ?
                            I heard there's two different ones ?
                            Anybody know the prices on them? Alone and with wine pairings?
                            Any information would be very appreciative, I have some spago gift certificates I plan on using soon.

                            Thanks!

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: ldodb
                              j
                              jaykayen Jan 15, 2009 11:08 PM

                              I would call and ask about it. They are very nice.

                              1. re: ldodb
                                kevin h Jan 15, 2009 11:46 PM

                                Here is Spago's standard tasting menu, with prices: http://www.wolfgangpuck.com/restauran...

                                I haven't heard about any other though. It wouldn't surprise me if they had a more luxurious version however.

                                1. re: ldodb
                                  k
                                  kevin Jan 16, 2009 10:42 AM

                                  what are mignardises, it's at the bottom of the attached spago tasting menu?

                                  1. re: kevin
                                    kevin h Jan 16, 2009 10:56 AM

                                    Mignardises are the little treats you receive at the end of a nice meal. Usually they're chocolates, macarons, cookies, etc.

                                    1. re: kevin h
                                      k
                                      kevin Jan 16, 2009 01:43 PM

                                      that's what i had the vegas guy savoy, actually when i ate in the bubble bar, most be somewhat of a value for fined dining. about 100 per, instead of 300 per, in the main restaurant, but thats for another board...

                                2. r
                                  rachel12 Jan 16, 2009 02:29 PM

                                  I loooved the tasting menu's at Melisse, Ortolan, and Spago. Each one is a completely different experience. Spago is quintessential California from the decor to the service. It is beautiful yet somewhat relaxed. Ortolan is also beautiful but your dining experience is far more private and a little more...can I say polished? In regards to Melisse I wouldn't go for the ambiance but I was so taken by the food and wine, I seriously would have been upset by any distraction :)

                                  I know there is a huge debate regarding wine pairings, and in my personal experience they are not necessary to get the full "effect" of a dish, but are just gilding the lily. They make the night even more magical, and are a great way to experience varietals that you usually wouldn't consider.

                                  Tasting menus are one of the greatest gifts because you get to experience so many aspects of a chef. Through the menu you can see the whole spectrum of their talent and originality (or lack of). I compare them to a wonderful night of entertainment that I leave incredibly full and satisfied :)

                                  1. r
                                    ral217 Jan 27, 2009 12:06 PM

                                    we went to providence while in LA and we thought it was one of the most overrated tasting menus either of us has ever had. Not a huge fan of foam and gelee and that seemed to be a reoccurring theme. The major contribution to our experience was that the tables were entirely too close and you could hear everything the tables beside you say. There should be some type of ambiance music loud enough to cancel out the conversations one can overhear.

                                    We should have gone to Spago!

                                    1. s
                                      spicychow Jan 28, 2009 02:19 PM

                                      I LOVED the tasting menus at Spago, Melisse, and Providence. I think the wine pairing is totally worth it, if you go to a place like Providence where a sommelier comes over to the table, pours the wine for you, and explains why the wine was chosen for the meal (without any intimidation, of course). On the flip side I had the TM at Alan Wong's in Hawaii, and it was verrrry disappointing wine pairing, since the sommelier hardly came to the table and the wine was just brought over from the bar, already opened and poured.

                                      Now that I have a little tighter budget (darn this economy), I'm looking for some good deals on the tasting menus... I think I will try out Hatfield's and the Sunday supper at Lucques next.

                                      1. Rossi76 Jan 28, 2009 02:38 PM

                                        Hatfield's also does the tandem tasting, and it's a little less expensive than Sona (which is wonderful). I've done it twice and remain a big fan.

                                        I believe Grace also does a TM, not sure if that's been mentioned.

                                        1. westsidegal Jan 29, 2009 09:05 AM

                                          was extremely disappointed with the tasting menu at il grano.
                                          every one of the cooked fish dishes was overcooked.
                                          for a restaurant that specializes in seafood, this was inexcusable.

                                          it truly was a pity, because the quality of the underlying fish was good. too bad they ruined with their preparation.

                                          Show Hidden Posts