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Oct 24, 2008 07:58 AM

Are tasting menus worth the $$$

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?

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  1. 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.


    1. The ultimate "tasting menu" is perhaps Urasawa. It's 30+ courses so you pretty much do get to try everything:

      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

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


        1. re: kevin h

          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

            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

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

              The current menu is drastically different from what I received:

              1. re: ceviche

                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

                  "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

                    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: kevin h

                  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.

                3. 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. 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.


                    1. 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