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23 course tasting menu at Spago

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Write-up with pictures: http://darindines.com/2011/02/28/spago/

Spago used to be one of my favorite restaurants when I first moved to LA; there was something about the upscale Asian-inspired dishes that captured my attention. However, when the first Michelin Guide in LA came out and awarded Spago two stars, I was perplexed. I enjoyed the food, sure, but the cuisine wasn’t as refined and innovative as other two-star restaurants I’d been to.

Enter the tasting menu. I’ve always ordered a la carte in previous visits – when I heard the tasting menu was a very different meal altogether, I knew I had to visit again. What resulted was a 23-course meal with 15 wines to match..which I know sounds kind of ridiculous.

Spicy Tuna Tartare in Sesame-Miso Cone
Smoked Salmon with lemon-herb blini, salmon eggs
Hamachi Ceviche
Toad in a Hole with black truffle
Oyster Gratin with caviar
Pastrami-Cured Duck Liver Mousse with rye crisp and apple puree
Bacon Confit en Croute with black truffle
Pear-Rhubarb Sorbet with jasmine tea
Crispy Phyllo-Wrapped Santa Barbara Spot Prawns with black bean vinaigrette & Asian slaw
Sauteed Veal Sweetbreads with onion-mushroom “pastille,” maitake mushrooms, confit bacon, orange-kohlrabi puree
Fromage de Tete with truffled red wine sauce & truffle salad
Seafood-stuffed Sepia with fried calamari
Rye-Crusted Loup de Mer with littleneck clams & lemon butter meuniere
Hand-rolled Garganelli with Maine lobster & spring rapini
Handmade Agnolotti with celery root & French black truffles
Duo of Rabbit: Bacon-wrapped Loin and Rack of Rabbit
Sonoma Lamb Loin with fennel puree and brussels sprouts and black olives
Slow Braised Short Ribs with Baked Bone Marrow
Selection of Artisanal Cheeses
Lemon Souffle and blackberry sorbet
Kaiserschmarrn
Dobos Torte
Chocolate Pot Pie

This meal was the strongest I’ve had here, and I quickly understood the Michelin stars…well, at least one of them. With 23 courses presented, I expected some to be very good and some to perhaps be duds. I wouldn’t call any of the dishes bad, though I found the desserts a little disappointing. My favorite courses were the toad in a hole, spot prawn, sepia, agnolotti and rabbit. Consider my opinion of Spago changed; while I’ve enjoyed my a la carte experience each time, the tasting menu presents a more refined meal worthy of Michelin recognition. Next time, though, I don’t think I need to try as many courses!

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Spago
176 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90210

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  1. How do you rate the wine pairings? Also, what did this set you back?

    3 Replies
    1. re: JAB

      I thought they were pretty good. The staff explained the background behind each pairing, something I think should always happen but doesn't. Food was 205, wine 115 per.

      1. re: DarinDines

        how much was the food for the tasting menu? and also how did you request this tasting menu? i noticed that listed on the bottom of the menu they have a tasting menu for like 120 dollars, and i think that is 10 or 12 courses... but 23 or 24 courses sound even better.

        I've only had the ten-courser before and it was exceptional if very filling, these are not tiny bites, but some of those dishes are pretty darn hefty.

        1. re: kevin

          The food was 205 before tax/tip. We spoke to them beforehand about trying to get an extended tasting, and I don't think there was any problem with that. They have a tasting for 10 courses at $145, so I thought this was definitely more bang for the buck.

          Haha yeah most were relatively smaller but some were quite rich. It's quite a bit of food, but not really ridiculously so. I'd recommend giving it a shot.