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The new Spago...definitely not worth it!

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Having had many wonderful meals in the past at Spago in Beverly Hills, we returned last evening for dinner to see and dine at the new, improved Spago. We were disappointed and left feeling very "ripped off".

First for the good. The redesign is quite attractive. It is sleek, modern, clean and fresh looking. Although not as warm as the previous iteration, it has a very nice, contemporary vibe. Unfortunately, the modern vibe includes the now virtually omnipresent loud music and noisy ambiance that can make conversation a shouting match. This sadly, is becoming the norm, and is something we don't like.

Disappointingly (and we knew this before), many of Wolfgang Puck's homey Austrian specialties which were on the previous menu, are now gone. Gone are the wonderful chicken soup, the wienerschnitzel, the goulash, and most regrettably, the kaiserschmarrn. The current menu, was to me, not especially interesting. Although there are several items on it that sounded good, it was not the kind of menu where there are so many wonderful choices that it's hard to decide what to have.

The food was all very well-prepared and good. Nothing was outstanding or extraordinary in any way. What bothered us the most, were the prices. Now, we knew that Spago was expensive, and we've had other more expensive meals in Los Angeles, New York and elsewhere, but when we left Spago we felt truly "ripped off". Some examples of unconscionable pricing included the drinks and some entrees. For example, my Bombay Sapphire martini was $20 (with tax and tip this translates to $26+)! This is the most expensive martini I've ever had. Requiring minimal labor and expertise to make (I've been a bartender), this is ridiculous. Likewise, my $42 scallop entree included 3 very nice scallops with minimal garnish or anything else on the plate. Adding vegetable sides (one per person is recommended and not at all excessive) adds $11-15 to the cost of the entree. This is, imho, for a very good but not extraordinary entree, quite excessive.

Dining at Spago easily exceeds $200pp, and that is with taking much care with ordering and having, perhaps a few glasses of their less expensive wines. To my mind, there are way better choices in southern California for a special and expensive meal.

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  1. I guess I'm somewhat surprised that there have been no replies to my above post. I'm really curious as to whether other CH's who have been to the "new" Spago agree or not.

    5 Replies
    1. re: josephnl

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/875787

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/875744

      1. re: josephnl

        I think your sentiment is board consensus.

        There have been a couple of posts after the remodel pretty much with the identical review.

        That's why there are no responses. Not much left to say. Shame what he did to that place...

        The only thing to note is that Puck has said he will make the schnitzel on request.

        Read the below thread:

        http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/875744

        The Once and Future King ended with the end of Camelot and King Arthur. That makes it a very appropriate title to the article.

        1. re: Porthos

          They will make the schnitzel and the salmon pizza on request and I though the food was good. The portions were small and obscenely priced. The drinks were miniscule and more obscenely priced. Used to love Spago on the hill. Entirely different vibe and time. Recently, tried the Bel Air spot and liked it much better than Spago and surprisingly less expensive.

          1. re: Thor123

            I am totaly in the minority here: my first visit to the new Spago was excellent (loved the global, small plates and smaller prices ideas) while I found Puck at the Bel Air Hotel very stuffy and over-priced.

            1. re: Ciao Bob

              Surprised. I went to both and found the prices much higher (much may be a stretch but higher) at Spago. Also, the drinks we so expensive and small is was silly at Spago. Food was good at both IMO.

      2. Curious.... I actually don't remember seeing your post until today (although I find the new Chowhound format more difficult to read so I assume I just missed it).

        Very sad to hear about your experience. The prices seem completely ridiculous....

        1. Went last week. Food was good but not special. Everything we had is made better by someone else in LA, and for less money. Our server completely disappeared after dropping our desserts, but before we got our dessert wine which never came. We waited a full 25 minutes before we saw her again, by which time we had given up on coffee because our friends had to get back to their babysitter. There were so many people there that we couldn't even flag the server down unless we walked around the restaurant searching every room for her. The real kicker was corkage...$50 per bottle (and we brought two), and severe attitude along with the ridiculous charge. I would equate our experience to eating at Lucques or Hatfields, with poorer service (and possibly poorer food depending on your opinion), for prices close to the ballpark of Melisse or Providence. Price with tax and tip for four (we brought two bottles and drank nothing else: $575. FWIW, I went a year ago for the tasting menu and had a great experience with unbelievable food, and thought it was worth the $500 for two at the time, so this was an even more disappointing experience.

          2 Replies
          1. re: la2tokyo

            "I would equate our experience to eating at Lucques or Hatfields, with poorer service (and possibly poorer food depending on your opinion), for prices close to the ballpark of Melisse or Providence."

            ouch.

            1. re: la2tokyo

              "The real kicker was corkage...$50 per bottle "

              Well, you got in at the good times. A few days after-remodel opening, the asking rate was $75

            2. Before Spago's, I met Wolfgang Puck many, many years ago in Santa Monica and had a conversation with him in German.

              He had very long hair, cut Dutch-boy style, and was making gourmet sandwiches. Really, he was just starting out.

              Years later I'm still doing business in Southern California, and was ( up till now ) dining with clients at Spago's.

              I am not suggesting Wolfgang return to sandwiches, but If the popular Austrian specialties are now gone, so to will I.

              9 Replies
              1. re: SWISSAIRE

                He had a sandwich shop way back when, was this the late 1970s ?

                1. re: kevin

                  That sounds more like Hans Rockenwagner than Wolfie...I always thought Wolf got his start at Ma Masion and went on from there.

                  1. re: Servorg

                    That's what I thought too. Rockenwagner had that shoppe on Abbot Kinney in the Joe's restaurant space, and then moved to Main Street, then closed down, and then opened up the 3 square joint on abbot kinney again. I guess that shit comes full circle.

                    that does remind me rockenwagner's cheese pretzel rolls are pretty fucking exceptional. especially the ones with jalapenos.

                    1. re: kevin

                      No.

                      I met him in a store where he had been hired to make sandwiches. Quite young, long hair as I mentioned., and the sandwiches were pretty unique. Same stories, same friendly pitch, and smile.

                      Ma Maison came much later, as did Rockenwagner.nearby in Venice. Different people entirely.

                      The man who hired him initially was named Omar, who went on to manage other restaurants. My wife and I saw Omar two decades later in Laguna Beach, and I asked him about Wolfi. He said that the last time he saw him was behind the wheel of a Rolls Royce, or Bentley, heading down Rodeo Drive.

                      He said something to the effect of " Worth $ 240 Million today: Can you imagine that "

                      1. re: SWISSAIRE

                        Can you point to an online source for your information? I've looked at several bios for Wolf and they all say the same thing. He came to the US in the early 70's and worked at a restaurant in Indianapolis called La Tour before coming to Ma Maison in 1975 as head chef working for Patrick Terrail, and finally part owner there before he started (Wolf not Patrick) the original Spago in WeHo in 1982.

                        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolfgang...

                        1. re: Servorg

                          Online, as in Wikipedia ? No, I can't.

                          1. re: SWISSAIRE

                            Wolf came to Los Angeles to go to work at Ma Maison as the head chef. I can't imagine him having either the time or inclination to work in a sandwich shop simultaneously. So this sounds like an urban legend.

                            1. re: Servorg

                              Not saying he was selling sandwiches for Omar but Ma Maison was apparently not his first job in L.A. nor what brought him out here--more like outsourcing. From the mouth of the Wolf:

                              http://blogs.laweekly.com/squidink/20...

                              1. re: New Trial

                                And I heard he was sourcing his seafood at IM. Rhis interview verifies it. I'd think this adds credibility to his chirashi.

              2. A slight dissent here:
                I thought the (brilliant) wine list to be comprehensive and remarkably well priced (Bordeaux 1st, 2nd and 3rd growths and Burgundies above 1er Cru status excluded), and the wine by the glass list to be exceptional- at first glass I thought the btg prices were high, but then realized how much wine I got for the money. Very, very happy about it.
                I actually made plans immediately to start going to the Spago bar for apps and wine- maybe that's the best course of action there?

                1. Spago is what it is. I've been to Spago about 10 times and always had good meals. I"ve been twice recently. You would argue that my meals are overpriced. I don't care, I have a lot of money. And there aren't many places that are this airy and relaxed with such good food.

                  1. We went for my birthday this past month. As for the food, the starters (chirashi sushi and veal tartare) and the pasta (celery root agnolotti) were exceptional. The mains (steak and scallops) were just OK. The dessert was a fairly good sorbet, but was way overvalued at the price point.
                    More notably were some glaring service gaffes. Towards the end of our meal, there was a quick rush to convert a table behind us for a planned party. In this process, my partner’s chair was repeatedly being bumped into by staff as well as a hired photographer who commenced to using his flash liberally while the patio was still quite full of diners whist chairs were flying over our heads. I normally don’t ask for “doggie bags”, but our server offered to bag up our remaining food. It never came back in any way shape or form. My partner and I ordered espresso and tea, respectively. The check came before the beverages, in which our server tried to save face after this was acknowledged. The espresso came, but the tea did not. With the entire hubbub, we were somewhat anxious to leave, and I noted that not one member of the FOH staff made contact with us as we exited. I saved my mental notes and composed an email. Laurent, one of the managers, called me back in response. He apologized for the experience that we had. He explained that he was not on duty that night and that he gave the server some sort of counseling. He did say that if we wanted to come back, I could call him directly and he would “take care of us.” Although I appreciate the effort, that sounds like a nebulous offer. Not sure if I should take advantage of this, or would it result in putting out more money on a potentially less than satisfying meal.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: djquinnc

                      I don't know what's more disturbing: hearing chirashi sushi associated with Spago or the service issues.

                      I completely agree: "Take care of you" is very nebulous. I would expect no more than a comped drink or dessert. I doubt we're talking a comped meal in which case you are correct. Why go drop another $150-200pp just to get some minor $20-30 comp?

                      1. re: Porthos

                        I don't know what's more disturbing: hearing chirashi sushi associated with Spago ...
                        ______________________________

                        Yeah, that threw me for a loop as well.

                        Although if you've been to Puck's restaurant in DC (The Source) I guess it should no longer be a surprise.

                        1. re: Porthos

                          Thanks for chiming in Porthos. Reading your comment solidified my decision to not roll the dice on this one. It's a shame. I had an amazing tasting menu at the former iteration as well as some fantastic lunches. Off to greener pastures for me...

                      2. Thanks for the report. I was just wondering this morning if the new Spago was good and if I should go. Did you notice whether they still offer a tasting menu?

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: sarahbeths

                          We were not offered a tasting menu. It may be a available upon request...does anyone know?

                          1. re: josephnl

                            Yeah, I'm also wondering if they still offer the tasting menu by Hefter, more than a few years ago that tasting menu I had there was really great stuff. But maybe they are now trying to be more fashionable and grabbing the younger crowd, maybe more mixed drinks etc.