When I visited: March 2016
Location: LA, Beverly Hills
Team: Wolfgang Puck (founder), Lee Hefter (Executive Corporate Chef), Philip Dunn (Wine Director)
Rating in the Michelin Guide: Not rated in the Guide (the Guide doesn’t cover LA)
What to wear: Men – jeans or nice trousers and a shirt; women – jeans and a smart top or a smart dress
Ambience: Fun, bustling
Course of the meal: Meyer lemon
If I could change one thing: Serve courses more slowly
Spago is a well-known restaurant in LA’s (also well-known) Beverly Hills. Disappointingly, I didn’t see any celebrities there, despite my ability to swivel my head (apart from the renowned fine dining blogger Dining Owl in the mirror when I went to the bathrooms). However, the dark, lively, cool atmosphere, as well as the quality of the early and late courses, made up for this.
I went with my partner Owl and we shared a full-bodied bottle of red (2012 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Darioush). Unlike on our recent visit to The Waterside Inn and more in keeping with restaurants like Texture, the stunt plates on our table at the start were taken away before any food was served. We were given an impressive bread selection (including walnut and cherry and French baguettes) served with soft creamy white butter and seaweed butter, as well as a tasty amuse bouche – a cone of spicy tuna tartare with ginger.
The menu is separated into ‘ones’ ‘twos’ and ‘threes’, and on the recommendation of our waiter we had one course each from each category. The ‘ones’ were chargrilled oranges with San Daniele ham and burrata, which made for a very strong start to the meal. However, these were not small for ‘ones’ and the speed at which our ‘twos’ were served set up my biggest gripe about this restaurant: everything is served in quick succession, so you don’t have the appetite to truly enjoy everything.
My’two’ (handmade agnolotti with sweet peas and mascarpone and parmigiana reggiano) was excellent, as was my partner Owl’s tagliatelle with black truffle. However, we didn’t appreciate this enough due to the speed of their delivery. The size of our ‘threes’ (half jidori chicken with perigord black truffles, goats cheese, Yukon gold potato purée and natural jus and rack of lamb with quenelle of potato and falafel macarons and mint sauce and yoghurt (Greek style)) was slightly off-putting as they also arrived way too quickly, but the balance of textures and tastes on the plate was still OK … however, not good enough to avoid the dreaded main course dip!
Luckily, we shared the ‘Meyer lemon’ dessert, which was excellent – lemon sorbet with vanilla mousse, crushed meringues and red fruit. Our green teas which followed were actually green and came in a whole mini kettle for each of us.
The staff were friendly throughout and the sommelier was particularly helpful, and the decor is cool, including a lit-up picture of a Californian sunset. Some diners had a view of the kitchen, which is often fascinating to watch. There is some garden seating in the restaurant (to make it more private for celebrities?) and a fairly large waiting lounge/bar area.