Okay, I’m a little late on this one. 17 years after it opened I finally had dinner at Spago in Beverly Hills and I have to say it was kind of great. I was there with Brett Easton Ellis who now lives in LA, and with Paul and Chris who had never been to Spago either. (Rumor has it Paul was banned years ago for suggesting that Barbara Lazaroff’s design might not be everything one could wish).
Spago could well be the most famous restaurant in America, at least if you value glamour and glitz over the pathbreaking cuisine of Chez Panisse, the other contender for America’s most famous.
I should say at first the restaurant knew we were coming and took great care of us, but I watched other tables and they were equally well taken care of too. We were offered several amuse bouche, one was the raw uni cornet, which I always thought of as Thomas Keller’s invention, but since Spago has been open longer, maybe Wolfgang’s was first or at least the inspiration for Keller (or maybe they stole the idea from the French Laundry).
What makes Spago great? I kept asking myself that as I looked around the dining room and noticed that everyone seemed really happy and excited. Maybe it’s the celebrity factor that thrills people, or perhaps it is simply the fact that the food is consistently good, especially the classics. If you order simply you won’t be disappointed. If you order right you might be kind of amazed.
The menu is fun to read though ordering is kind of challenging because you want to try that “Karntner Kase Nudeln” Giant Farmers Cheese Ravioli or the roasted Chino Farm’s Beet layer cake. And what about that sweet corn and mascarpone agnolotti with shaved summer truffles? The agnolotti were sent to the table so I didn’t have a choice and they were so transcendent. Agnolotti are one of my favorite dishes and these were the best I’ve had outside of the Piedmont.
When the waiter came to take our order Brett told him that he hates to make a decision and asked him to make it for him. The waiter suggested the vine ripened California heirloom tomato salad and the caramelized “natural” veal chop which Brett happily accepted. I ordered the Adriatic fig and proscuitto salad with fresh burrata cheese, 50 year old balsamic vinegar, and micro greens, and the pan-roasted Alaskan halibut. Chris and Paul ordered the spicy beef goulash and the wiener schnitzel”. See what I mean? The menu asks you to take these crazy chances…
All of our appetizers were amazing. My halibut was slightly overcooked but Brett’s veal chop was perfect and delicious. The goulash served with pan-fried spaetzle was okay, not mind blowing, and the wiener scnhitzel did nothing for me. Kevin O’Conner, the sommelier, poured some very interesting wines for us,-- a 2006 Chenin Blanc from the Loire, Jasnieres, Cuvée du Silex from Pascal Janvier, and Jean-Marie Fourrier Morey St. Denis “Clos Salon” 2001 that he had been saving in the cellar. It was insane. He then poured a 2000 Flaccianello , a 100% sangiovese wine that was calling out for cheese. They sent us desserts--a huckleberry semifreddo, a chocolate layer cake, and something else I can’t remember. All were okay. I’m just not a dessert person. I would have preferred cheese.
As we finished dinner, I actually thought to myself that I’d like to come back. I really had a great time and though the dining room is not exactly my style, there was some great 80s rock playing in the background. I thought it was all kind of perfect.
176 N. Canon Drive
Beverly Hills, California 90210