Spago’s Veal Filet Mignon Tartare is raw veal topped with a thin layer of mascarpone.
(Credit: Ann Au)
Ever since the grand re-opening of this Wolfgang Puck flagship in October 2012, Spago has created a lot of buzz and is even dubbed as the “Best Restaurant in Los Angeles” by various social media platforms, food websites and blogs. On top of causing a stir in the L.A. culinary scene, the revamped (and better) Spago has also given “fine dining” a spick-and-span definition.
Instead of giving off that stuffy atmosphere like most fine dining restaurants do, the face-lifted Spago conveys an opposite atmosphere: light and airy, with rays of sunlight streaming through the semi-covered outdoor patio. Solid colors dominate the indoor dining room. There are beige walls, white tablecloths and dark seating as well as wine bottles and sleek artwork that beautifully line the walls.
In compliance with the relaxed settings in the restaurant, the waiters and waitresses are very cheery and bubbly as well. As soon as I stepped into Spago, they greeted me with a wide smile. Upon learning that we did not make any reservations and that a baby shower was being held in the restaurant on that day, the hostess went well above and beyond to try to accommodate us. To our surprise, we were seated within a few minutes. (Note: make a reservation to secure a table, especially if you want to sit at the outdoor patio beside an olive tree.)
The servers are all excellently trained. They radiate genuine attentiveness, friendliness and warmth from within, without being over-the-top chatty or pushy. The only minor complaint here is their uniform. The combination of a white shirt, black tie and black vest seems a bit boring and dated. However, putting aside this small blemish, Spago is a spot where you can always count on its consistently killer customer service, which I dare say is rare in L.A.
There is no doubt the remodeled place looks absolutely pleasant and nice, and the service is top-notch. But still, it is hard not to focus on the food! What’s better than to start this dining experience with an assortment of warm, yeasty, fluffy bread? Spago serves two kinds of bread: flavorful old-style sour dough with a crispy crust and rye crisp bread infused with assorted nuts and sunflower seeds. Smear these slices of breads with the two kinds of butters available, the regular butter or another one infused with herbs. The combination will fill each mouthful with bursting flavors.
After having our taste buds enticed by the scrumptious breadbasket, it’s time to move on to appetizers and entrees.
Wolfgang Puck did a wonderful job on rebooting the menu. The updated menu is tailored much more to the contemporary fusion tastes, and it draws global inspirations from near and far. Some of the options include: grilled USDA prime beef burger served with aged cheddar and smoked bacon, Wiener Schnitzel, Austrian potatoes and cucumber salad and “Hong Kong”-style steamed casco bay cod with Jasmine rice on the side.
We finally decided to go with the veal filet mignon tartare, the smoked salmon potato galette with beet horseradish cream, and the pizza with house cured smoked salmon with dill crème fraiche.
Out of the three dishes, the tartare is definitely my favorite. The veal was nicely smoked and stuffed into two hollowed out bones, which reminds me just a little bit of bone marrow (both have that smooth and slimy texture) with a pinch of mascarpone sprinkled on top. The dollop of mustard, the greens and the thinly sliced baguette on the side complemented the dish wonderfully. The creaminess of the mascarpone balances well with the sliminess of the slightly salted raw meat – it was light yet packed with flavors. Also, the meat is so soft that it will melt in your mouth.
The smoked salmon potato galette with beet horseradish cream is a rather creative combination. Each bite was creamy and smooth, with a bit of crunchiness from the galette. Decorated with pastel flowers, it’s a work of edible art!
Last but not least, the smoked salmon pizza is a regular pizza topped with smoked salmon and a layer of dill crème fraiche, drizzled off with a sprinkle of caviar and chopped scallions. What makes it stand out from a regular pizza, however, is the amazingly moist and fresh salmon. It is not an exaggeration to claim this dish is a succulent, delicious slice of heaven. I relished every bite of it.
Even though everything came in small portions, every dish was surprisingly filling, and I left with a smile and a fully satisfied stomach. Considering the price, Spago may not be the best place to dine at on a daily basis. However, it is certainly a good place to enjoy quality food, prompt and cheerful service, and it’s a great place to get away from the city noise.
Spago is located at 176 N. Canon Drive in Beverly Hills. For more information, call 310.385.0880.
Article posted on 5/15/2013
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