Pretty woman, walking down the street~~ Today we went to Spago at Beverly Hills for dinner.
Everyone in my generation knows Beverly Hills 90210. But this was my first visit to this famous neighbourhood. As I was tracing Julia Roberts’ footsteps along Rodeo drive, I remembered I was running late for another important date.
Located in the heart of Beverly Hills along Canon Drive, Spago is the flagship restaurant made famous by Wolfgang Puck. Renovated in 2012 by Waldo’s Designs, the sleek and simple design of the restaurant enhances the iconic, market-driven menus and exceptional level of service for which the restaurant is best known.
I was quite disappointed that they served the wines without showing us the bottle. The wine list said 2017, but the Pinot Noir that was poured was 2016. The Tempranillo was even poured somewhere else and simply brought to us. Not exactly fine dining practices.
Pizza with House Cured Smoked Scottish Salmon
Red Onion | Dill Creme Fraiche | Chives | Salmon Roe
The famous smoked salmon pizza on the menu of Spago is a decadent affair: traditional olive oil is replaced with the bold flavors of chili and garlic oil, fresh dill creme fraiche (dill cream) takes the place of mozzarella cheese, and the sevruga caviar adds an extra layer of luxury. There’s an $80 extra charge for the caviar though.
The now-famous Wolfgang Puck pizza recipe allegedly came about one night, when Joan Collins ordered smoked salmon with brioche; Puck improvised a pizza twist on the classic bagel and cream cheese, complete with red onions and fresh dill, to make up for the fact that he was out of bread.
Spago defined California cuisine in the 1980s and started a California pizza trend that spread far and wide, spawning copycats and inspiring other famous chefs. Even the reverent late Paul Bocuse put this smoked salmon pizza in his 3 star restaurant. Had to say the house made smoked salmon was really delicious and not salty like most supermarket type smoked salmon. And the idea was so simple that you would think,”Why can’t I do it at home?”
Spicy Big Eye Tuna Tartare Cones
Sesame – Ginger Tuile | Chili Aioli | Wasabi | Tosa Soy | Diakon Sprouts
As we bite into these cones, the scenes of Hollywood stars munching into them after the Oscar ceremonies came to mind. But I didn’t expected them to be so sticky and messy. The stars looked so elegant as they worked through them. We, on the other hand, made a mess on the table.
Agnolotti del Plin
First Of The Season White Corn | Sage | Truffle Butter | Mascarpone | Parmigiano Reggiano
It’s seemingly hard to escape from a meal at Spago without getting served some sort of house made agnolotti, and tonight’s version featured the super sweet white corn. Easier to make than its fiddly relatives ravioli and tortellini, agnolotti are small parcels made by piping dots of filling and folding and pinching it to seal. Sweet, nutty and with a hit of salt from the parmigiano, this was a home run pasta dish.
Slow Roasted Maine Monkfish
Black Trumpet Mushrooms | Lentils | Black Garlic | Paprika
As far as fish go, it’s possible that monkfish is the ugliest ever to swim in the Atlantic. The Japanese has been serving the monkfish liver as an appetiser for the longest time. But the flesh of the monkfish is seldom seen on a fine dining table.
With sweet and meaty lobster-like flesh, monkfish is affectionately known as “poor man’s lobster”. Meaty and dense and slightly spongy to the bite, the fish was perfectly cooked. I am not a fan of lentils, so I pretty much left it there.
Grilled Marcho Farm’s Veal Chop
Escarole | Sunchoke | Smoked Bone Marrow | Rosemary Natural Jus
There’s an infactuation in serving young calves for meat and Mario Farms has been doing it for 50 years. Generally, veal is more expensive by weight than beef from older cattle, and they promise to be more tender too.
The waitress recommended a side of truffle fries, and we thought why not. It was not the best fries we have eaten. Even the ketchup was quite bad.
Luckily the grilled veal was delicious. Every bite was so tender and juicy, and strangely not bloody. I wondered have they been sous vide before grilling. But the rest of the plate was not as exciting as the bone-in veal.
Raspberries | Peaches | Almond | Strawberry Sorbet
All hail the Kardinalschnitte, the cake fit for the Cardinal! On the occasion of Catholic Day in 1933, the Heiner café and confectionery created the “Kardinalschnitte” in honor of Cardinal Theodor Innitzer, a pastry made from biscuit and meringue mass and filled with cream. The two masses of eggs create a pattern in the colors of the Vatican, yellow and white.
Assembled with layers Austrian meringue-sponge cake with strawberry-white chocolate crème, and inlaid with summer berries and peaches, this dessert might as well be called the Papstschnitte. So good that we finished the whole thing even though we were stuffed at this point. Served with a quenelle of strawberry sorbet to soften the sugar overload.
Tonight was a lot of hits and misses. Firstly, the hits. We tried all the signature items that Wolfgang Puck is famous for like the smoked salmon pizza, tuna cones and house made agnolotti, and they didn’t disappoint. But the mains were unimaginative and overpriced.
But then we were not even seated in the main restaurant and instead were put in an air-conditioned tent with some plants, some room dividers and round tables. They could have told us when we made the reservations.
Most of the service staff seemed to be undertrained and had no idea of working in a restaurant, moreover in a fine dining restaurant. This led to overwhelmed and stressed experienced staff which the guests desperately desired but they rarely reached the tables.
In conclusion, the glory days of Spago have long-since passed. The food, overall, is not inspiring, and even the signature dishes seem to be tired. They remain at best a tourist attraction.
Spago by Wolfgang Puck
176 North Canon Drive Beverly Hills, CA 90210
Tel : +1 310.385.0880
Visited in Sep 2022