Wolgang Puck is arguably one of the most famous chefs in the world. His flagship restaurant, Spago, in Beverly Hills, has been on my bucket list for a while, and I finally got to try it!
Getting There and Parking
Spago is located in the heart of Beverly Hills on North Canon Drive, just north of Wilshire Blvd. Of course, there is valet parking right in front, but if you’re cheap (like me, haha), there is a parking garage around the block next to Whole Foods Market. On Sunday night it was only $2 after 6PM.
It’s practically impossible for any restaurant to live up to the hype that Spago has. The interior is definitely nice, but there are plenty of high-end restaurants in L.A. that are just as nice.
The restaurant offers indoor and outdoor courtyard seating. In my opinion, the outdoor courtyard is the best place to dine, weather permitting. It’s charming and has a nicer ambiance. I found the interior to be a bit too brightly-lit later in the evening, by comparison.
Many popular restaurants in L.A. suffer from being too noisy (this is a pet peeve of mine). Not the case at Spago. There was a lot of conversation going on, but the tables were adequately spaced to make quiet conversation easy, thankfully.
OK, the main reason to go to Spago is the food. Or more specifically, if you or your date is a foodie. The menu offers “California Cuisine”, featuring Wolfgang Puck’s take on pasta, seafood, chicken, rabbit, lamb and steak, among other items.
In order to sample as many dishes as possible, we decided to try the California Tasting Menu (similar to what is offered at Dine LA). Cost was $145 per person, or $270 per person with wine pairing. Note, the tasting menu is only available if the whole table gets it.
There is one bonus that you get with the tasting menu that I’ll talk about below.
If you’re famished, the tasting menu is probably not the way to go though, as it starts out with very small portions, and you’re likely to be frustrated. By the end we were satisfied, but definitely not stuffed.
The Tasting Menu Items
The tasting menu started out with six “amuse-bouches”, each offering one bite of an exquisitely crafted appetizer. They come out one at a time, spaced apart by several minutes.
First was Spago’s signature item, the Spicy Tuna Tartare in Sesame Miso Tuille Cone, along with the Savory Parmesan Marshmallow.
The tuna “cone” was excellent, worthy of its fame. The Parmesan marshmallow was also good, and unexpectedly light.
Next came the Yorkshire Pudding, Whipped Beef Tallow and Bresaola which was also one of my favorites.
After that was a really unusual item – Heirloom Carrot-Kaffir Lime Puree served in a metal bucket of “dirt”, which was actually seasoned breadcrumbs. We asked the waiter if you were supposed to eat that too, and he said you could, but it wasn’t really intended to be eaten, it was just for decoration.
Next was the Sesame Ball with Dungeness Crab, Thai Curry Spice, and Sakura Shrimp. The sesame ball resembled what you get at a Dim Sum restaurant. I liked this one too.
An Unexpected Treat
After that the maître d’ came to our table and offered a cool bonus for those who order the tasting menu – a quick trip to the kitchen! There, he explained the various food prep stations and offered to take a photo of us. This is a small detail, but we really appreciated it, and it’s definitely one reason to consider when deciding on the tasting menu.
There, we had probably my favorite amuse-brouche, the Maple Macaron with Bacon and Egg Yolk Jam.
The Main Courses
Next came the seven main courses. Some of these are only a few bites, which was perfect, because we didn’t want to feel stuffed by the time the next course arrived.
First up was the Charred Octopus in Coconut Bowl. This is a cold dish but we really liked the flavors. You get to scrape the coconut meat out of the bowl with a special titanium spoon they give you.
Next was the bread, accompanied with labneh (yogurt), olive oil, lemon, and green harissa (a Middle-Eastern spice). The bread was great, as you would expect.
Next was “The Egg”, which was presented in a hollowed egg shell and consisted of corn custard and caviar. Also very good.
After that was the Olive Oil Poached Ora King Salmon with beet ponzu. This was served warm.
Next was the Baked Bone Marrow with Santa Barbara Uni, chorizo, and clams. I was not a big fan of this one, not because it was bad, but just because I’m not crazy about bone marrow. It was a bit too oily for my taste. But, if you love bone marrow, I’m sure you’ll like this one.
After that was the Hand Made Agnolotti with Summer Truffles. These are served in a glass dome. After the waiters lift the dome, they let you smell the amazing truffle aroma. There were only a few bites, but they were wonderful.
Next was the Devil’s Gulch Ranch Rabbit, which came with a small serving of gnocchi on the side. Very good as well.
The final savory course was the Snake River Farm’s Wagyu Rib-Eye which came with Charred Mustard-Miso. It was a pretty small piece of meat, but it was excellent, especially with the mustard miso sauce.
Dessert was the Baba au Rum with Farmer’s Market Nectarines, plus a tiny bit of Coconut Sorbet. The Baba au Rum was a rum-soaked pastry. This was a great way to end the meal.
Another bonus of dining at Spago is the possibility of a celebrity sighting. On the night we went, a very pregnant Kate Hudson and her party sat down at the table next to us.
Was It Worth It?
Spago is definitely pricey, especially if you have drinks. It’s something to reserve for a special occasion, or if you’re a foodie and want to knock it off your bucket list. If you are a foodie, Spago will not disappoint. Each course was flavorful and masterfully executed. The service was top notch as well.
Personally, I’m really glad I went and tried it, and I enjoyed almost everything. But, it’s definitely a place that I would reserve for special occasions only.
If you don’t have a passion for fine food, and the idea of blowing over $300 for dinner for two seems insane, you might be better off going somewhere else.
What to do After Dinner
Being in the heart of Beverly Hills, there are tons of high-end shops within walking distance, but almost all are closed at dinner time. Still it can be fun to window-shop.
My suggestion, however, is to walk up North Canon (away from Wilshire) half a block and make a left on Dayton Way. Walk a few blocks, then enter the famous Via Rodeo cobblestone walkway.
You’ll emerge on the other side at the famous Rodeo Drive Steps.
From there, cross the street and go to the famous Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire. During the summer, they open the second floor’s outdoor Secret Rosé Garden. There are charming overhead lights and rose decorations, and you can see Wilshire Blvd. below. This is a great place for after-dinner or after-lunch drinks.
Dinner at Spago, plus a pleasant walk around Beverly Hills, can make a great date night if you’re into fine cuisine and can afford the cost.
Have you been to Spago? What did you think of it? Please leave your comments and questions below! – Brian