Absence absolutely makes the heart grow fonder. We had not been back to Spago for quite some time. Even though there were a lot of repeats on our tasting menu, 4 months was enough to overcome my boredom.
In many respects Spago is really two restaurants–one catering to the typical LA LA Land diners watching their waist lines and gawking at the celebs and the other catering to serious diners offering a tasting menu of focused, tightly created dishes. Basically, the majority of diners are there to be seen. There is a hardcore group of us that are there to eat. Out of the 420 covers, plus the private party, there were only 60 tasting menus which actually is a lot for Spago. Most diners order an appetizer, a main and dessert.
We were seated at our favorite table outside on the patio with a great view of the room and the entry and bar area. The patio is beautiful with a 100 year old olive tree, tropical plants and a waterwall fountain. The air was balmy, the pace of the room unhurried and the over-all ambiance “magical” romantic.
I have never looked at a menu at Spago – we always just leave it up to Lee Hefter or Thomas Boyce.
The starters on the tasting menu are virtually unchanged.
Signature dish of Spicy Tuna Tartar in a sesame tuile
Avocado Gratin tart with Iranian oscetra caviar
Toad in a hole – Brioche, Quail Egg, Black truffle, Black Truffle Mascarpone Emulsion
Inside of the bacon en croute
Hama Hama Oyster with Avocado Gratin, Bernaise sauce with Caviar
Uni and Thinly Sliced Santa Barbara Bay Scallops topped with Oscetra Caviar – this was one of the best dishes of the night of the night – perfect very thinly sliced scallops sashimi with fresh as fresh uni. I don’t remember the saucing, but it didn’t detract from the ingredients.
Oysters surrounded by oyster liquor, mint chiffonade, Spanish olive oil and in the center of the plate a sorbet of Japanese cucumber – this was the first time Lee had made this dish and he said we were the first victims to try it. It was excellent – the sorbet was somewhat pungent, but the over-all effect was light and summery.
Sautéed White Australian Asparagus on brioche, topped with a quail egg – sauce of morel mushrooms and bacon confit. The dish is first presented with just the asparagus and quail egg. The morel sauce is then spooned on tableside. This was another winner with the highlight being the sauce of morels and bacon mixing with the runny yolk.
Santa Barbara Prawns, Charred Eggplant puree, Light Thai Red Curry topped with Microgreens – sometimes Lee has too heavy a hand with Thai spices, but this was subtle with a nice balance of flavors.
Pan Roasted Black Bass, Sweet Corn, Little Neck Clams, Spanish Chorizo, Garlic/Potato puree with Basil Oil – the bass was cooked to perfection – crispy skin, tender flesh. The combination of corn, chorizo, clams and potato a huge nod to Spain
Summer White Truffle , Sweet Corn Agnolotti, Mascarpone Cheese – I was surprised that the white truffle has as much flavor as it did as I was expecting blah based on earlier experiences.
California Rabbit wrapped with bacon and stuffed with herbs, chorizo and brioche crumbs. On the side Braised Shoulder of Rabbit with Potato Gnocchi
Sonoma Lamb, Fig and Onion Soubise, Porcini mushrooms, Maytag Blue Cheese sauce and Potato Emulsion – the Maytag sauce made this dish.
Tustin Baracata – sheep’s milk, Piemonte, Italy
Blanc de Blue du Ruzet, Goat’s Milk, perigord, France
Mont Briac, Cow’s Milk, Avergne, France
We were supposed to have a dessert course, but we called it off – I was definitely full.
I think Spago is a definite must on someone’s list of fine dining restaurants in Los Angeles. But, for someone who lives here, I think the key is to not go often. The amuses tend to remain the same from one visit to the next and as a result becomes boring if you go often. There is no doubt that Lee and the kitchen delivers, that Laurent as AGM is a wonder and the patio is one of the most pleasant places to dine.