Wolfgang Puck is one of the defining voices of American cuisine. I wasn’t quite sure whether my time in LA should involve a trip to his restaurant or an examination of how the places I visited were influenced by his work, and the work of the likes of Alice Waters and Jeremiah Tower, in putting this style of cooking – not to say that California cuisine is a necessarily a unified style – on the map.
I decided that a trip to Spago felt like the right thing to do and was delighted that LA’s newest bartending sensation, Kaiko Tulloch, had availability to join me.
Spago has a kinda relaxed club bistro atmosphere going on rather than feeling so much like a formal restaurant space. It feels airily Californian with interior and courtyard seating, while retaining a good level of European elegance.
Apparently at lunchtime they largely serve from the a la carte list, but I was keen for them to make decisions rather than let us loose and miss the real menu highlights. After a chat with the kitchen, it was agreed that they could serve us a version of their tasting selection. I hated to compound their problems, but they also agreed to put together a paired wines package.
This started with 2005 vintage Lanson Champagne which is rarely a wrong step. This was paired with snacks of tuna tartare, savoury marshmallow and the obligatory carrot course which in this case was served as a carrot and kaffir lime sorbet in a soil-planted fashioned root.
We had further snacks of maple macaron and dungeoness crab balls both of which were excellent.
Our first full course was octopus served with avocado and cucumber in a hollowed coconut. It was both fun to eat – with satisfying lightly smoky octopus – and enjoyably perilous with the coconut always giving the sense that you could scrape too far and end up with a splatter fest down your front.
We then moved to a classic John Dory dish with light foam topping. This was an elegant if slightly forgettable fish course.
The pasta course of house-made agnolloti – squash with a parmesan topping – was beautfully light and deeply satisfying.
We were then brought a gently smoking animal – in this case a pigeon – for our approval as the next course. This was brought back as a fairly elegant dish with squab leg and dehydrated lotus root. It was a very good dish.
Our main course was a meat fest with bone marrow, A5 wagyu and accompanying veg. It was a very well prepared piece of excellent beef.
Dessert was a simple dish of meringue and bramble which seemed fairly appropriate as it was in Bramble’s sister bar Lucky Liquor that Kaiko and I first met.
Throughout there were some bangin’ wines with a Pichler Riesling made specifically for the restaurant outstanding and a really good Chateauneuf-du-Pape blanc the standouts.
Spago was a really enjoyable experience. We lunched in fine style and it was a considerable pleasure to welcome Kaiko along as a guest quester for the first time. The menu had a real zest and freshness to it while the restaurant exuded a classic charm. It was every bit as good as I’d hoped it would be and more.
Blythe scores Spago
4.5/5 for food
4.5/5 for presentation
4/5 for service
4/5 for setting
giving an overall 17/20
Today’s questers were: Kaiko, Blythe
We ate: tasting menu
We drank: gin n tonic, paired wines, sparkly water, espressos
We wore: Slipknot jumpsuit, garish tiki wear
Total bill: $530
Address: 176 North Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, 90210