Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Spago, Los Angeles California
In late February, during a family vacation to LA, we decided to experience Puck's flagship and I can honestly say it was worth every cent. The famous patio, solid silver serving platters, worldclass service, the incredible flatbread, and surounded by the glitz and glamour of the rich and trendy. I make a better Dobos Torte than Wolfgang Puck.....but when it comes to cooking, that is probably the ONLY thing I do better. From start to finish, even at lunch, Spago is an experience that everyone should splurge on once.
With the myriad of breads available, from walnut to white to sourdough to flat to olive, plus an incredible salted butter we decided against appetizers. In retrospect I wish I would have tried the famous tuna cones, but there is always next time. Each bread was complex yet perfect and the server made sure that the breadplate was never empty for more than a minute before refilling it and chatting with the table. Interestingly, wearing my leather blazer and Script Ohio T-shirt, our waiter informed us that he too was from Ohio and was extremely personable throughout the meal. Who doesn't love a fellow Buckeye in the middle of La La Land?
For our meals, my mother selected the famous Chinois salad with its perfectly mild and sweet dressing, flawlessly grilled organic chicken, and tomatoes that won't be seen in Ohio till mid-June.
Wanting the true experience of "California Pizza" from the originator, my sister and Aunt each selected a pizza, spicy chicken and mixed mushroom respectively. The chicken again was perfect, the sauce with just enough bite to touch the tongue, and cheese that was so perfectly creamy and aged that it may have been more bitey than the sauce. The mushrooms on the second pizza were sauteed, grilled, and meaty w/o a bit of softness or discoloration. The tomatoes, this time both green and red, exploded with flavor and perfectly tempered the earthy cheese/fungus combination. The crusts on each were perfectly bubbly and crisp, as well.
For my main, I opted for the Lobster Club Sandwich with smokey bacon on grilled walnut bread and lotus root, sweet potato, and carrot chips. While some may say $34 for a sandwhich is audacious, I say it is delicious. Soft and fresh, the lobster was flawlessly prepared and buttery smooth. The smokey bacon contrasted well with the bread, and a very thin layer of creamy sauce with fresh crisp tomatoes put the whole sandwich over the top. Wow.
Clearly desserts were a must at Spago. A Hungarian descendant who swears by the Dobos Torte as the ultimate dessert, I thought my aunt was going to stroke out when she saw it on the menu. While the presentation was glorious and the flavor was certainly better than even the best Chocolate cake, it is always hard to top things 'the way mom made them' and even Puck's best effort couldn't top Grandma's old recipe that we make from time to time at special occassions. A valiant effort though, for sure.
My mother, a coffee lover, opted for the Coffee profiteroles which featured an extremely rich coffee icecream sandwiched between delicate creampuffs and topped with an incredibly rich dark chocolate sauce. The dish shined in every way imaginable, from presentation to flavor and if anything may have actually been TOO rich for anyone but the biggest coffee fan.
My sister, unable to decide on one option, chose Wolfgang's cookies and sweets; a plate of assorted cookies, candies, rolls, and tarts. Totaling 16 items, the spread ran a gamut of flavors - some simple like a chocolate chip cookie and other incredibly complex like a neopolitain tart.
For myself, I figured if anyone could make a fine strudel it would be a great German chef.....and I was correct. Wolfgang's 'childhood favorite' did not disappoint in any way with perfectly spiced apples baked in a warm pastry shell and served with an impossibly complex 50 bean vanilla icecream. I truly wish the restaurant had been less crowded so I could have licked the plate clean. :-)
All said with tip the total bill was $160, an expensive lunch for sure, but worth every penny to be treated like a king and to eat amazing food by an amazing chef at such a famous restaurant.