After cleaning up and changing after the LA Marathon we headed over to Spago for a post race dinner adventure. We arrived a few minutes early and had to wait in the corner until it was time to seat us. This was a very nice restaurant with an open kitchen and some nice art. They had some issues with the temperature during our meal so it was either freezing or burning hot which was strange for such an expensive restaurant. After about fifteen minutes we were at our table and ready to eat.
I’m going to try not to make comparisons to Scarpetta because they are different genres of food but I will do it for the service. While Scarpetta was expensive they created an experience through their service that allowed you to forget the prices of the food. Spago was the complete opposite. Maybe they could smell the middle class on us but I felt out of place and completely unwelcome throughout the entire meal. When we walked in we were barely acknowledged while “regulars” got a grand welcome. We were sent to a table with two chairs so I had to stand, no one came over to help us all sit together let alone ask if we wanted drinks. I was even wearing my marathon finishers medal and not one person even looked at me let alone acknowledge the marathon. Our waiter seemed disinterested in us and we waited a while to order because they served the people they knew first. The person who paid the most attention to us was the bread guy so I am thankful for that at least. With such a cold and uncaring service it was hard to appreciate the food that we ate. At Scarpetta we didn’t want to leave but at Spago all I could think about was how late it would be when we got home. Kind of sad for what would end up being a $300 meal.
We ordered our food and then experienced the weirdest bread service. They had a guy whose sole job was to serve us bread one piece at a time. After each finished piece he would come back with his tray of bread and serve you another of your choosing. I’m not sure I understand that but whatever the strange part was that while the bread was served fancy it was in no way fancy itself. In addition the butter may as well have been supermarket brand. It was not spruced up in any way and did not seem to fit with the way the bread was served. Anyway, I ate like eight pieces of bread so I made our guy earn his paycheck that night.
After a little while and in a dining room that had become twenty degrees hotter since we arrived, our appetizers appeared. I ordered the risotto with Maine lobster, stone crab, lemon, garlic, and basil. This was a very well done risotto, creamy and full of flavor. The lobster and crab were cooked to perfection and made the dish extremely rich. While you would think creamy seafood risotto would be very heavy the lemon and herbs kept it tasting fresh and light. This was a very good combination of flavors and a well thought out dish. I polished it off pretty quickly partly because it was delicious and partly because I was really hungry from the race.
Next came the entrees accompanied by intense cold now that they turned on the air conditioning. My dish was the seared Maine diver scallops. Now this entree was inspired, I have to give props where they are due. First of all, they gave me four full scallops which made me feel OK about the $39 price tag. Usually for that price and for diver scallops, you would get two, maybe three, so the size of this entree made me happy.
The presentation was gorgeous and obviously prepared with a deft hand. Layered on top of whole peas, a pea puree, and a balsamic reduction, these scallops were perfectly seared and delicious. The most impressive part of the whole dish was the foam lying on top of the scallops themselves. While it did not add a huge amount of discernible flavor to the dish it just looked so cool on top and as you can see made the picture frame worthy. Mixed together the flavor profile was unique and made me want to come back for each bite until only sauce and some greens were left. The peas, in my opinion, were what made this dish. Whole and pureed they tied everything together and added a fresh taste to the seafood. Just like the cauliflower they day before, these peas were the shocking superstar of the night. No what I would have thought with diver scallops on top but a reality nonetheless. The sad thing is that the menu changed since we ate at Spago so the scallop recipe calls for a different supporting cast so this may have been the one and only time I ate this dish. Sad but better than never getting it at all.
Though I was pretty full my list item was dessert so I had to press on. Kaiserschmarren is impossible to pronounce and was Wolfgang Pucks favorite as a child. That is why it is on the menu at a restaurant next to deconstructed this and foam that. I am not a huge dessert or pancake fan and this was a combo of the two but surprisingly enough I liked the Kaiserschmarren.With a chunky strawberry sauce on the bottom, the pancake looking dessert was anything but. The outside was fried, fluffy, and soft but when you got inside you discover what makes it a great dessert. The recipe calls for creme fraiche in the batter and then a soft meringue mixed in. This made the inside of the cakes, complete mush in a very good way. Impressively sweet, right on the edge of too much this was a great dish and a perfect way to end the meal. Mixed with the strawberries it really felt like breakfast but so much better. I would order this again and with the recipe, I can try to make it at home.
I am really torn with my review of Spago. The food was very good and I really can’t complain about the meal but the service was pretentious and somewhat upsetting. If I am going to come to a fancy restaurant I expect to be treated like their favorite customer every time. I just did not get that feeling in any way at Spago, to be honest I felt like they did not want us there from the start. With that coupled by the weird bread service, the disengagement from our waiter, and the huge temperature shifts, I cannot give Spago a great rating because it just was not fun. Eating out should be an experience, if I wanted to shovel in food and go home I would go get fast food at a drive through. If I am going to spend my entire month’s food budget on one meal, I expect to be treated like I belong to be in the room. It is for this reason that I won’t be back even though the food was undeniably delicious. Thankfully I won’t miss the sea scallops because the menu has already changed.
Overall Rating: 5/10
You can find the ever changing Spago menu here