Sunday, June 3, 2007

Spago

Although the original Spago closed its doors back in 2001, the glitzier Beverly Hills outpost remains a bustling trendy eatery twenty five years after the originals opening, albeit with an apparently aging demographic. Indeed eating dinner there last night the average age seemed to be well into the 50's, and the only face under the age of 30 was playing a Nintendo Gameboy. If the demographic seems on the older side the decor is positively dated. Designed by Barbara Lazaroff the interior is a gaudy eclectic fusion of Old World style - hand blown glass, olive trees and New World glitz in the guise abstract art and pottery. A bizarre amalgamation that comes off looking oddly Byzantine. The fact that the inspiration for the entire design was based on a poem penned by Lazaroff herself is probably an indication that interior designers should stay away from poetry.


Having said all that both the food and service were beyond reproach. The wait staff was impeccable in their precision always managing to be on hand when required. The food was made with wonderfully fresh ingredients. The crab cake was succulent and deeply flavorful with a beautiful golden crust, the oyster were as fresh as they come. But this is Beef Aficionado so the main course would of course be bovine. The options are decent for the carnivore at Spago. Foi Gras and veal maybe off the menu after the recent brouhaha between Wolfgang Puck and the animal rights lot but there remains a Cote De Boeuf for two, a NY Strip and Beef Goulash.

I chose the latter, at $62 the NY strip seemed a bit steep considering that that very sum bought me a whole 22oz T Bone at Pacific Dining Car . Now I know that we are dealing with apples and oranges in terms of restaurants but at the same time in the world of steak there are absolutes and Puck's strip offered nothing, in terms of pedigree or dry aging time over Pacific Dining Car. When an adjacent table ordered the steak and I saw a rather small, pre-sliced strip appear I felt I had made a wise decision. In any event, I knew I would have a chance to sample Puck's steak later in the week at his new steak house Cut. So the goulash it was and it was absolutely the best iteration of the dish I have had, but at $29 I suppose it should have been. The Beef was wonderfully succulent, easily severed with a fork it melted in the mouth. It had a deep hearty flavor, the smoky sweetness imparted by the paprika balanced nicely by the marjoram and parsley. Although the waitress warned me that it was spicy it was not really hot at all. The accompanying sauteed spatzle was crispy on the outside with a soft interior, its salty crunch providing a nice contrast to the tender beef. All in all it was a beautiful comforting dish.

So, despite the subjectively gaudy decor, Spago offers not only a lovely incarnation of goulash but some wonderfully fresh food made with absolute care replete with truly professional service.

Spago
176 North Canon Dr.
Beverly Hills, CA 90210

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