Spago is a superlative place for a celebratory dinner. As soon as you enter the dining room you feel as though you are at a dinner party in the middle of Beverly Hills. And while tasting menus, and three hour dinners can be fun, some times you'd rather graze... Try a few bites of one item, and a few of another. Chef Tetsu Yahagi has designed the bar menu with exactly this in mind.
Available only at dinner and only in the bar, the bar menu is provocative and brilliant. Bancho grilled chicken wings and sweet and sour pork belly may not be the first things that come to mind when eating at Spago, but from now on they should be.
It's obvious that Chef Tetsu has full rule over this new project, meant to draw a more spontaneous dinner crowd. His Japanese roots united with his passion for the best ingredients our local markets have to offer are clear in dishes like the steamed bao with glazed short rib and sweet bean sauce as well as sticky rice and pork meatballs with siracha chili. The bao are incredibly soft and the sweet steamed bun gives way to the tender rib and a slight kick from the peppers. The meatballs are fun to eat and have a complexity from the sweet rice mixed with the heat from the siracha.
We wouldn't remember we were at Wolfgang Puck if it wasn't for the classic tuna tartar in the sesame miso cones. If you've never had these, you must as they are a signature item and impossible to tire of. We are brought back to California with the house cured pastrami sandwich and the in-season soft-shell crab on a 'parker house roll'. These sandwiches are the best I've had in recent memory and I think if they were to open a restaurant that sold these two dishes alone, it would be a smash hit. The pastrami is filled with coleslaw, sweet pickles and thousand island dressing. Of course all these ingredients are made in house, from the Pumpernickel bread to the smoked meat. The soft-shell crab sandwich was soft and crunchy with the creamiest tartar sauce and a lemon wedge. This was the most creative way I've ever had soft-shell crab and it was a beautiful way to showcase this delicate and seasonal ingredient. I wanted a second order of this!
Other favorites of the evening were the karage fried chicken with hot-sweet mustard, the chicken nugget magnified times 100. The meat was juicy and the coating crisp. This is a must order. The chicken liver mousse was also superb. Smooth and rich, paired with onion marmalade and toasted baguette.
No meal is complete without dessert in my opinion and the desserts are so fun and have you feeling like a kid again. Funnel cake is elevated with lavender and a caramel lavender sauce. "Popsicles" are divine, one is a coffee ice cream bar, dipped in chocolate and toffee with cookie crumbs and the other a "kulfi" pop that is creamy and has a little bit of basil and a delightful almond crunch. Do not miss these desserts.
Run, don't walk, to try these creative dishes that are exciting and inventive. The menu is constantly changing so if you have your heart set on any of the above, get in sooner rather than later!