Wednesday, February 3, 2010

dineLA (SUCCESS) @ Spago

After a dineLA let down at La Cachette Bistro the night before, I was getting a bit frustrated with Restaurant Week. I haven't been impressed with the last two tries. Yes, members on Chowhound explained that dineLA isn't targeted at the foodies (i.e. us). Restaurants are trying to cater to and convert diners who normally don't eat out every week, who don't know the latest restaurant openings and aren't yet bored with pork belly. But still, I expect food that is at least seasoned properly and menus that don't change drastically from what was posted online. After all, I spent hours reading up on menus to determine the places I wanted to hit. All that to no avail. Our last dineLA outing this round was at Spago. Since I had heard positive dineLA reviews at Spago, I was going to give Restaurant Week another shot.

I've been to the original Spago in West Hollywood over a decade ago, which closed its doors in 2001. Spago is owned by Wolfgang Puck and the restaurant has earned many accolades including two Michelin Stars. The dineLA menu items looked good and a great deal at $44 for a restaurant that serves entrees priced in the $40s. People, you really need to do the analysis (monetary as well as menu offerings) before choosing restaurants or you might be disappointed.

They have a sleek bar area where you could dine at if you were unable to secure reservations.

We were seated in the patio with trees, white lights and heat lamps. I noticed that the crowd on the patio seemed younger. I'm not sure if it was deliberate. Perhaps the older crowd or regulars prefer the more formal dining room. In any case, I liked our seats. It was interesting that the music playing was from the likes of Lady Gaga, The Ting Tings and Beck. I wonder if they were playing the same music in the dining room.

We ordered aperitifs of bubbly and beer as well.

Bread was served: choice of walnut, lavosh, olive and sourdough. I liked the walnut best.

The dineLA menu was slightly different from the one posted online. Don't worry, I didn't flip a lid again since the substitution wasn't that far off. For example, they replaced the wild mushroom raviolini with crab raviolini, and substituted the squash soup with another soup. Nothing drastically different unlike La Cachette Bistro which replaced the classic beef bourguignon with a crepe, with chicken filling no less!

Celery root and apple soup with crispy confit bacon, roasted cipollini and caramelized Fuji apples, poured table side.

The soup was smooth and creamy. I loved the addition of the confit bacon which was fatty and salty. I thought the flavors were very well balanced with the saltiness of the bacon and sweetness from the apple. This was a great start to the dinner.

Maryland Crab Raviolini With Meyer lemon and pea tendrils
Another winner. The serving of crab in each raviolini was generous and it wasn't fishy at all. The lemon sauce was light so you could really taste the crab in this dish.

Our waiter recommended a bottle of wine with dinner. They have an extensive wine list and many expensive bottles. Our lovely bottle of Savigny Les Beaune Les Lavieres was $95.

Roasted Rack of Kurobuta Pork with alsacien style cabbage and apple-rosemary compote
Pork was huge and thick but was cooked evenly throughout. That took some skill. The meat was tender and juicy.

Slow Braised Beef Short Ribs with pancetta, cavalo nero, buckwheat polenta and fresh horseradish
After tasting short ribs on so many occasions, I was very pleased with this. The meat was fork tender, with fatty pieces and it melt in your mouth. It's been a while since I've had such delicious short ribs. The polenta was buttery and smooth. The cavalo nero/kale was lovely. I am not a fan of horseradish so I was pleased to find that the horseradish was not overwhelming. It was freshly grated and sprinkled on the dish.

Grilled Prime Rib eye Steak for supplement $13 with escarole, smokey shallot puree and bone marrow emulsion
The steak was cooked perfectly and came in a large portion. I liked the addition of bone marrow which is a very classic French preparation for steak.

Lemon cake with creamy sabayon and glace.
I thought this was a bit too tart. It tasted like lemon meringue.

Medjool Date Cake with creme fraiche and coffee toffee sauce
This was our favorite. The date cake had the consistency of a bread pudding and sat in a pool of sweet toffee sauce.

Black Forest Pudding with preserved sour cherries, chocolate cake and vanilla mousse

Service at Spago was great. Our waiter was knowledgeable in both food and wine, was very efficient and to the point. We were done with dinner in 1.5 hrs which is good for a week night. Chef Wolfgang Puck came by to every table and shook hands with all the diners. The food was great. Everyone at our table enjoyed the meal. The starters were exceptional, the short ribs were our favorite but all the other dishes were good as well. We were very pleased with the night from food, to service and to price ($100 each including tax/tip). After a dineLA failure yesterday, Spago has restored my confidence in Restaurant Week.

Hits: soup, raviolini, short ribs, date cake, service, good deal
Misses: wine is pricey
Rating: ****

176 N. Canon Dr.,
Beverly Hills, CA 90210
(310) 385-0880


Gastronomer said...

Woo hoo! I'm glad that Wolfgang came through for you. I still haven't tried DineLA due to fears of mediocrity.

stuffycheaks said...

Hi Gastronomer - i was surprised too, after being disappointed by a few spots. but this was definitely one of my fav dineLA because of the food and price!

Diana said...

I ate at Spago two+ years ago and still remember really liking the walnut bread! That date cake looks/sounds ridiculous... I think I would combust from happiness upon eating it. ;)

stuffycheaks said...

Thanks for dropping by Diana. I can tell you have a sweet tooth from reading your blog so the date cake is a must for you!