When Wolfgang Puck revamped his flagship restaurant, Spago Beverly Hills, in 2012, the space emerged fresher than ever, with a warm bar and lounge, sleek dining room, and glass-fronted kitchen. For years, the brick-lined patio was the place to be, and still is, framed with vine-crawling walls, a retractable roof, and monolithic fireplace.
When Spago Beverly Hills re-opened, the need of the compass was tilted more toward Asia than Europe. Still, nothing’s set in stone. Puck and longtime culinary lieutenant Lee Hefter, a kitchen legend in his own right, recently installed a California Tasting Menu, and their reps invited me to experience the menu. The multi-course meal includes, but is by no means limited to, house-made tofu with Santa Barbara sea urchin and shaved black truffles; shiso miso marinated black cod with six-grain rice salad; bincho-grilled Carpenter’s Ranch squab with black garlic, rhubarb and mushroom purees; and Sonoma lamb smoked with rabbit tobacco and served with babaghanoush, spherified mint, and accoutrements. Still, it was the amuse bouche that I found most refreshingly playful.
A generous serving of briny Californian white sturgeon caviar joined a razon-thin rye crisp, potato chip espuma, and a “Sunnyside Up Egg” crafted from egg white “caviar” and egg yolk jam. This fun California-looking riff on caviar and potato chips is indicative of Spago’s current direction, and the resulting meal convinced me that Puck’s latest incarnation is worth following.