Adding yet another formidable piece of prose to his canon, Los Angeles magazine’s Patric Kuh drops pure poetry on the firm place Spago holds in L.A.’s heart, both before and after this year’s remake. Calling Puck’s place “the restaurant that carried so many Angelenos into the sea of gastronomy in the days of big hair and padded shoulders,” he recalls how the Austrian great “could pierce the white tablecloth’s shell of pretension with a single wood-fired pizza,” among the many contributions he introduced to today’s dining scene, including the open kitchen, “wood grilling with Asian influences,” and eclipsing master sauces with farm-labeled produce.
Spago’s still the spot, Kuh continues, “As the kitchen crouches like a brooding beast behind plate glass…a quintessential expanse.” Hits among the new menu include a sambal-dabbed skate and “vellum-thin octopus tantacles jacked with powdered Espelette,” while he does warn that “when the kitchen loses [the] balance between haute and robust, things can fall flat,” sneering in the direction of a veal filet tartare and langoustines lacking a proper sear.
Enchanted by the prospects of this evolved animal, Kuh relents, “Spago is not a museum,” even as he mourns a few favorite dead and buried recipes. The conclusion? “[Puck] became this city’s essential chef because forward is the only direction he moves in.”
The Kuh Review: Spago [LAM]
Earlier: A Complete Look at Spago, Reopened and Refreshed [GS]