Restaurant: Spago [1, 2, 3, 4]
Location: 176 N Canon Dr, Beverly Hills, CA 90210. (310) 385-0880
Date: November 28, 2017
Cuisine: New American
December is always busy with dinners and we even have two separate Foodie Club events this week.
The first one is to old LA mainstay Spago for a special dinner arranged by Vahan — who has been coming here regularly since the 80s!
We sat out in the lovely (and busy) courtyard. It was loud, but cool.
We had a huge spacious table in the back by the funky fireplace.
1996 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon. BH 97. A distinctly reticent but elegant nose with a purity of expression that is truly impressive to experience as it’s relatively high-toned and while the yeast comes up with air, it’s relatively muted at presence, combining with intense, precise and superbly detailed and complex flavors that culminate in an explosive and wonderfully long finish. This may very well rival the sublime ’90 in time even if it’s not quite as concentrated. This is still a baby so there is absolutely no rush whatsoever.
2005 Taittinger Champagne Brut Blanc de Blancs Comtes de Champagne. VM 94. Bright yellow. Vibrant pear and melon aromas are complicated by suggestions of ginger, brioche and smoky minerals. Dry, smoky and precise, offering intense orchard and pit fruit flavors that gain weight with aeration. A dusty mineral quality adds focus and lift to the long, penetrating, floral finish. There’s a Burgundian thing going on here that’s quite intriguing.
Dinner at Spago almost always includes amuses, and the first is the classic:
Spicy Tuna Tartare, Sesame-Miso Tuille Cone. I’ve had it a million times but it’s still great. The counter play between the crunchy-sweet cone and the soft-spicy interior.
Pork belly macaron. Pretty amazing bit of sweet-fatty in a dessert-like presentation. Great textures too.
Jewish pizza. Smoked salmon with creme fraiche and ikura (salmon roe). I love this too. I even make it at home.
Foie gras and strawberry. Another yummy sweet-fatty bite.
Because of Vahan we got a special kitchen tour.
Have some tuille cones.
Or a plate of veal off the regular menu.
We had a bite in the kitchen. Crab and uni and flowers in a crispy/chewy sesame ball.
1995 Robert Ampeau & Fils Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru Les Combettes. BH 91. Medium golden color. While fully mature this remains quite fresh with lovely complexity on the honeysuckle and dried fruit compote nose. The depth reflected by the nose is also present on the utterly delicious middle weight flavors that possess a very rounded and attractively textured mouth feel before culminating in a palate coating, balanced and lingering finish. Like most ’95s today there is no reason not to drink up though at the same time neither is there any need to rush through your remaining stocks.
1995 Vincent Dauvissat (René & Vincent) Chablis Grand Cru Les Clos. BH 94. Wonderfully complex and now fully mature aromas of pure white fruits and green Chablis notes are followed by superbly intense and beautifully defined medium-full flavors that just ooze minerality and offer superb length. This is not nearly as heavy as many ’95 Chablis and there is real grace and class here. A drop dead gorgeous wine. Note that I have recently had an lightly oxidized bottle that was at least drinkable if not nearly as good as what I describe above.
Diver Scallop Sashimi. Santa Barbara Uni, Keluga Caviar, Sudachi. A nice soft and tasty dish with complex briney flavors.
Bread. Awesome crispy seed breads.
Sweet carrot hummus with lebneh. Loved this stuff because of it’s sweet and tangy pairing.
1987 Louis Jadot Montrachet. Still in good shape!
2001 Bouchard Père et Fils Chevalier-Montrachet. VM 94+. Pure, reserved aromas of apple, powdered stone, white flowers and nutmeg. Juicy and very intense, with impressive purity and structure for the vintage. Explosive, almost painfully long finish. This extremely youthful, fresh wine should develop in bottle for 10 to 15 years. A more intellectual style this year than the Cabotte.
Handmade Agnolotti. Kabocha squash, pine nuts, amaretti, white truffles. Amazing pasta in butter sauce. The truffles really added too, but my favorite element was the sweet/spiced quality of the Ameretti cooks — traditional in the Verona/Mantua area with pumpkin (in this case squash).
1991 Domaine Marquis d’Angerville Volnay 1er Cru Clos des Ducs. BH 94. Another fine success in what was generally a difficult vintage in the Côte de Beaune (though a very good to excellent one in the Côte de Nuits). The color is still vibrant with only the barest of lightening at the rim. A gorgeously complex, admirably fresh and remarkably dense nose that is, somewhat oddly at this age, trimmed in a discreet touch of wood and displays a wide range of secondary aromatics. The flavor profile is quite similar with that rare and utterly seductive impression of sweetness that great Burgundies often display and derives not from sugar but rather from the superb sappy extract; there is also a lovely plumy character to the mineral-driven and palate coating finish. This is wonderfully rich while displaying real volume in the mouth, yet it remains gracefully balanced and finishes with knockout length. A brilliant and big-bodied Ducster that is more a wine of impressive power than finesse. And for those lucky enough to own a bottle or two, it should continue to hold effortlessly for several more decades.
From my cellar: 1995 Dominique Laurent Clos Vougeot. 93 points. Initial reticence and a considerable amount of sediment, then a rather elemental, pheremonal nose of redcurrant, black tea and incense. On the palate a very bright juicy acidity underlying an attractive body. With roast duck and lots of air, this became richer and juicier, the noticeable acidity cutting the duck fat and rendering the whole quite delicious. The wine had a charming rusticity to it, with a slightly old fashioned brutishness to it. Not for those afraid of acidity, but this has a really bright future. Thoroughly enjoyed and ran out too quickly!
2001 Faiveley Echezeaux. BH 91-93. This too offers astonishingly elegant and pure black fruit aromas and intense, sweet, spicy full-bodied flavors that build and build into a finish that simply doesn’t quit. While this doesn’t quite have the finesse and precision of the Combe d’Orveau, it offers even more power and muscle in a perfectly balanced, stylish and harmonious package. This is a beautiful, seductive effort.
Crispy Scaled Black Bass. Main Lobster, Spanish Octopus Bolognese. Nice rich sauce and good lobster. I find the crispy scales on this type of bass a little creepy though.
Liberty Duck Breast. Poached Persimmon, beet-parsnip Puree, Caramelized Salsify. Nice bit of duck.
1964 Giacomo Borgogno & Figli Barolo Riserva. JG 90. I had a less than stellar bottle of this wine in January of this year, but a bottle tasted six months before that was quite lovely, so I have to assume that the most recent example was simply a bottle of poor provenance. The last pristine example of the ’64 Borgogno Barolo Riserva offered up a complex and fully mature nose of cherries, camphor, forest floor, tar, anise and a bit of bonfire in the upper register. On the palate the wine is full-bodied, deep and tarry, with lovely complexity, good focus and still a bit of untamed tannin to resolve perking up the long finish. Like many of the Borgognos from this era, this is not the most elegant rendition of Barolo, but it is deep, complex and has matured nicely into a wine that offers up the blossoming of bottle age and is a good example of the vintage.
1968 Giacomo Borgogno & Figli Barolo Riserva. 90 points. Again a rare treat to sample another well kept wine from decades past. Light brick in the glass, with some opacity. Enchanting nose of leather and sous-bois. On the palate, I am in agreement with previous notes commenting on the similarity with Burgundy of the same era. Balanced acids, mature fruit, earth, and leather. Add another star to the already fabulous lineup this afternoon.
1970 Faustino Rioja I Gran Reserva. 92 points. Aged to perfection, rather bright acidity and lift for its age, fully resolved tannin, notes of leather dominate the nose. Paired amazing with our finishing dishes. What an experience.
Grilled American Wagyu New York Steak. Root Vegetable gratin, sauce bordelaise.
With the Root Vegetable Gratin added to the plate. Rice stuff (and I had two helpings).
1996 Château Pichon-Longueville Baron. VM 90. Good full ruby-red. Roasted plum, leather and smoked nuts on the nose. Silky and layered in the mouth. Sweet and suave, with a complicating mineral quality. Suggests solid extract but ultimately a wine of very good rather than outstanding intensity. Finishes with fine tannins and persistent, slow-building flavor. Fleshier and more pliant than the ’98.
1988 Château Mouton Rothschild. JK 90.
1990 Château Lagrange (St. Julien). VM 93. Good deep, full ruby. Explosive, rather wild aromas of dark fruits, leather, animal fur and chocolate. Fat, lush and silky, with a seamless texture and a deep sweetness. This offers terrific volume and finishes very smooth and very long, with utterly suave tannins, notes of leather and game, and a suggestion of surmaturite According to Ducasse, 1990 witnessed cooler September nights than ’89 and thus offered “better conditions for producing great wine. ” A superb showing.
agavin: I used to drink this wine on dates in the 1997-98 time frame. lol
Chef’s Selection of Assorted Cheeses. Manchester, L’Amuse Signature Gouda, Blackstone, Shopshire Blue, Blueberry honey, date walnut cake, fall fruit compote. Really nice little cheese spread.
And great bread to go with it.
Overall, another fabulous dinner. Service was first rate, particularly with Vahan being almost Spago family. Wolfgang spent some time at our table too. I always forget how great the food is at Spago too, and how much they keep updating it to keep it fresh and relevant. The place may still have the format of an 80s/90s fine dining place, but the build out, cuisine, and all that keeps evolving and staying relevant. It’s a big pricey, but it is very very good. We also had tons to eat and I was almost painfully full.
Wine lineup was interesting, varied, and almost all were great. 1-2 flawed wines, but that’s to be expected and we had no shortage — we never do!
For more LA dining reviews click here.