We LoVe LA & Wolfgang Puck
Roll down the window, put down the top
Crank up the Beach Boys, baby
Don’t let the music stop
We’re gonna ride it till we just can’t ride it no more
From the South Bay to the Valley
From the West Side to the East Side
Everybody’s very happy
‘Cause the sun is shining all the time
Looks like another perfect day, I loVe LA
Spago in West Hollywood on the Sunset Strip
Back in the late 80’s, maybe 1989, my foodie friends and I first dined at Spago. For better or worse, the word “foodie” was coined in the 80’s. We worked, lived, and breathed restaurants – we were chefs (Aldo & Bruce), bartenders (Tamara), waiters (Lauren & Scott) – and I had the restaurant business in my blood – having been a restaurant cook, bookkeeper, manager, hostess, and waiter. At the time most of us were working at a cutting-edge restaurant in Redondo Beach called Chez Mélange. My friends from Aspen, Aldo and Bruce, were in town and we were dying to take them to Spago. Inspirational restaurateur and owner of Chez Mélange, Michael Franks, graciously called over to Spago to secure us a reservation. We felt like we were on the A-list. Upon arrival, Michael had surprised us with a big bottle of Champagne, and we were thrilled when Wolfgang Puck himself brought over a duck sausage pizza to welcome us. (It never occurred to me to take a photograph of the food, my how times have changed!)
Spago Hollywood wasn’t stuffy or traditional. Wolfgang’s then-wife Barbara Lazaroff designed it to be friendly, fun and colorful – where everyone could see and be seen! Were we really “hanging spoons” at Spago? She designed the first exhibition kitchen in the United States for a fine dining establishment, the view of the city from high above Sunset Boulevard took everyone’s breath away. It was so California!
Wolfgang Puck redefined pizza. That they came topped with everything from goat cheese and Black Forest ham to artichokes and exotic mushrooms was totally new back then. Duck sausage pizza was legendary as was his famous pizza of smoked salmon, creme fraiche, chives, red onion and a dollop of caviar.
O tempora! O mores!
(That’s me in the brown suit with gladiators!)
In the mid-nineties I founded a small wine brokerage dedicated to promoting fine esoteric wines that were not well-represented by the big wine distributors. It was then I began attending the American Wine & Food Festival – Wolfgang Puck’s Charitable Foundation Event. Many of the world’s top chefs and wine & spirit purveyors would gather on the spectacular backlot of Universal Studios to share samples of their finest dishes, wines & spirits in support of the Meals On Wheels Programs of Los Angeles. Since its inception in 1982, this Puck-Lazaroff Charitable Foundation event has raised more than $15 million for Meals On Wheels, which serves thousands of meals each day to Los Angeles’ homebound, senior and disabled citizens.
Puck opened WP24 last year. On the 24th floor of The Ritz-Carlton, the restaurant features a wraparound view of LA and the San Gabriel Mountains. In addition to the stunning view, the dining room is simultaneously elegant and comfortable. Wolfgang’s modern Chinese cuisine reflects his time spent in the Far East and passion for Asian ingredients and techniques. Our waiter explained that Wolfgang was not trying to reinvent Chinese cuisine, but his goal was to make each dish the best it could be. And he did.
Just for fun, crank up the music baby – I Love L.A. by Randy Newman 1983
Try Asian small plates, sushi and sake and relax in the lounge “pod” seating.
We liked Prawn Toast with Sweet & Spicy Garlic Chili and every single variety of dumpling.
Flaky buttery Seafood Turnovers were un petit cadeau from the Chef,
a rich enticing beginning to one extraordinary meal.
Tasting of Dim Sum
Chive Crystal Dumpling (King Crab, Shrimp Kurobuta Pork)
Dan Dan Dumpling (Sichuan chicken, Peanuts, Chili)
Tiny Dumpling (Pork Belly, Black Vinegar, Chili Oil)
Sui Mai (Shrimp, Scallop)
Organic Chicken, Chili Garlic Sauce, Crushed Peanuts, Green Onion
Roasted Black Sesame Vinaigrette, Chili-Orange Noodle Salad
Pickled Ginger Sauce, Crispy Garlic, Wild Arugula Salad
(My brother and I agreed that these were the world’s best lamb chops).
Noteworthy Side Dishes
Shanghai Noodles, Fresh Chilies, Thai Basil Leaves, Slow Cooked Oxtail
Hunan Spicy Eggplant, Roasted Shishito Peppers, Chili, Crisp Garlic
Stir-Fried Summer Sweet Corn, Fresh Water Chestnut, Fresno, Thai Basil
With an extensive list of more than 400 labels,
wines were chosen specifically for the flavors and styles that complement the menu.
Lagar de Cervera Albariño 2008 – Bright yellow in color. Fresh apple, pear and fig aromas. Elegant minerality with hints of fresh ginger. Clean, focused, lithe. An excellent wine as a precursor to a dinner featuring Asian flavors!
William Fevre Chablis Domaine 2009 – a refined bouquet with citrus, white peach and floral notes. Fresh and supple, the wine is marked by mineral notes that are typical of the appellation. Complex, well-concentrated, balanced. Pairs very well with the WP24 Summer Sweet Corn & King Crab “Hot & Sour” Soup and Black Cod Broiled with Chinese Ginseng Honey.
Shane THE CHARM Pinot Noir, Russian River Valley – only 100 cases produced. Concentrated red fruit aromas of fresh raspberry, dark cherries, and ripe strawberry. Elegant and balanced. The mid-palate brings Asian spice accents. Bright acidity and lingering the finish. It would be difficult to find a more perfect pairing with the WP24 Asian spiced lamb chops. Absolutely charming.
Banana Spring Roll
Peanut Butter Ice Cream, Banana Caramel, Chocolate
(I’ll be stealing the banana spring roll idea for my next dinner party).
Another perfect day. We LoVe LA.
“There’s no substitute for passion, quality, or love.”
Please feel free to share your memories of Spago Hollywood, Chez Mélange,
or your experience at WP24 and any other Wolfgang Puck restaurant.