Man, did I have a great meal the other day. Delicious food, wonderful company – it was a really special time.
Way back last fall, I was able to do something really nice for my friend Felise, who I’ve met and become friends with because she’s also a regular at Slimmons, and ever since then she’s wanted to return the favor by taking me out to lunch. Well, months and months went by, and no lunch, but we finally were both free a few days ago on Saturday, after one of Richard Simmons’ classes. So Felise took me to Spago. Spago, in Beverly Hills, is the flagship restaurant in the Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group. It won a James Beard award a few years back, and was one of three restaurants in Los Angeles to get 2 stars in the Michelin Guide in 2008. It appears Felise doesn’t mess around when she wants to take someone to lunch!
Here’s me and Felise at our table. It was a great table, tucked away in the corner, so we could see most of the main dining room:
Felise, who is also trying to eat healthily, had called ahead, and asked if they had reasonably healthy menu options, and the host told her that we could basically order any food that was on the menu, but have it cooked any way that we liked. So we started looking over the menu, but had barely started when our server returned, removed the menus from our hands (politely) and said, “you’ll have time to look at these in a few minutes – we’re going to bring some things out from the kitchen.”
A few minutes later, the amuse-bouches started arriving. An amuse-bouche is a one-bite appetizer, which literally means, in French, ‘mouth amuser’ – that much I knew from watching umpteen seasons of Top Chef. The definition also includes (and I just read this online) that in fine dining situations, amuse-bouches are never ordered from menus, but instead sent out as a present from the chef to his patrons. In total, they brought us 4 amuse-bouches, and, true to tradition, they were comped on our bill at the end of the meal.
First up, a tuna tartare in some sort of sesame cracker that was formed into a cone. If you’ve never had tartare before, it’s raw meat (usually steak or fish) that’s blended with herbs and maybe a light sauce:
It was fantastic. Then they brought out 2 more, in rapid succession:
On the left is smoked salmon, with a little salmon roe in the center, served on a blini (a little savory pancake) with creme fraiche. On the right is ceviche, which is a cold soup made from raw fish or seafood that is cooked only in acid (typically, lime juice). I forgot what kind of fish was in this ceviche, but it also had a little blood orange segment in it, too.
I can tell now that I’m going to run out of ways of saying how delicious everything was at Spago, so maybe I’ll just stop trying, and tell you now, and for the last time – it’s amazing. Wonderfully attentive service, exquisite food – if you have the chance to go to Spago, don’t pass it up!
The last amuse-bouche was bacon confit with a bechemel sauce, wrapped in pastry:
Confit is a cooking technique (and a preservation technique) where meats are slowly cooked in salted fat, and bechemel is a white sauce.
Some of the items in these dishes were certainly things that I wouldn’t eat on a regular basis, but since everything was literally one bite, I didn’t worry about calories or fat. Not at this meal!
We were finally picking up our menus and looking again, when Felise asked our server what she recommended that was lower in fat and calories, but still flavorful, and without skipping a beat, the server responded: “We have a fantastic red snapper with asian vegetables, and we can steam the fish, steam the vegetables, serve the miso/ginger/soy glaze on the side, and bring you some steamed brown rice.” Sounds delicious to me! We both ordered it. And here it is (I forgot to photograph the rice, but you know what that looks like):
The vegetables included bok choy and lotus root, which I don’t think I’ve ever tried before, and I’m telling you, I could eat this every single day with no problems at all! The fish was delicate and flaky, the vegetables tender.
Although our server suggested ordering a fresh berry plate for dessert, we were both full and decided to pass.
Thank you again, Felise, for a terrific lunch!
Keep it up, David!