I remember when California Pizza Kitchen first opened up near my house when I was in high school. It was a wildly popular restaurant back then. It took traditional restaurant items such as salad, pizza, and pasta and transformed them into hip trendy eats with a “California” twist. How do you define “California Cuisine”? Wikipedia says California cuisine is “marked by an interest in ‘fusion’ — integrating disparate cooking styles and ingredients.” I think BBQ chicken pizza certainly qualifies as “fusion.” Wolfgang Puck is considered one of the pioneers of “fusion” cuisine. He is known for his Euro-Asian flare on food, as well as his smurf like qualities.
I have long since moved beyond the novelty of “fusion” cuisine, instead preferring more authenticity and innovation than the different ways to make Asian food not taste very Asian. I think it took me a while to get here, because only after having Spago’s did I realize where I used to be with regard to my food preferences.
Bread Basket focaccia bread, herb parmesan flatbread, rustic italian bread
The focaccia was doughy and soft. There were bits of caramelized onions on some pieces. I loved it. The flatbread was also very addicting. Light, but intensely cheesy. You could keep munching and not realize that you just went through a whole baskets’ worth.
Skirt Steak Quesadilla flour tortilla, monterey jack with creme fraiche, guacamole, peppers, pico de gallo
A pretty standard preparation of a quesadilla. It’s probably more hearty than the original with the addition of larges hunks of skirt steak. I tasted this towards the end of the meal so it was already room temperature and the cheese was no longer melted. Good, but not worthy of ordering it on a repeat visit.
Lamb Chorizo Pizza rapini, tomato sauce, sun dried tomatoes, goat cheese, cilantro
The lamb chorizo made this pizza special. It had a meaty and spicy quality to it that really kicked up the flavor on the pizza. Also, the sun dried tomatoes added a concentrated fresh tomato taste which balanced the heat and salt from the lamb. One could complain the pizza was on the greasier side, but I didn’t mind because it all added to the tastiness of the pizza.
Margherita Pizza mozarella, fontina, parmesan, goat cheese, garden tomatoes, basil
I had no hand in order this pizza. I would not order this pizza. It was just so plain and boring. Enough said.
Thai Style Chicken Salad napa cabbage, bean sprouts, asian vegetables, cashews, thai-ginger vinaigrette
I normally do not like my salads with finely chopped components. I like to see the lettuce leaves, carrots, cucumbers, or whatever else is my salad. I find that when salads are too finely chopped, the flavor of the individual components get lost and it gets wilted easier and faster. However, this salad somehow worked. All the vegetables came together well with the addition of the thai-ginger vinaigrette. It was a bowl of cool, crunchy, refreshing flavors. I think the cabbage probably stood up better to the dressing than lettuce would have cut at the same size. The cashews added a nice roasty toasty crunchiness.
Grilled Unagi Glazed Salmon Salad romaine lettuce, daikon radish, carrot, shiso, avocado, carrot remoulade, ponzu
I’m not sure where the unagi was in this salad. All I got was salmon. I think the salmon may have been glazed with the sauce they use to make unagi? In any case, the salmon tasted fine, but was just a tad overcooked and slightly dry. This salad was not as tasty as the last one because of the dressing. Not that it was bad, but it had more citrus and soy sauce hints that didn’t quite add that extra oomph. Individually, all components tasted fine, they just weren’t singing in harmony together like the last salad.
Spago’s was a good reminder of the food I used to think was impressive and delicious. Don’t get me wrong. The food was solid and tasty for the most part, but it just wasn’t very interesting. Asian fusion food, especially in this style from Wolfgang Puck, just doesn’t impress me anymore. It’s certainly not something I seek out these days, unless the food is extremely refined and high quality. Spago’s just taste like a high end chain restaurant, maybe like a better Grand Lux Cafe? Sorry Wolfgang, but I’m not a fan.