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Another Mediocre Meal at Spago, Together With Mediocre Service


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Another Mediocre Meal at Spago, Together With Mediocre Service

omotosando | | Oct 29, 2006 06:46 AM

Any of you who have read my posts know I detest Spago. But it was my best friend's birthday and that is where she wanted to go, so off we went, accompanied by her boyfriend.

Hope springs eternal, but for me it is always crushed at Spago.

We had 9:15 reservations, but weren't seated until close to 10:00 p.m. We stood in an overcrowded bar together with a bunch of other people who were waiting for their reservations, most of them fuming and looking at their watches. No one came over to apologize or offer us a drink. I brought a bottle of champagne for the best friend's birthday and gave it to the person at the reservation desk to chill when we came in. You would think that while we waited close to 45 minutes for our table, they might have asked if we wanted some of our own champagne, but no.

In fact, when we were finally seated, the champagne did not appear. Instead the waitress came over and asked if we wanted anything to drink. I had to tell her that yes, we wanted the champagne I brought. Definitely not the sign of a first-class restaurant.

The champagne was eventually brought, but it was not left tableside and the waitress was not exactly on the spot about refilling our classes. Again, not the sign of a first-class restaurant. I also asked for a wine list, but it wasn't brought until we were through with our appetizer.

For an appetizer, we all three split the risotto with maitake mushrooms, which was $26. Now $26 is not exactly cheap for an appetizer, but someone else on this board described maitake mushrooms as life-changing and I agree. However, the Spago risotto with maitake mushrooms was far from life-changing. In fact, it was downright mediocre. The maitakes mushrooms had no taste and the predominant taste of the dish was of the butter/cream in the risotto. It wasn't inedible, but it was the kind of thing you put in your mouth and forget about 2 minutes later. Call me hyper-critical, but for $26 for an appetizer, I expect more.

After the appetizer, the wine list was finally brought. I tried to engage the waitress in a discussion of the Austrian Vertliners versus the Sancerres versus the Vouvreys, but she wasn't especially knowledgeable (nor did she offer to send over the sommelier - I assume Spago has one) and more or less said, "they're all good." So, I was on my own with the wine. I chose a Vertliner for $48. It wasn't terrible; it wasn't great. I suppose that is all you can expect for $48, but I didn't get the feeling that this was a restaurant where anyone had any passion for wine.

The birthday girl had wild salmon. I didn't taste it. She didn't rave about it; but she didn't complain. The boyfriend and I both had PAN-ROASTED “LIBERTY” DUCK BREAST for $31, which consisted (according to the menu) of "Black Trumpet Mushrooms, English Peas, Confit Bacon, Cippolini, Sweet Pea Puree and Thyme Natural Juice." The waitress touted that as vastly superior to the CANTONESE STYLE ROASTED DUCK with Ginger, Star Anise, Black Pepper, Kumquat Chutney and Stir Fried Lo Mein Noodles.

I left half my duck over. It was basically slices of duck in an unappetizing sweet/salty sauce (I thought of taking the uneaten duck home to my dog, but was worried that the sweet sauce would make him sick). The sweet pea puree was tastless mush.

On to dessert. I have heard others complain on this board that Sherry Yard is the most overrated pastry chef in America and I would have to agree. I have never had a memorable dessert at Spago and tonight was no different. We split a chocolate torte with cherries (I think there were one or two mashed up cherries lurking somewhere in there) that the waitress touted as one of the best desserts. It wasn't horrible; but it wasn't good either. Again, the kind of thing you put in your mouth and forget about two minutes later.

Dinner for three with tip (only left 15% because service was less than stellar) $242.71. That included one bottle of wine, one appetizer, three entrees, one dessert, and one coffee. (Corkage on champagne was waived according to Spago policy because we ordered one full bottle of wine).

To me, Spago is basically an upscale chain restaurant, certainly not a big city first tier restaurant. Never again - friends don't let friends eat at Spago, even if it is their birthday.