I am loosely grouping all of these restaurants together but I think there is a farly common theme amongst these restaurants and their menus. Others that come to mind that also fit this mold are Eva and Sona. I've been to every one of these restaurants and most of them at least twice.
After my meal last night at Spago (3rd time) I think I may take these type of restaurants out my rotation. My SO and I both feel that we'd rather go to other places. I think we've had fine meals at many of these restaurants. Some have exceptional service. The cooking and execution is very well done - most proteins come out medium rare and fish are flaky and moist. We don't have any complaints about any of the food that has come out of the kitchen. Some great desserts have come out of these kitchens. The main issue we have is that there isn't anything that has ever stodd out to us at these type of restaurants. Nothing is memorable. The taste does not linger and I never ache or hunger for anything I've ever eaten at one of these types of restaurants. I know I am generalizing and grouping these restaurants fairly or unfairly.
On the other hand there are days I long for Park's BBQ, fish tacos at Tacos Bajas Ensenada, Dino's chicken, Ruen Pair, pizza from Vito's or Mozza, a great bowl of pasta, a big juicy steak from Cut or Mastro's, scallion pancakes from Earthen, dumplings from DTF, etc... I think what I'm trying to say is that California cooking is boring. Am I crazy?