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Spago tasting menu, no thank you

Dbird | Apr 15, 2004 10:49 PM

Had a friend visiting from NY last weekend and I thought it would be the perfect occasion to do the Spago tasting menu for the first time. (I've lived here for years and had never yet been to Spago-BH). We had a 9 pm reservation, were seated promptly, and both ordered the tasting menu with wines. I won't recite the litany again as it has been documented here several times and evidently doesn't change much. I will say that we were not asked if there was anything we didn't eat (in fact other than kidneys and chitterlings there's not much. I realized this omission after the multiple amuses and told the server--or one of them, no one in particular ever seemed in charge--that I did not care for sweets or cheese but would prefer to conclude with a savory and salad, while my friend liked sweets very much but was indifferent to chocolate). The service went down hill from there. Several courses were deposited without a word and we had to call the servers back to ask for descriptions. Plates were removed peremptorily before they were finished. These we did not recall. Despite the fact that we twice asked the servers to slow the pace, wines and plates proliferated madly and before long she was on rabbit and riesling and I was on what the one woman server, in her cameo appearance, informed us was a 'wonderful' kumamoto oyster with osetra caviar, and some white burgundy (incidentally, until we insisted, no wine was shown to us, just poured). It was while we were waiting for one another to catch up on the oysters that a server, in an uncharacteristically attentive moment, paused by the table to reprimand us for our failure to keep pace: 'you need to eat that while it's hot'.

The sea bass was absolutely overwhelmed by black pepper and in fact we were both seized with coughing fits, the other items were fine but not memorable, perhaps because they came and went so quickly and under such evident pressure. At the end of the meal a server was poised to clear the table with one of those little-- decrumbers-- when I mentioned again that I preferred salad to dessert, and he stood back up without decrumbing saying well, I will have to ask if that's ok, probably it is but I have to see.

You will be relieved, dear reader, to hear that a salad was in fact forthcoming, as was a duet of (chocolate) mousses for my friend. No alternative courses were provided in lieu of cheeses and dessert and no consideration was given for the omission.

I am happier than I can really afford to be (she said on tax day) to pay whatever it takes for exquisite food and service, but I am not happy to pay, or to inadvertently encumber a friend with paying, for the assembly line service and perfunctory luxe ingredients we tried our best to enjoy at Spago.

The final insult came when we gave the valet the ticket and a $20, dove back in to wait inside the doors, and when the car came up were permitted to drive off without change.

Obviously I am in the minority here but I must say I am not sorry to discover that I can live without the tasting menu at Spago.

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