99 Essential Restaurants 2014

Spago

photo by Anne Fishbein

More than a year after its massive revamp, Spago has fully settled into its new look and feel. The Beverly Hills restaurant that launched Wolfgang Puck’s empire remains one of L.A.’s most iconic dining experiences, and the sleek white-and-black dining room and glassed-in patio with its twinkling lights have never felt so vibrant. The best seats in the house might be at the cocktail tables, which sit between the patio and the dining room and afford an outstanding view of the action on all sides (it also feels fantastically luxurious just to drop into Spago casually for dinner without a reservation, which you don’t need for these seats). Chef Lee Hefter and chef de cuisine Tetsu Yahagi are presenting a menu that straddles the line between tradition and invention, fulfilling the wishes of a diner wanting a dry aged steak with Bordelaise or the type who might wish for a grilled lamb rack with falafel macaroons and harissa aioli. There are also clever twists on of-the-moment dishes, such as burrata and prosciutto that’s served with roasted persimmon rather than beets or tomatoes, and spherified basil “caviar.” For the movie stars you’re likely to encounter, for the incredible wine list and, yes, especially for the food, there’s still no place like it.

-- Besha Rodell