Spago’s space makes few bows to “mountain style.” Trendy cowhide chairs, vegetable-dyed walls and enormous John Fielder photographs are splashed throughout the room. An exhibition kitchen gives an unhindered view of the chefs, including Wolfgang Puck’s hand-picked Colorado protege, executive chef Mark Ferguson. They do put on a show. “(Wolfgang) and I share a common goal of not only producing the best food, but the best experience,” Ferguson said.
Sometimes employees at fine-dining restaurants fall into the trap of behaving as though it’s the most important place in the world. You’re important for eating there, they’re important for working there and the food, ah the food, is uber-important. At Spago it seems the most important goal is for diners to have a really good experience. And to this end it’s obvious that in order to work there ” as chef, server, bartender ” you have to genuinely like people. Spago may be swanky, but the staff makes it warm.
The catch, of course, is that the food is important. Created by Wolfgang Puck, Spago’s long been on the forefront of the American foodie revolution. The cuisine has so many subtle layers of flavor they build a veritable wall. Most people have, at some point, run into a photo of Wolfgang Puck’s spicy tuna tartare in a miso-sesame tuile. Merely looking at the photos doesn’t prepare you for the balance of salty, sweet and clean. Painstakingly made, the delicate cones offer a sweetly nutty resistance to the picante fish. In the end both flavors win, dissolving into each other.
Sommelier and beverage director Sean Razee is as excited a wine guru as you’ll find. And though he makes excellent suggestions for pairings, you don’t have to wait for him. “It’s not about having a sommelier in the room,” he explained. “It’s about educating the staff and making sure they’re comfortable with the knowledge and are able to make their own decisions.” It works. The wine list itself does, too. Razee is passionate about the food-friendly nature of Austrian wines. You will be, too.
The succulent duck breast comes fanned over a minefield of treasures. Spicy chiles here, pear sauce there, ground duck pot stickers back there ” each pocket changes the duck’s tone. Despite the allure of the ride-alongs, the dish is rooted in the duck’s crispy skin and its candied musk scent. Opt for a glass of nebbiolo from Piedmont, Italy. The duck’s flavor becomes even more intense between sips of the wine, which offers an earthy counterpoint to the bird. To make the evening a fully decadent event, begin with the pumpkin and mascarpone agnolotti, soft little pillows ready to ooze at the sight of a fork. Sweet and rich, the pasta is glazed with an almost spicy sage brown butter and a light dusting of parmesan. Agnolotti is a signature dish, but the filling changes seasonally.