When Wolfgang Puck opened a branch of his Los Angeles fine-dining flagship Spago at the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace in 1992, he was the first celebrity chef/ restaurateur to help catapult the Las Vegas dining scene into national prominence. And he made a bundle of money in the process. But at the time, the idea of transplanting a California-centric concept like Spago to the desert gambling mecca of Las Vegas seemed delusional.
But in retrospect, it was genius. Next week, Puck and his still-going-strong Spago will mark this seminal restaurant’s 20-year anniversary with a throwback menu that features retro pricing.
Puck was on a roll when he debuted his Las Vegas Spago. The original Spago on Sunset Blvd. in Hollywood had opened in 1982, Chinois on Main rolled into Santa Monica in 1983 and San Francisco’s Postrio fired up in 1989. Yet Las Vegas was then a no man’s land for high-profile chefs, even for someone like Puck.
It didn’t stay that way for long, with Emeril Lagasse, Mark Miller and Charlie Trotter opening shortly after Puck did. Dozens followed after them, then hundreds, to the point where for aspiring chefs eager to make their name and earn a good living while doing it today, Las Vegas is the place you want to go.
To celebrate Spago’s 20th, the restaurant is bringing back its original menu, complete with special “retro” pricing, for the week of Dec. 10-14. Puck himself will be on hand to cook and work the room on Dec. 11. His presence will only underscore the fact that he also pioneered the notion that it was acceptable for a celebrity chef whose name was on the door to be absent from the kitchen, at least in Las Vegas.
Want a peek at Spago’s throwback menu? Here you go:
Spago Las Vegas 20th Anniversary Menu
House Smoked Sturgeon, Crisp Potato Galette, Horseradish Cream $12
Smoked Salmon Pizza, Dill Crème Fraîche, Chives, Caviar $14
Crisp Tempura Shrimp, Thai Basil Aioli $11
Sautéed Maryland Crab Cakes, Red Pepper Coulis $11
Tuna Sashimi, Soy Lime Vinaigrette $12
Chopped Vegetable Salad, Balsamic Vinaigrette, Parmesan $9
Crispy Petaluma Quail, Mandarin Glaze $11
Classic Steak Tartare, Capers, Dijon Aioli and Grilled Bread $19
Stir Fried Lamb, Garlic & Ginger, in Lettuce Cups $9
Wild Mushroom Risotto, Caramelized Shallots, Italian Parsley $12
Angel Hair Pasta, Tomatoes, Basil, Garlic $11
Butternut Squash Ravioli Sage Brown Butter, Hazelnuts, Parmesan-Reggiano $12
Maine Lobster, Spinach Linguini and Chinese Black Bean Sauce $18
Farmers Market White Corn Agnolotti (Black Truffle Option) $10/$38
Yellowfin Tuna ‘’Steak Frites,’’ Horseradish Mash Potatoes and Armagnac Peppercorn Sauce $19
Oven Roasted Salmon, Ratatouille Vegetables, Potato Purée, Saffron Yellow Pepper Nage $17
Roasted Organic Half Chicken, Farmers Market Vegetables Double Blanched Garlic, Parsley $16
Cantonese Style Roasted Duck with Wild Huckleberries, Ginger and Stir-Fried Baby Bok Choy $20
Weiner Schnitzel, Warm Fingerling Potato Salad, Mâche, Marinated Cucumbers $17
Wolfgang’s Beef Goulash, Sautéed Spätzle, Parsley, Marjoram, Paprika and Crème Fraîche $16
“Chinois Style” Colorado Lamb Chops, Cilantro Mint Vinaigrette, Sweet & Sour Eggplant $33
Venison “Filet Mignon,” Red Cabbage, Cipollini Onions, Brussel Sprouts, Chestnut Purée $24
Grilled Prime Black Angus New York Steak, Roasted Potatoes, Watercress, Onions, Sauce Diane $31
Marjolaine, Caramel Ice Cream
Chocolate Soufflé, Vanilla Ice Cream
Wolfgang’s Kaiserschmarrn with Strawberry Sauce
Chocolate Melting Cake, Vanilla Crème Anglaise, Espresso Ice Cream and Whipped Cream
It’s a great menu, and it tells us a lot about why Spago has lasted as long as it has. Let’s hope that your restaurant’s old menu seems as up-to-date as this one when you celebrate your 20th.