Via Riyadh’s first celebrity-chef-fronted concept is now open.
Wolfgang Puck is a man who should require little introduction. One of the culinary greats, this Austrian-American chef and restaurateur is recognised as an early advocate of the California cuisine food movement, focusing on local and sustainable ingredients with an attention to seasonality. Opening in West Hollywood in 1982, Spago became the talk of the town and has been frequented by a roster of A-list talent including Angela Bassett, Bill Clinton, Elton John, Justin Bieber, Sandra Bullock, Tom Cruise and – you get the idea.
With a celebrity clientele and an open-kitchen concept, Spago changed the restaurant game before expanding outwards across the globe to exotic locations like Istanbul, Maui, Singapore and now Riyadh. Known for its simple yet sophisticated design, Spago by Wolfgang Puck has set the standard for fine dining establishments, joining Chi Spacca, Gymkhana, Sexy Fish and WAGYUMAFIA at the luxury restaurant and retail destination, Via Riyadh.
The restaurant’s modern design offers a light, airy dining room with plush upholstery and chestnut-coloured benches scattered beneath olive trees. Natural elements like marble, brass, wood, and leather abound. Shelves are lined with terracotta vases, and light bulbs hang in formation over the central bar area, where playful cocktails such as the Without Consequence (elderflower, grapefruit, lime and lychee) and Risk & Reward (apple, basil, Japanese cucumber and lime) are mixed with enthusiasm. The open-show kitchen allows guests to watch in awe as their meals are prepared, while the al fresco terrace offers a quieter alternative.
Spago’s market-driven menu has transported well to Saudi, offering a selection of global signatures that bring the best of Puck’s global restaurant portfolio while utilising ingredients sourced from farmers’ markets and local providers. The single-page menu is printed daily to evolve with the changing seasons. One day, the burrata might be served with strawberries, the next with melon.
On the day we dine, popular dishes include the Big Eye Tuna Tartare Cones, Japanese Hamachi Sashimi (SAR 155), Grilled Octopus (SAR 145) and Maine Lobster Risotto (SAR 220). Adhering to Spago’s strict farm-to-table philosophy, we begin with an Endive and Frisée Salad (SAR 70) laden with artichokes, dates, feta cheese and Marcono almonds. It’s a fresh dish that boasts terrific textures from the nuts and a beautiful sweetness from the dates.
The Fried Blooming Whole Seabass (SAR 490) is a dish perfect for sharing. Filleted outwards, it resembles the petals of an opening flower. The fish – complete with its head and tail – is then slathered with a sweet and sour pineapple glaze that caramelises as it hits the sizzling skillet and offers a nice juxtaposition to the meaty texture of the fish encased in its alluring crisp coating.
Desserts range from Banana Cream Pie (SAR 70) and Basque Cheesecake (SAR 70) to a sensational Citrus Pavlova (SAR 70) topped with a mandarin and kumquat compote and yoghurt sherbet. The locally-inspired Spago Kunafa (SAR 70) is another hit, where juicy mango chunks have been sandwiched between kataifi pastry, passion fruit mascarpone and saffron ice cream. The result is an Insta-worthy treat.
Wolfgang Puck has probably fed more A-list celebrities than you’ve had hot dinners, having cooked at a Kardashian wedding and been the chef of choice for the Academy Awards for over 20 years. His entry into the Riyadh dining scene looks set to continue this success. Expect California cool, Saudi chic and superb seasonality.
As Chef Wolfgang tells us when we meet in the restaurant “The important part for us is how we make the guests feel. We want them to leave and say, I can’t wait to come back. I had such a nice time. The food was delicious. The waiter was amazing”
Spago by Wolfgang Puck is open daily from 6pm to midnight, from 2pm to midnight on Fridays and from 1pm to midnight on Saturdays.
GO: Visit https://coolinc.com.sa for reservations and more information.