The chef has closed his Asian fusion restaurant at La Jolla Playhouse
The restaurant closes in La Jolla
Theatre-goers and UC San Diego students won’t be able to eat at JAI by Wolfgang Puck anymore. The restaurant, which was located in the La Jolla Playhouse, a nonprofit professional theatre on the UC San Diego campus, is now closed.
The playhouse, which is renowned as a testing ground for many Broadway-bound shows, is currently seeking a restaurant partner to replace JAI in the fall, according to their website. In the meantime, UC San Diego Hospitality Services are using the space to serve coffee and food to customers. Their La Jolla Playhouse Coffee Bar features coffees, sandwiches, salads, and desserts, and their La Jolla Playhouse Restaurant serves hot dishes like ponzu and gingered salmon.
JAI, which served upscale Asian fusion dishes, is no longer open because of the seasonal nature of restaurant traffic, U-T San Diego reported. People ate at JAI whenever the Playhouse was open, but the inconsistent theatre schedule limited the restaurant’s schedule as well.
“Looking at how our business is laid out in the Playhouse and also in the surrounding San Diego area, it was part of an overall business strategy decision to leave the Playhouse,” Pamela Brunson, Wolfgang Puck Catering’s vice president of marketing, told U-T San Diego.
We wonder if another famous chef will open a restaurant in the now empty space, but it seems like the Playhouse’s erratic schedule could be a deal breaker.
Wolfgang Puck Permanently Closes His Sky-High Downtown Dallas Restaurant
One of Dallas’s favorite spots for dinner with a view is calling it quits. Five Sixty By Wolfgang Puck, perched on top of Reunion Tower, closed its doors in March as part of Dallas’s dine-in shutdown to help stem the spread of coronavirus. The restaurant helmed by the celebrity chef won’t reopen again, as Culturemap Dallas reports, citing the pandemic.
A release reads: “with the closure of Reunion Tower due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it has been decided that Five Sixty restaurant will remain closed to undergo scheduled improvements. Given this extended closure, in combination with the unknown timeline due to the Coronavirus, Five Sixty by Wolfgang Puck will not reopen.”
Dining on a feast of Asian dishes like sushi, dumplings, and wok-fried snapper while looking out on the city skyline was a rite of passage for Dallas diners. Five Sixty opened in 2009 after a $23 million renovation, with sleek interiors to match the sparkling ball in the sky’s views.
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Review: Spago at middle age: Is Wolfgang Puck’s flagship restaurant still relevant?
This week our two restaurant critics jointly consider one of Los Angeles’ dining behemoths and ask the question: Is Spago still relevant? This is Patricia Escárcega’s review. Find Bill Addison’s take here.
As armchair statisticians like to remind us, the lifespan of the average restaurant is painfully short. It makes a certain amount of sense that older restaurants, heralded for their longevity, are entombed in the language of deference and age — they are “classics,” “landmarks,” sometimes even “icons.”
Spago, Wolfgang Puck’s temple to casually elegant dining, is the rare restaurant that can make a fair claim to all three titles. At 37 years old, it is a middle-aged colossus with name recognition around the world.
Its legacy is manifold: Puck’s stardom, and the successful branding of his name and image, pioneered the trajectory of the modern-day celebrity chef. Spago’s dining room, more amiable than fussy — the original Spago in West Hollywood was an overnight sensation with a casually cool dining room (those white wire-basket chairs!) — nudged the dining world toward a more democratic model of service. The kitchen distinguished itself with an eccentric yet glamorous menu of clever finger foods, fusiony Asian-inspired dishes and Continental classics reworked with the freshest California-grown ingredients.
On the menu in those early days: duck sausage pizza “Chinese style” duck breast with shiitake mushrooms and scallions and marinated tuna with avocado, kaiware and red onions. Nothing cost more than $15. The local papers called it “California cuisine.”
The flagship Spago was relocated to its current Beverly Hills address in 1997 in 2012, both the dining room and menu underwent an extensive redesign. Since then, the menu has followed an Italian-style format of antipasti, pasta and entrees (a multicourse “California tasting menu” is also available and remains a popular option). The kitchen still hinges on a familiar yet compelling formula: refined French and Japanese technique fused with a California obsession for seasonality.
In early June, on the cusp of summer, Spago’s menu is flush with the buttery sweetness of first-of-the-season white corn. The handmade agnolotti that was served over a velvety puree of sweet English peas back in April now is enrobed in a breathtakingly rich corn, Parmesan and mascarpone sauce. The excellent brigand’s hat pasta, strewn with meaty honeycombs of wild morel mushrooms and withered ramps in springtime, turns into a more keenly aromatic dish by June: now it’s chanterelle mushrooms lathered in basil-intensive butter. At Spago, you can track the seasons through a bowl of soup.
Spago today lands squarely in the golden mean of upscale dining: modern but not exactly modernist elegant but not stuffy stimulating but rarely thrilling. This is most obvious on the menu of rotating entrees. You probably will be content with the grilled prime New York strip, reliably well-cooked and served with a crisp, fatty bacon-potato lozenge that tastes like the most ludicrously fatty ham and cheese sandwich fathomable. Steamed Virginia bass, marinated lightly in soy, is pleasantly fleshy and moist. The pan-roasted Jidori chicken is reliably excellent: gorgeously crisp-skinned and padded lightly with a thin, creamy layer of goat cheese.
Dinner is most compelling when the menu meanders away from the expensive prime cuts and familiar sides of polenta and blistered shishito peppers. There is, for example, an aguachile-style octopus served in a young coconut, sumptuously tender and bracingly tart. Crispy tempura calf’s brain — crispy, creamy, with a sharp hit of citrus — is as snacky as potato chips. Versions of the whole, roasted Cantonese duck have bounced on and off the menu for years, and the bird is still a marvel of texture: Its sweet-sticky exterior, baroquely crisp, yields beautifully to rich, moist flesh.
Spago has an aptitude for keeping up with the times but smartly keeps one foot in the past. You can still request popular off-menu staples like the house-smoked salmon pizza with crème fraîche (a dish that helped turn “gourmet” into an appropriate modifier for pizza) and Puck’s signature Wiener schnitzel. But if these dishes invoke nostalgia, it is a nostalgia available only to certain diners — those for whom Spago holds personal memory and meaning.
There’s a bigger question I’ve been circling since I first ate at Spago earlier this year: Who is this restaurant for? I did not grow up eating at Spago, and so for many years the version of it that lived in my imagination was one culled from tabloids, movies and the fiction of Bret Easton Ellis: Spago as a hothouse of celebrity and excess, a home away from home for the sons of Beverly Hills, killing time in their Ray-Bans and popped collars over expensive salads. Whether that was half-true or half-caricature, it added up to the same conclusion: This was not a restaurant meant for me.
Who does Spago belong to in 2019? On a recent Friday night, the dining room belonged to the family celebrating the newly minted UCLA graduate wearing his blue mortarboard at the table and to the throngs of sport-jacketed men drinking gin and tonics at the bar. For more than two hours, it belonged to a group of well-coiffed tourists occupying the prime corner booth, documenting every morsel of their multicourse tasting menu with shiny iPhones. Spago today, on a Friday night, feels like a one-size-fits-all special-occasion restaurant, where “special occasion” might intimate a whole spectrum of desires: the desire to celebrate a major achievement or fill your Instagram with crisp photos of beautiful-looking food.
Those seeking more than the satisfaction of checking off the restaurant from their dining bucket list may be disappointed. Long hailed as less fussy and more democratic than its peers, Spago can be icy and frantic in ways more closely aligned with a tourist attraction than a well-worn local restaurant. Service is not always commensurate with the high cost of admission. The chaos of the valet station on Canon Drive may force you to circle the block, hunting for a rare free spot. Dinner can be sullied by absentmindedness and poor pacing: On one occasion, my server disappeared mid-dinner. Dishes plodded out irregularly for the rest of the night bread service arrived closer to the end of the meal than the beginning. The spell of Spago can quickly be broken.
In a city where the most interesting cooking often happens in sweltering food trucks, strip mall kitchens and backyard pop-ups, Spago is no longer innovating. You will not come here to explore the city’s most vital flavors and personalities. But Spago rests comfortably on a bedrock of accomplished cooking, legacy status and nostalgia. And for a certain segment of Angelenos, no amount of airy discussion will change the fact that it still feels like home.
Wolfgang Puck’s flagship pioneered casual fine dining in Los Angeles. But is the restaurant still relevant?
176 N. Canon Drive, Beverly Hills, (310) 385-0880, wolfgangpuck.com/dining/spago
Starters $19-$59 pastas $21-$48 entrees $39-$165 sides $14
Credit cards accepted. Full bar. Valet parking. Dining room and restroom are wheelchair-accessible.
Smoked salmon pizza aguachile-style octopus agnolotti pan-roasted Jidori chicken
Two LA Culinary Giants Collaborate on Academy Museum Restaurant This Fall
More details are beginning to emerge about the dining plan at the years-in-the-making Academy Museum of Motion Pictures on Wilshire. Per the LA Times, operator Bill Chait (Tesse, Tartine, and formerly of Republique, Bestia, and beyond) and star chef Wolfgang Puck’s catering arm are collaborating on a 10,000 square foot restaurant that will span two floors and include both traditional sit-down dining spaces as well as a lounge and market. The restaurant will be named Fanny’s, a nod to old Hollywood’s Fanny Brice of Funny Girl fame.
Puck’s catering company has fed Oscars attendees for more than two decades, so it’s not surprising to see his name attached to the museum’s restaurant, which plans to open in late September. Reps say the restaurant’s formal staff announcements (like who will be doing the actual cooking) and cuisine have not yet been announced, but Fanny’s is expected to offer breakfast, lunch, and dinner menus daily. Meanwhile Puck is staying busy around town, running his longstanding restaurants while also opening a pair of new projects at the newly-opened Pendry West Hollywood hotel.
Serve Exclusively Certified Angus Beef Brand Beef
twelve-ounce certified angus beef strip. salemville bleu cheese butter, and french fries or steamed green beans
Top Sirloin Steak
black pepper rubbed, eight-ounce certified angus beef top sirloin, served with yukon gold potatoes, asparagus, and garlic-mushroom sauce
Beef Tenderloin Filet
six-ounce certified angus beef filet served on a bed of sauteed spinach with whipped yukon gold potatoes or vegetable
served with whipped yukon gold potatoes and tomato caper white wine sauce
Pan-Seared Atlantic Salmon
over a bed of sauteed spring vegetables tossed in basil pesto and finished with a balsamic - fig reduction
with baby carrots, squash, spinach, new potatoes, and your choice of roasted garlic reduction or marsala mushroom sauce
Grilled Pork Chop
served with porcini risotto and grilled asparagus in a balsamic shallot sauce
served blackened with saffron rice, broccoli, and creme lemon sauce
served with sauteed mushrooms, tomatoes, and artichokes finished with a lemon sauce
mushroom-crusted seared hawallan tuna served with horseradish whipped yukon gold potatoes and sauteed spinach, finished with merlot reduction sauce
Wolfgang ventures to Miami, FL to spend time with cookbook author, pastry chef, and dear friend Maida Heatter. They prepare flourless chocolate cake and "chocolate cigarettes" as a unique cake topping. Wolfgang bakes a delicious coconut layer cake.
Hawaiian Fishing Odyssey
Wolfgang takes in the sights and sounds of Hawaii. He cooks Red Snapper with Macadamia Nut crust & Maui onion sauce and shows the audience how to make tuna sashimi at home.
Hawaii's Floral Secrets
Wolf explores the "jungles" of Maui. We learn that a root from the ground can become a delicious and versatile food. He creates taro pancakes with smoked salmon and light, crisp hearts of palm salad with proscuitto.
Wolf explores the tropical fruits that surround the beauty that is Hawaii. He takes you inside the process of dehydrating fruit. He prepares Pork Loin with Thai sauce and papaya salad and banana fritters.
Wolfgang's Pizza Party
Wolfgang spends the day teaching the skills of pizza making to a group of children from a chapter of the "Boys & Girls Club. He teaches them to make Chicken Caesar pizza and shrimp/goat cheese pizza.
While in Hawaii, Wolfgang follows the process of making sugar. Then he learns the process of making vanilla. He creates macadamia nut brittle and creme brulee tart.
Dim Sum and some
You've never seen Dim Sum like this before. Wolfgang makes 3 types of dim sum to please every palate: pork, shrimp, and pot stickers. He then visits the legendary Mr. Chows of Beverly Hills.
Wolfgang visits a tortilla factory in downtown LA and learns how to make extravagant tortillas and tamales. He brings the fresh flavors and robust spices of Mexican food home by making barbeque chicken quesadillas and scallops and shrimp ceviche.
Wolfgang and 4 of America's most lauded chefs cook up a feast together for the "Meals on Wheels" charity. Wolfgang makes sauteed shrimp with Thai spiced eggplant and thai red curry sauce and banana chocolate chip souffle.
Wolfgang learns the process of making ice cream at the famous Fosselman's ice creamery. He tops his day off making boysenberry, peach and lemon meringue cobbler with two ladies who created a mouth- watering cobbler recipe. With Guest chef Sherry Yard.
Coffee and cookies
Most people start their day with a fresh, hot cup of coffee, and today Wolf finds out where that rich taste comes from. To accompany his cup of 'joe', Wolfgang makes mocha macadamia nut chocolate chunk cookies, and Tiramisu with homemade lady fingers.
The Great Gouda
Wolfgang leaves behind his Beverly Hills kitchen to join some local artisan cheese makers. He then transforms the cheese using these magnificent recipes, onion soup with melted gouda crust, gouda panini with proscuitto and tomato sauce, and cheese fondue.
Wolfgang travels to San Diego to go aboard the USS Constellation. He learns how the Navy kitchen staff cooks- and then tries his hand at Navy cooking. Wolfgang also whips up an imaginative Thanksgiving meal.
Explore India at Home
Wolfgang visits Little India. He cooks up north and south Indian cuisine, sizzling with exotic spices. He makes a spicy Garam Masala, North Indian Chicken Curry and Mint Tea Sorbet.
Wolfgang's Catch of the Day
In Aspen, CO Wolfgang will show us how to build a campfire and fire up his catch of the day. He prepares his trout in a puff pastry with pike mousse and chive butter sauce with a salad with berry honey vinaigrette.
Gems of the Pacific
Wolfgang finds out there are "other fish, in other seas." Wolfgang goes out off the coast of San Diego to learn the dangerous job of sea urchin harvesting. Wolfgang prepares mussels meuniere and broiled sea scallops with teriyaki glaze.
Wolfgang Feeds A Charity
Wolfgang and some of his restauranteur friends unite at the annual charity event for "Meals on Wheels". Wolfgang whips up Potato and pea samosas with tamarind and date chutney and Lamb tandoori with cilantro mint chutney.
Acclaimed Japanese chef Nobu Matsuhisa and Wolfgang spend the day in Little Tokyo in LA. Together they create a tempura with two mustard dipping sauces and a ponzu sauce, as well as black cod with miso sauce.
Tricks & Treats
Wolfgang ventures to Las Vegasto celebrate Halloween with Siegfried & Roy. W ith chef Sherry Yard, Wolfgang makes batty chocolate mousse with chocolate cookie wings, witch's finger cookies with raspberry coulis.
Join Wolfgang and his family as they celebrate the Jewish holiday of Passover at Spago Beverly Hills. Wolfgang applies his chef's imagination to some traditional dishes of this holiday to create an inspired feast.
Wolfgang Puck's The Source in Washington D.C., and Five Sixty in Dallas
America's other "first-ever superchef," Wolfgang Puck, has also fallen on hard pandemic times with the recent shutterings of The Source and Five Sixty (whose websites have subsequently vanished). This double-whammy is all the more shocking considering the size and heft of Puck's business empire. With 110 fine dining and casual restaurants in addition to catering and licensing deals, his total annual revenues were estimated to be around $650 million, in 2018.
Five Sixty opened in 2009, at the top of Dallas' iconic Reunion Tower (the restaurant's name refers to its height of 560 feet above ground level). Dining on dumplings and lacquered Chinese duckling with the spectacular view quickly became "a Dallas rite of passage," one that sadly came to an end in late April with the news that "due to the Coronavirus, Five Sixty by Wolfgang Puck will not reopen."
In mid-May, Puck's D.C.-based The Source followed suit after 13 years in business. The Asian fusion restaurant had marked Puck's initial foray into the nation's capital. A DC power dining hotspot, The Source spearheaded a changing of the culinary guard, weaning locals off staid steakhouses and onto the izakaya bar grub that made The Source a perennial favorite.
The closings have taken their toll on Puck who confessed to The Hollywood Reporter that he'd been stress-eating a lot of chocolate, admitting, "I think I've gained 10 pounds these past few weeks."
Wolfgang Puck’s JAI Restaurant Closes in San Diego - Recipes
LOS ANGELES, CA (6/14/16)
After a three-week trial, a Los Angeles jury returned a rare defense verdict in favor of Hotel Bel-Air and its Wolfgang Puck Restaurant. Seeking $5.1 Million in compensatory damages plus punitive damages, Carney Shegerian and his team of three lawyers and other technical support staff – California plaintiffs’ attorneys advertising a 95% success rate – was defeated by Stokes Wagner, including Arch Stokes, Peter Maretz, Diana Dowell, Adam Parry, Shirley Gauvin and paralegal Eleanor McCloskey. Mr. Stokes asked the jury to award Zero, and that is what they did.
Plaintiff Felix Huerta originally claimed 12 causes of action, including race discrimination, harassment, failure to prevent, negligent supervision, breach of implied contract, intentional infliction of emotional distress, etc. Huerta claimed that while working as an evening restaurant server at the iconic Hotel Bel-Air’s famed Wolfgang Puck Restaurant he was subjected to racist taunts, bullying, assault and battery, and attacks by another server, in front of supervisors and managers. Huerta alleged vile and demeaning conduct, including calling him “mother-f__ing Mexican,” “f__ing Mexican,” “little b__ch,” “beaner,” etc. On December 21, 2013, the tension between the two servers resulted in an altercation. The matter was investigated and both were terminated.
Hotel Bel-Air had implemented a progressive employee handbook/contract that guaranteed no employee would be retaliated against for reporting bad behavior. The hotel even had a 24/7 “hotline,” making it easy for employees to complain. Further, the hotel conducted regular training, encouraging employees to report any concerns. Mr. Huerta failed to report anything for almost two years.
In his Closing, Mr. Shegerian summoned images of Cesar Chavez and Martin Luther King, Jr., in his impassioned pleas to the jury for millions. Hotel Bel-Air’s counsel, Arch Stokes, turned that argument on its head, quoting Dr. King’s saying, “he who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetuate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.” Mr. Stokes argued that plaintiff Huerta laid in wait and taunted the supposed bully/harasser, provoking the physical altercation.
The jury returned a verdict in favor of the defense on all claims.
One of the Dorchester Collection hotels, the Hotel Bel-Air is a Five Star/Five Diamond luxury hotel property located in Bel Air, California.
Stokes Wagner specializes in the representation of hospitality and restaurant clients in labor and employment matters throughout the nation.
Please contact Peter Maretz of Stokes Wagner at 619-237-0909/[email protected] for all inquiries.
Case Information: Case Title: Felix Huerta v. Kava Holdings, Inc., et al. Case Number: BC554145 Court: Los Angeles Superior Court, Central Nature of Suit: Harassment, Discrimination, Failure to Prevent Harassment/Discrimination Judge: Hon. Ruth Ann Kwan Date Filed: August 8, 2014 Law Firms: Arch Stokes, Peter Maretz, Diana Dowell, Adam Parry, Shirley Gauvin and paralegal Eleanor McCloskey, Stokes Wagner, ALC (Defendants) Carney Shegerian, Anthony Nguyen, Shegerian & Assoc. (Plaintiffs)
Share All sharing options for: Wolfgang Puck in Trademark Spat With Boulder-Born Restaurant The Kitchen
Kimbal Musk with Wolfgang Puck in 2012 at Spago Courtesy of Kimbal Musk
Boulder's original farm to table restaurant, The Kitchen, has launched a legal trademark battle against celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck. The twelve year old restaurant known for its commitment to local and seasonal ingredients is challenging Puck's use of the name The Kitchen in existing and upcoming ventures.
Puck, whose empire includes flagship Spago (there is a location in Beaver Creek, CO), as well as a variety of fine and casual restaurant concepts, plus cookbooks, and kitchenware, opened The Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck and The Kitchen Counter by Wolfgang Puck last year in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
According to Kimbal Musk, co-owner of The Kitchen, the confusion was immediate. "Last year, when this first started, people started calling me to ask if we were opening in Grand Rapids," he shared. "Our Chicago location is popular, we have a well-known brand there and people familiar with it thought we were expanding to Michigan."
Puck has plans for expanding this new franchise-centric venture with a location at the the Washington Dulles International Airport as well as a Los Angeles outpost. Here's the official description of this concept:
The Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck specializes in the renowned chef's interpretation of global comfort fare highlighting several of his signature recipes using only the freshest, locally-sourced ingredients. As one of the newest casual concepts in the Wolfgang Puck family, The Kitchen promises a welcoming and relaxed dining environment, perfect for your next business meeting, leisurely lunch, family dinner or meal on the go.
Musk and his Colorado-born The Kitchen are not pleased. "There are multiple problems with this whole situation. One is that Wolfgang knows me, knows my family, and knows about The Kitchen. To pursue this name and prey on a still-young and up and coming group like ours is one of the saddest things I have ever seen as a businessman," Musk explained. "Another big problem is that his concept is franchise-based, a system in which controlling the local sourcing of ingredients will likely be very difficult that affects our brand," Musk continued.
While the Kitchen launched simply as just a neighborhood spot on Boulder's Pearl Street, the restaurant has expanded in recent years with sister concept Next Door, of which there are currently three locations, and three additional locations of The Kitchen - Denver, Fort Collins, and Chicago. Musk and business partner Hugo Matheson have long eyed a California location, are underway with three Memphis ventures, and are in the process of revealing an additional outpost in one of Denver's most posh neighborhoods.
Filing a legal claim in this situation was not Musk's first choice and he even proposed that Puck's venture simply change to Wolfgang's Kitchen to avoid confusing guests. "I reached out to Wolfgang as soon as I learned of this. I called numerous times without any response. This was surprising because we had met in the past, I have shared business ideas with him, and saw him as a mentor. We were told by employees and lawyers that they intended to go forward with their name," Musk said. "I think they did not believe that we will fight and they definitely didn't believe that the public will learn about it," he added.
Wolfgang Puck’s JAI Restaurant Closes in San Diego - Recipes
April 6, 2018
Heading into the space at 101 N Coast Highway in Encinitas that last housed Bull Taco is ChiKo, a fast-casual, modern Chinese and Korean eatery from three esteemed industry vets whose flagship Washington D.C. location is a current semifinalist for James Beard Awards Best New Restaurant.
After a career working under Wolfgang Puck, including a decade at the celebrity chef's famed Chinese American restaurant The Source in Washington D.C., Chef Scott Drewno decided it was time for something new. In 2017, Drewno partnered with two other successful D.C. restaurateurs - Mandu Korean restaurant chef and owner Danny Lee and former Matchbox restaurant chain owner Andrew Kim - to establish a new hospitality group called Fried Rice Collective. Their first restaurant concept, ChiKo, opened last summer in the Capitol City area of D.C. to huge fanfare, offering a lengthy menu that combines Lee’s Korean style with Drewno’s Chinese recipes. Earlier this year, it was announced that ChiKo was a semifinalist for the 2018 James Beard Awards Best New Restaurant category, with the winners set to be announced this May.
The second location of ChiKo will install within the space previously occupied by Bull Taco in a quiet stretch of the Leucadia area of Encinitas. The restaurant will be no-frills with walk-up counter service and dishes served casually in metal bowls on sheet pans. The menu contains a wide variety of authentic and fusion Chinese and Korean dishes like pork and kimchi potstickers, braised cumin lamb with noodles, bulgogi rib-eye and rice cakes, and pork belly-kimchi stew. Small plates will range in price from $8 to $11, while more substantial dishes range from $14 to $18. The restaurant will also serve beer and wine.