RIYADH: Riyadh Season has brought an authentic taste of Beverly Hills to the Saudi capital, offering a unique opportunity to try the best Californian delicacies by Los Angeles restaurant Spago, which has opened a pop-up branch as part of the event.
“Saudis from royal family members to business people always come during summertime and Ramadan to Spago,” chef Wolfgang Puck told Arab News at the pop-up kitchen at the Saudi National Museum in Riyadh. “They like our food.”
The restaurant, located at Al-Murabaa zone, offers Puck’s signature dishes, such as haute cuisine pizzas topped with smoked salmon and caviar, and sea bass in puff pastry, in addition to the traditional Austrian dessert Kaiserschmarrn with macerated strawberries.
“One of the reasons we came here was we thought maybe we would find a place for a permanent restaurant here,” said Puck.
“We have had our restaurant in Bahrain for four years now, and it is doing very well at the Four Seasons, so when we received the invitation to come here we thought it was a good chance to come and discover the city.
“Riyadh is so much bigger than Bahrain, which has a very small population. Riyadh is the business and political center of the region, and it would be good for us if we found the right place for our restaurant.”
Puck’s success worldwide is not only due to his talent and business management skills, but also to his eagerness to learn. “I love to learn: I love to experience new things and meet new people from different countries and cultures.”
Riyadh is the business and political center of the region, and it would be good for us if we found the right place for our restaurant.
Spago is one of Los Angeles’ most iconic restaurants, founded in 1982. It was an instant success and a culinary phenomenon thanks to Puck’s innate talent inherited from his mother and developed at a very young age.
Many of his dishes were inspired by his childhood and his mother’s cooking, particularity the desserts she used to make back in Austria, Puck’s homeland. His recipes have put him and Spago on the gourmet map, not just in Los Angeles but throughout the world.
But even the world’s most glamorous restaurants have to make a special effort to attract customers. “We make bread differently in Bahrain than in London,” Puck said. “In Bahrain, we add some Arabic spices on top of the bread; we also make some different dips like hummus or others with particular spices. So, when people sit down and try our food, they say: ‘Ah! That tastes somehow familiar,’” Puck said.
He adds that he likes tradition, but also likes innovation and change. Although he is keen to maintain his classic signature dishes, he also finds it necessary to bring new choices to the menu regularly.