Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >
Mar 6, 2008 09:47 AM

SPQR since Daniel's departure - Not up to snuff?

I ate at SPQR three or four times while Daniel was at the helm. I have eaten at SPQR three times since Daniel left.

I have to say, they are quickly on a down-hill slide... Because of multiple accolades, the place is swamped but as I always dine solo, I have been able to find a seat at the bar anytime I go. That said, my most recent visit included brussel sprouts that were not only over-fried, but horrifically over-salted. My salads were over-dressed. And the sweetbreads were soggy as though they were not served immediately . I didn't get bread served until the third of my three-course tasting menu. The pasta was over-cooked and hardly al dente.

I am sooooooo sad....

Can't wait to figure out where chef Daniel will land next and follow his career. I am reticent on returning to SPQR despite my adulations.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      No, Robert -- it is not a tasting menu; they offer the left-hand side of the menu appetizers as $7.00 each, three for $18, and five for $28. Dining alone, I usually get the three appetizers which I erroneously referred to as a three-course tasting menu because it is what it is for me; designed by me and my three-course dinner.

    2. I have been going there about twice a month since November and have not noticed a decline. If anything, the food has gotten better in my opinion since Nate Appleman is spending more time there. For example, the entrees were not good until recently and the pastas had a tendency to be very overdone. I had the first really al dente pasta there last week--spaghtetti cacio e pepe. Before that, I told the staff there that there pastas were mushy. With respect to entrees, the saltimbocca I had was much better now, more tender, not rubbery, and better seasoned. Everything else, particularly the apps, have stayed the course in my opinion. I normally sit at the chefs bar, and one thing I have noticed of late is that the cooks seem happier. Before, I noticed the bald chef that left, yelling 4 letter words to the cooks in plain earshot of customers, that made feel uncomfortable and bad for the staff.

      4 Replies
      1. re: Amy G

        I haven't noticed a taste or service change either. In fact, I was rather grumpy right after Daniel left and was in a bad mood because they had changed the tuna conserva dish (swapped the celery for puntarelle) and said something to the waitress before I'd even tasted it. As soon as I put it in my mouth, though, I told her to forget everything I'd said ... the salad was as good, if not better.

        The biggest change, for me, was that the panino dessert was removed from the menu when he left. But I heard from the staff that it may return.

        I am a huge fan of what Daniel was doing at SPQR, but have happily returned 3 times since and been satisfied.

        1. re: Amy G

          I've been here a few times, I think they've always had a bit of a free hand with the salt.

          And the bald headed guy you mention was very much there, as of last Friday. He is certainly not the cooks' favourite.
          The moment he would go in the rear, they would mutter expletives under their breath. Very uncomfortable indeed !

          1. re: osho

            There are several bald headed guys there. Daniel is definitely gone.

            1. re: Fig Newton

              I didn't realise there were an inordinate number of bald blokes at SPQR. :-)

        2. Carrie, I’ve always appreciated your articulate and insightful posts; however, I feel very strongly that in this situation you’re putting more weight on circumstance than reality. All restaurants have the occasional off night. This is certainly unfortunate for you, but this is the unfortunate truth of the restaurant world. The restaurant is filled with extremely competent employees - one person leaving is certainly not going to cause this place to go downhill. Quite to the contrary, I have had nothing but absolutely positive experiences every time I have been to SPQR: I have been many times since its opening, and certainly a number of times since Daniel’s departure. My meals at SQPR have been incredibly consistent.

          I would definitely agree with Amy G’s comments about the mood of the staff. Everyone seems happier and more focused. Perhaps this is purely circumstantial as well; however, if the antics Amy witnessed were at all common place, Daniel’s departure could actually be a positive for the future of the restaurant. Just food for thought.

          I would definitely give SPQR another chance. I’m particularly partial to their brunch – I believe it to be one of the best in the city.

          7 Replies
          1. re: jrhsfcm

            As regards Carrie's post on this one....she notes that she ate there 3 times before Daniel left and 3 times since. So, it's not just an off night. It'd be 3 and that's something worth noting.

            1. re: ccbweb

              On the other hand, we've got three other reports from regular patrons that things have remained consistently good.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Oh, I certainly didn't mean to argue that Carrie's view was "correct," only pointing out that she didn't form it on the basis of one visit. As always, all the reports together make this site much stronger a place to get opinions than would otherwise be the case.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  It just goes to show -- three consistently bad visits and three consistently good visits STILL shows INCONSISTENCIES and *that* is not a good thing...

                  I'm certainly not willing to give up on SPQR. It is in my neighborhood and more often than not, all I want to eat is a small plate or two and this place is great for that. I'm sure I will be back, I'm just hoping they notice the problems that I and others have mentioned and fix those problems.

                  1. re: Carrie 218

                    It's three regulars reporting consistently good food vs. one regular reporting consistently bad food.

                    Odd discrepancy. I wonder if you go at different times or on different days.

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston

                      I never go on weekends (I actually never go to any local restaurants on the weekend) and my visits tend to be anywhere from right when they open at 5:30 to late at night -- but always during the week.

                      And mine has not been the only discouraging report. Others have had over-salted brussels sprouts and mediocre pasta.

                      1. re: Carrie 218

                        I loved the brussels sprouts, but thought they were so salty that some people would surely complain.

                        I don't think their pastas were ever consistently good. The one really unsuccessful dish I had there was a baked lasagne casserole in mid-November: watery sauce, overcooked pasta, undersalted. I loved the flavor of the rigatoni alla carbonara, but totally understood other people's complaints about the texture being wrong due to the guanciale being in strips instead of diced.


            2. I had a perfect meal when Nate was in the kitchen. My next visit, on his night off was less so. All said it was one near miss after many very very good meals. Anything with pig on the appetizer menu is usually excellent.

              1. Just returned from out first (and last) experience at SPQR. The service was great, the waitstaff knowledgeable, but Carrie hit the nail on the head: the brussel sprouts were virtually unpalatable with the amount of salt added to them. The lamb burger was similarly over salted and had the consistency of old oatmeal. The cannelloni with pork and ricotta was tasty but nothing particularly noteworthy. The Trombette with long cooked broccoli romanesco and ricotta salata was bland and uninspired. The chocolate dessert with pepperoncini, though, was really good as was the antipasto grilled pecorino with endive, radicchio and capers. SPQR is rather inexpensively priced but in this instance I'm afraid we got what we paid for.

                1 Reply
                1. re: roikoe

                  Another dinner, another very successful evening. Clearly we're talking about a matter of taste. Our party of 4 dove in: chicory salad, fresh ricotta with crostini, brussels sprouts, calamari, cellini beans with pork soffritto, sausage with fennel, bocconcini, and the sweetbreads. Not a single miss. For what it's worth, we happen to love the sprouts, btw: wonderfully caramelized, perfectly soft centers with enough super crispy leaves, the hint of lemon, and salty like a potato chip. Some people like salt... some people don't: it's a personal choice. I think they're divine... and I can guarantee I'd have been eating my veggies had I had sprouts like that as a child.

                  For mains, there was a carbonara *did not try, though I've had the dish numerous times in the past*, two lamb burgers (very tasty), and the fried young chicken. The chicken is a new dish and it seems like they're still working on making it a consistent dish. It initially came out and I immediately noted the chicken was underdone - it was whisked away with apologies abundant. When it came back the second time, the meat was juicy, the skin very crispy (a non-coated fry), a lil' salt and a hit of fresh lemon juice. I'll forgive the initial "oops": the final result was tasty.

                  I also had the new chocolate/pepper parfait/mousse: it is definitely my new favorite SPQR dessert. A must try if you love the pairing of chocolate and spice.

                  Add in two carafes of wine (I couldn't drink, I'm on an antibiotic), a glass of dessert wine, a rice pudding, and two sodas... and the total was $190 plus tip. It's hard to get that much food, that big of a bang for the buck, at many other SF restaurants. Yet another reason why I love this place.