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SPQR--Open with new menu, any comments yet?

b
bobpantzer Oct 2, 2009 10:31 AM

We have reservations tomorrow night (10/3) at SPQR. Though I know they just re-opened a couple of nights ago, has anyone been there yet and what are your comments, recommendations, etc.

  1. Robert Lauriston Oct 2, 2009 07:54 PM

    Reservations? Awesome.

    Save room for dessert.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Robert Lauriston
      b
      bobpantzer Oct 3, 2009 08:11 AM

      Yes, reservations!! I ALWAYS save room for dessert.

    2. b
      bobpantzer Oct 5, 2009 09:45 AM

      Here is my report on our dinner Saturday evening at SPQR. I had never been there under the previous chef, partially because of the no reservation policy and the resultant long waits that I had heard about and partially because, aside from the pizzas, I have not been a fan of A16, though I live only a few blocks from it.

      At SPQR we were able to make a reservation and our table was waiting for us on arrival--I think it was the only vacant table when we got there. We were greeted warmly and our server, who had been employed there under the former chef and who had also worked at Quince, was super and very knowledgeable with the new menu and very helpful to us.

      My wife and I shared the gem lettuce salad with beets, walnuts and gorgonzola which was nicely dressed.

      We also shared the pasta our server suggested which was a squash and prune tortellin9i with almond butter. This is something that didn't sound particularly appealing to me and I doubt that I would have ordered it without her recommendation. It was absolutely delicious. I do think, though, that splitting it was wise because both my wife and I felt that a full portion might be too much of a good thing because of the slightly sweet flavors.

      My wife's roasted swordfish with peperonata, egglpland relish was definitely a success with her, as was my beef oxtail and grilled short ribs with semolina polenta.

      For dessert my wife had the chestnut cake with pears and I left my dessert choice to the server who came with a puff pastry, served warm, stuffed with apples and cherries.

      We had a nice bottle of wine which the server recommended from the all Italian wine list.

      All in all, a wonderful experience and one which we hope to repeat often.

      There you have it.

      2 Replies
      1. re: bobpantzer
        p
        pauliface Oct 5, 2009 10:56 AM

        So glad to hear this.
        And particularly glad about the reservations.
        I ate their once before and it was fantastic, but at this point in my life I almost never go to a popular/crowded restaurant unless I can reserve.

        1. re: pauliface
          b
          bobpantzer Oct 5, 2009 11:07 AM

          Totally agree! With all the terrific restaurants that take reservations, why spend your time standing around waiting or sitting at a bar getting bombed.

      2. rworange Oct 13, 2009 10:52 PM

        link

        -----
        SPQR
        1911 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

        1. CarrieWas218 Nov 11, 2009 11:13 AM

          Went to SPQR last evening - the first time since the chef change. Lots of changes; for starters, the dark, heavy, rustic earthenware plates are gone and have been replaced with pristine, clean more food-presentable white plates which shows the food off better. Secondly, the breakdown of the menu is much different; you used to be able to choose a series of starters in the $8 range from three categories and then a more expensive set of pasta and entrée offerings. Now there is Spuntini, 15 offerings from $7 to $15; Primi (pastas), 10 choices from $14 to $16, and Piatti, six offerings at $17 and $18.

          Along with a carafe of Terenzi ‘Velobra’ Cesanese del Piglio, Lazio 2006, we ordered four different Spuntini and a Piatti (I've never been a fan of their pasta):

          Local sardines, currant breadcrumbs, mutsu apple purée and lemon oil
          Chicory salad with shallot agrodolce, bacon, and crispy anchovy
          Yellowtail 'crudo,' finger lime, quince saba and fried prosciutto
          Crispy pig's ear, pickled jalapeno, green tomato, and radish
          Veal sweetbreads, wild fennel soffritto, and hamada farms fruit

          The first dish to arrive were the sardines. I have to admit, for $8, I was really surprised to only get two. They were butterflied and flailed open and breaded. Very tasty, but gone in three bites. For that price, I was expecting at least three sardines.

          Next was the chicory salad. This was a bit more ample, but still a bit pricey at $12. The bacon bits played off delightfully with the deep-fried anchovies. The whole salad was topped with a creamy grated cheese and was a very successful dish.

          The yellowtail crudo arrived shortly afterwards. While called "finger lime," the flavor seemed more like fresh mandarin oranges. Very nicely prepared and perfectly fresh fish.

          The crispy pig's ear was four perfect bites of salty wonderment and bright, spicy accompaniment.

          The winner of the night was the presentation of sweetbreads. Gone are the days of the deep-fried dish with celery slivers. Now two large sweetbreads are skewered with a sprig of wild fennel. We had to ask about the "hamada farms fruit" as it tasted a bit like stewed, brunoise of tomatoes. Instead, it was a compote of pear, plum, pluots, and apricots. The sweetbread was rich and tender and perfectly delightful.

          We also shared a Ricotta bavarese with sour cherry and Napa valley verjus along with glasses of Traversa, Brachetto, Piemonte 2008. A very creamy, rich dessert, the taste of the cheese paired perfectly with the strawberry sparkle in the glass. With a classic graham cracker crust, we realized what made it that much better was a predominant use of salt in the crust. At the very end, I had a single bite of the crunchy base as was rather delighted by the salt flavor.

          When all was said and done, we spent $150. I think the costs are about 10% to 15% more than they should be for the portion sizes, but I cannot fault them at all on the quality, presentation, or service. With my friend and I seated in the window, our waitress was delightful and helpful, despite a very long line of customers waiting for tables. I am very impressed with the new menu, but am slightly saddened I can't stop in by myself and have an ample sampling of food for $24, the way I used to. Now it will be more like $30ish. The famed brussels sprouts are gone and I'm not sure that is a bad thing; they were good, but always too salty for my taste. And the existence of crowds shows that they are still doing good work.

          -----
          SPQR
          1911 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

          9 Replies
          1. re: CarrieWas218
            r
            rahir Nov 11, 2009 11:30 AM

            No more Brussels sprouts? Eek.

            1. re: rahir
              steve h. Nov 11, 2009 05:56 PM

              sprouts are still on the menu, just not fried. sauteed in a hot oil and accented with almonds (per an on-line menu). they are awesome. deb and i tried them a few weeks ago and are still talking about them.

              1. re: steve h.
                CarrieWas218 Nov 11, 2009 08:49 PM

                Sorry, Steve -- I think they have not updated their website lately. I'm holding a printed menu from last ngith and here are the current offerings of just the Spuntini (the rest of pasta and entrées):

                Fritto misto of local sole & vegetables
                Eggs 'al diavolo' dill & white anchovy
                Spiced rocitta friters & smoked maple syrup
                Crispy pig's ear, pickled jalapeno, green tomato & radish
                Chopped chicken liver, balsamic, seckel pear jam & crostino
                Local sardines, currant breadcrumbs, mutsu apple purée & lemon oil
                Yellowtail 'crudo,' finger lime, quice saba & fried prosciutto
                Cured sea trout, panzanella & olivida
                Shaved fennel salad, mutsu apple, red onion & citrus
                Chicory salad, shallot agrodolce, bacon & crispy anchovy
                Baby lettuce, beets, walnuts, pickled red onion & gorgonzola
                burrata, peperonata, watercress & aged balsamic vinegar
                Warm pecorino, quince, dandelion & hazelnut honey
                Griddled calamari, potato gaeta olives & salsa verde
                Pork belly 'croccante,' pickled red friarelli peppers & gremolata

                1. re: CarrieWas218
                  steve h. Nov 12, 2009 01:34 PM

                  Hi Carrie,
                  Deb and i ate there twice last month. We enjoyed the brussels sprouts but couldn't quite figure out how they were cooked. The best we could come up with was that they were sauteed in olive oil with a little pancetta. When we got home I discovered the new menu on Eater.. Here's a link:

                  http://sf.eater.com/archives/2009/09/28/accarrinowire_revamped_spqr_menu_revealed.php

                  Here's a link to my Chowhound report:

                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/661638

                  A good time was had by all.

                  --steve

                  1. re: steve h.
                    CarrieWas218 Nov 12, 2009 02:27 PM

                    I don't doubt that you had them. I'm just saying that the menu has changed and the website has not. There were no brussels sprouts available when I dined a few days ago. Believe me, I would have ordered them...

                    1. re: CarrieWas218
                      steve h. Nov 12, 2009 02:40 PM

                      We were, we did. Maybe the best sprouts I've ever had. The tiny leaves were dry, almost as if they were grilled. but as the Eater menu clearly shows, they weren't. The heat from the hot oil came through clearly. All-in-all, it was a remarkable dish. Deb and I puzzled over the preparation for some time. That's when I hit Google and found the Eater menu. Go back and give them a shot. Contrast the Eater menu to what you see and report back.

                      Best regards,

                      --steve

                      1. re: steve h.
                        Robert Lauriston Nov 12, 2009 03:44 PM

                        The Eater menu's from September, the sample at http://www.spqrsf.com/menus is from this month. Though I imagine brussels sprouts will be on and off the menu so long as the local season lasts.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                          r
                          rahir Nov 13, 2009 10:08 AM

                          From Matthew Accarrino's recent interview with EaterSF:

                          "So you didn’t even look at the old menu before you started?

                          Not really, the first week we had brussel sprouts and cauliflower because they were big hits before, but I took them off. I didn’t really know about the restaurant before I moved up here. I was excited to run a small operation with a tight crew."

                          Adios, brussels sprouts.

                          For the complete interview, go here: http://sf.eater.com/archives/2009/11/... .

                          -----
                          SPQR
                          1911 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

            2. re: CarrieWas218
              baron45 Nov 12, 2009 10:21 AM

              That is my one complaint about SPQR. As good as the food is, the portions are incredibly tiny for what you're paying. The pork belly is $13 and gets you 4 bite-size pieces. If it was for foie-gras, I can understand the high price, but for pork belly?

              -----
              SPQR
              1911 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

            3. b
              bobpantzer Nov 22, 2009 08:53 AM

              I started this link a couple of months ago, and later posted a review (above) of our initial experience, which was fantastic. Well, we returned last night and, if anything, our experience was even better.

              Again, we had made reservations in advance and arrived a few minutes early for our 6:00PM reservation and our table was waiting.

              Our server was terrific. She recommended a glass of an Italian white wine to start and she was spot on with a crisp, bright wine as we requested. We told her we had been to the restaurant a few weeks before and didn't want to repeat anything we had at that time. She guided us through the menu and here is what we had:

              A complimentary order of the sardines in a chili oil. These were delicious and totally unexpected. There were two of them which seems to be the size of the dish if you order them from the menu.

              The shaved fennel salad with apples and citrus, was a super way to start with fresh clean flavors and at least three types of citrus fruit.

              We ordered the chestnut "nicchi", spigarello ( a type of broccoli rabe) and burnt orange sauce. These little stuffed, triangular pasta domes were incredible.

              We were also delivered a complementary order of the stinging nettle torchio with garlic cream and pancetta. This dish was also superb.

              My main was the special of the evening--red wine risotto with pheasant ragu and pheasant egg. - perfect sized portion after everything that preceded it. I love risotto and this was cooked perfectly and different than any I've had previously.

              My wife had the rabit wrapped in bacon with cannellini beans, cabbage and cranberry.

              For dessert I ordered the carmel panna cotta with banana ice. It was as good as I've ever had.

              Though my wife didn't order dessert, our server brought her a complimentary ice of some kind.

              Our server was very knowledgeable about both the menu and the wine list. She selected a bottle of Masciarelli Montepulciano d'Abruzzo which paired well with all our dishes.

              All in all, this restaurant has moved to the top of my list of favorites. The staff is friendly and helpful, the ambiance is great and, most importantly, the food is awesome--what a way the chef has with pastas.

              3 Replies
              1. re: bobpantzer
                CarrieWas218 Nov 23, 2009 08:44 AM

                Out of curiosity, how do you get three complimentary courses?

                1. re: CarrieWas218
                  b
                  bobpantzer Nov 23, 2009 11:03 AM

                  You know, I really don't know. I actually asked our server and she said they just wanted to make sure we tried some different stuff. I had previously mentioned that we had been there a month or so ago and really liked it and so, had been anxious to return. Maybe they thought we were somebody we really weren't. At her request, I also gave our server the names of some other restaurants we really like (Bar Tartine, Range, to name a couple) and she actually wrote them down and said she'd try them.

                  1. re: bobpantzer
                    rworange Nov 23, 2009 11:11 AM

                    That happens to me often when I have a restaurant I really love. It is surprising what sincere gushing will get your. You can't force it though. Bob sounded like he really thinks the place is great and conveyed that to the staff. Again, being a phony and trying insincere flattery won't usually get you anything. Not that gushing always yeilds extras, but I've sort of noticed that happens in places I'm where I'm a crazed fan of the food.

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