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May 26, 2010 11:01 PM

Urgent Help Needed! SQPR or Quince for this weekend?

Flying in from SoCal, recently moved from NY -- only have time for one "good" dinner in San Francisco. I had a reservation at Chez Panisse made weeks ago, but I canceled after reading underwhelming reviews.. I guess it just seemed too "classic" and I didn't want to miss on my only night in SF (i.e., risk being in the 50% that don't appreciate it)! I will be doing Slanted Door for lunch the following day.

Have narrowed it down to either SQPR or Quince (a la carte or tasting menu) - but must make a reservation ASAP! I don't want to spend $400 on this dinner (not a special occasion dinner), so in the case of tasting menu, I would not be getting the recommended wine pairings (unless highly recommended). My date is vegetarian, so a vegetarian tasting menu would be much appreciated by her for the experience (Savoy in NY did a great one for us on Valentines Day.. her meal was better than mine!).. that said I feel Quince's a la carte menu to be quite strong as it is.

Ideally meal would be $200 all-in, but I am fine with $250-350. Tasting menu + wine pairings would be $320 before tax-tip.. so basically $400 for 2. Figure a-la carte + wine (Quince again) to be $200-250 before tax-tip. And figure SQPR to be cheaper.

So SQPR or Quince, and Quince tasting menu or a la carte? Many folks of past spoke highly of Quince, but perhaps the new offering is less strong? Is SQPR the new king? I'm surprised not to find an extensive review of the two in comparison, online.

Other restaurants considered and nixed:
Classic italian -- wanted something uniquely SF
Firefly -- seems like a good option, but not respected as others.. tofu chile relleno also seemed too casual to be a "great" restaurant
Coi -- too $
Canteen -- limited menu selections and current "Week #" on website did not appeal. No lunch/brunch menu available
Jardiniere - I figured Quince was more the cult SF favorite..
Le Folie - Could not get website to work
Chez Panisse - seems risky... and reservation gone now anyway...
Zuni -- I forget why honestly..
Gary Danko -- I assumed very formal, did not look into it
Boulevard -- lack of vegetarian options. Upon calling, restaurant said they could do a plate of "seasonal vegetables". For such a well-regarded restaurant, its a shame they don't more for vegetarians than your local Applebees!

Slanted Door
Ferry Slip, San Francisco, CA 94111

Zuni Cafe
1658 Market Street, San Francisco, CA 94102

Chez Panisse
1517 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94709

Gary Danko
800 N Point St, San Francisco, CA 94109

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  1. Not sure you could get Quince reservations now, but if you can and are willing to spend the money, go to Quince. I love SPQR but it is definitely more low-key and could be a good second dinner without spending nearly the same money.

    1911 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

    4 Replies
    1. re: CarrieWas218

      Thank you. There is a spot for 2 at 10PM.. and I am willing to dine that late/make a "night" out of it although it is definitely less-than-ideal.

      Would you saw go with tasting menu or a la carte? My girlfriend is vegetarian and so if I go with tasting menu I believe i need to let them know today if they are to make a vegetarian tasting menu for her. It kills me to go tasting menu without wine pairs.. but I don't want to spend $400 on dinner..

      1. re: shanshan

        I'd go a la carte with a few half-bottles and your GF can order what makes her happy.

        1. re: CarrieWas218

          Thanks again

          Curious why you say go for half bottles vs. full bottles. Also, are there enough vegetarian items on the menu a la cart? I got a sample menu emailed to me. The way I see it there are 2 vegetarian appetizers, 2 primi and 0 vegetarian entrees. Which maybe is enough.. definitely cheaper :)

          1. re: shanshan

            If you go with half-bottles, you could order a white, a red, and a sweet (or a bubbly for the beginning) and get a little more bang-for-your buck. If you advise the kitchen, they can prepare more vegetarian options that might not be on the menu or variations of some of the meat-based dishes.

    2. I agree , think you would enjoy Quince more. Although nothing wrong at all with SPQR.
      You might also look at Frances, which the 2 times I was there had enough vegetarian choices on the menu to satisfy a friend.

      1911 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

      1. Quince is probably booked up so that should make your choice easy.

        Despite its meaty reputation, Incanto is one of the most vegetarian-friendly Italian restaurants in the area, and it's uniquely SF.

        1 Reply
        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          The OP already stated he obtained a 10:00 p.m. res for Quince.

        2. Definitely go with Quince, and don't choose the tasting menu that you devise yourself. When I went in January, it turned out that the tasting menu cost more than the total of the items a la carte, without any of the extras (amuse, etc.) that I thought might be included.

          Unlike some others here, I don't like the new incarnation of SPQR at all. The food was only okay, and the portion sizes were so precious that they were laughable. I believe in quality over quantity, but by the midpoint of our meal, we realized that we wouldn't receive more than a couple bites each of anything we ordered--including the larger plates--and we'd already topped the $100 mark for two without ordering much wine. Given how many other superior choices there are in SF, we haven't gone back to SPQR. In contrast, I would return to Quince, at least for a special occasion.

          1911 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

          3 Replies
          1. re: amydeastbay

            Thank you you the response. [My understanding is there are 2 different, fixed, tasting menus to pick from each night (vs. "devising it yourself")]

            1. re: shanshan

              Quince is a nice choice for a special dinner, compared to SPQR which would be more casual (and loud).

              Quince has two tasting menus. One is the chef's tasting menu with an assortment of options, and the other is a "seasonal" or "special" menu that focuses often on one ingredient like porcini or pork belly or whatever. (At least that's how it was when I went there a few months ago.) But since your date is vegetarian, unless the seasonal menu is mushroom or something along those lines, then going ala carte might be better. Your date can couple two starters and a pasta to make her happy.

              1911 Fillmore Street, San Francisco, CA 94115

              1. re: singleguychef

                They are willing to put together a vegetarian tasting menu, if given notice, which I assume means today but could be tomorrow perhaps (although unlikely).