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ulterior epicure

[SF] SPQR

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Has anyone been to SPQR, Nate Appleman's new venture on Fillmore?

The menu read rather well; chicory with anchovy and lemon caught my attention from the get-go.

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Here is a report I wrote in October of 2007:

Wandering up Fillmore last evening I stopped in at SPQR right as they opened at 5:30 p.m. (sorry, Squeat - I actually don't like eating late!). I quickly grabbed a spot at the bar and within minutes, the restaurant was 80% full and only a seat or two left at the bar. The bar attendant was attentive despite the fact that most of the bar-dwellers were close friends of the establishment. I started with a taste (half a glass) of Verdicchio while waiting for the night's menu to be finished printing.

The list of Antipasti was extensive and I liked the fact that they were listed as a flat $7.00 each or three for $18.00. I went ahead and ordered three, not knowing if I would still be hungry or if those three would be a sufficient meal.

I started with zucchini and ricotta involtini with tomatoes - three roll-ups of grilled zucchini stuffed with fresh ricotta on very fresh, diced heirloom tomatoes. Cold and refreshing, this was a very nice start and a good match with the Verdicchio.

The second antipasti I ordered was the sweetbreads with celery, garlic, lemon, and oregano. Unlike the Scott Howard mushy offering of last Friday, these were incredibly crunchy and ample. At first I thought I was served the chicken livers as there were so many of them -- I was sure I was served the wrong dish. For $7.00, this was a really great bargain and knowing I had more food to come, couldn't finish the plate.

My third antipasti was fresh shelling beans with pork sofritto. My Verdicchio was finished and I asked for a hefty red, the name of which I failed to get, but went well with the bean dish. I have to note that very nearby me was a professional photographer who apparently was shooting every dish that came out for the restaurant's portfolio. A few of my own dishes were shot before they came to me which was no problem, but the bigger problem was that I was seeing tons of dishes that I really wanted to try. Inasmuch, I decided to stop eating my bean dish about a third of the way through to order some pasta (I'm eating it for breakfast right now it is is making for a great left-over!).

Chef Daniel introduced himself and based on what I had already eaten, suggested the radiatore with tuna, tomatoes, garlic, anchovies, olives, and capers. It was very good, but hardly a show-stopper as far as pasta dishes is concerned. I'll still wander up to Vivande de Portola for pasta cravings.

I should have refrained, but I couldn't resist ordering a dessert -- the panino with caramelized milk, pears, shaved chocolate, and sea salt with a wine pairing of Cornarea 'Tarasco' Roero Arneis Passito, Piemonte, 2001. What a mind-blowing dessert! I first thought that it was a bit odd, this grilled sandwich, until I got closer into the middle with the gooey sauce and fresh pears. The sprinkling of sea salt heightened the dish and the wine pairing, a perfect choice.

The restaurant WAS very busy and it seemed the bulk of those hanging around the bar were close friends and/or patrons of A16 as hugs and hand-shakes were abundant. There are more seats in the restaurant than when it was Chez Nous and even walking out took a little dexterity as the patrons are a bit closed in. I'm glad I got there early as the noise level upon my exit was pretty loud.

Overall, I am really thrilled to have this place in walking distance. Three antipasti for $18.00 with a good glass of wine will make for VERY affordable and plentiful well-executed dinners for me. I'm happier with several small plates anyway and I have only begun to scratch the surface of what is available. Great meeting Daniel, as well -- I get the impression it will be very easy to become a regular here!

Then last month:

I have recently ragged a bit on SPQR for some mis-steps on the menu (namely, over-salted brussels sprouts). This morning, four of us were on our way to Elite Café for Sunday brunch and realizing we were probably facing a 30 to 45-wait there, saw empty tables at SPQR and decided to try their brunch.

Much of the left-hand side of the menu (the appetizers) are available while the right-hand side has changes for Sunday brunch. I ordered a plate of sweetbreads only because no one else in my party had ever been there and I have always thought this was one of the best dishes on the menu. This morning's offering was not quite as voluminous as it had once been and not quite as crispy as I remembered. But, also from the left-hand side of the menu, was a plate of fried potatoes which were proclaimed to be both crispy *and* light and fluffy, although a bit on the salty side. They were topped with cheese and well-enjoyed.

The first of our entrées to arrive was a platter of cellini beans with pork sofrito topped with two fried eggs. We were all intrigued with the eggs as they had been partially soft-boiled, removed from their shells, and tossed with bread crumbs and then deep-fried so when they were served, completely maintained their egg shape but still had a liquid yolk which, when blended with the sofrito and beans and a condiment of a bit of chili pepper, was quite succulent.

Our second entrée was a polenta and ricotta griddle cake. This was plate-sized and stuffed with ricotta cheese in the middle, topped with some fresh pears, almonds, and served with maple syrup. For one of our two sweet bites, this dish was very interesting and well-thought out. The combination of ricotta cheese with hearty specks of corn combined well with the fresh fruit, although I would have liked a bit more fruit.

The third dish was a rather hilarious take on the Southern chicken-and-waffles craze. SPQR's chicken and waffles was not the gut-wrenching version served in LA's Roscoe's eateries, but a more manageable two Belgian-sized slices of waffles studded with bits of prosciutto and a smaller quarter of a chicken, crispy deep-fried and very, very moist and tender.

The last dish was the one I ordered; chicken livers with potatoes, and two fried eggs topped with salsa verde. I adored the chicken livers and the deep fried potatoes were redolent with bits of bacon. These eggs -- unlike the ones atop the beans and pork -- were pan-fried (fine with me!) and the addition of the obviously fresh salsa verde was bright and inviting.

Overall this was a very interesting Sunday brunch for my friends who are far more accustom to traditional, American fare. However, everyone at the table agreed that most of the food was way too salty. We all drank a lot of water and eating some of the left-overs now for dinner, can confirm that with the exception of the pancake and waffle, everything was simply far saltier than it needs to be. In this case, I was not the only one to think that but had others (who dine out far less than I do), all comment on the saltiness of every savory dish.

Good food, great service, and just too much salt...

Since its opening and last month's report, I have been about a half-dozen times with varying consistency, but by-and-large (for me) way too salty.

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Has anyone been to SPQR, Nate Appleman's new venture on Fillmore? 

The menu read rather well; chicory with anchovy and lemon caught my attention from the get-go.

Everyone that I know that has eaten there loves it.

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Just home from a superb meal shared by four of us. Can anyone tell me for sure what the coating is on the cauliflower or scallops? And cooking technique? Perhaps used on the brussel sprouts on earlier menus? My husband says he will keep me around if I can replicate either of these dishes. :huh: Ethereally light and not a trace of fat. The cauliflower and the scallops, not me.

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Quick report from a stop in last evening. I sat at the bar (well, I always sit at the bar) and chatted up the server and confirmed what I suspected; there is NO coating on the cauliflower or brussel sprouts (sorry; didn't check on the scallops). These are simply double-fried. In the case of the vegetables, they are friend en masse earlier in the day and the re-fried again when ordered. After that, topped with fried capers, greens, etc.

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I'll add a few things. They have changed the service on the sweetbreads; it used to be part of that which you could order as smaller plates or singularly for $8.00. Now it is on the right-hand side of the menu as part of "Antipasti Grande" and the plates range from $13 to $16. I have to say that as much as I loved their sweetbreads, the new service and preparation is worse; the sweetbreads used to be cut smaller and the ample $8.00 plate had lots of small, crunchy bites. I believe they are serving the EXACT SAME AMOUNT, however they are no longer cutting them small, but frying them bigger and just serving them on bigger plates for double the price. Yep: $16.00! Not worth it in my opinion.

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Went to SPQR last night.

We were 5 in total, and among us we had 7 antipasti, 1 antipasto grande, and 4 pastas. The online menu isn't current, but I'll do my best to remember what we had:

Cold Antipasti

Tuna conserva, puntarelle, anchovy, chilies, mojama

Hot Antipasti

Acqua cotta with white beans, cavolo nero, and poached egg

Polenta, gorgonzola and mushrooms

Fried Antipasti

Pig ears with whole grain mustard

Tripe, chilies, fennel, and mint

Brussels sprouts, garlic, parsley, capers, and lemon

Mozzarella bocconcini, frisee and olives

Antipasto grande

Crispy pork sandwich: rib, trotter, bacon and ham

Pasta

Trombette, broccoli romanesco and ricotta salata (2x)

Fettucine with pork ragu and mushrooms (2x)

The tuna conserva was a bright and crispy, really refreshing. I've always liked puntarelle. The one gripe I had with this dish was that I found it a touch too acidic (maybe too generous a squeeze of lemon juice? Who knows)

I didn't taste the acqua cotta, so I'm not entirely sure of those ingredients in the first place. My friend returned a clean bowl and didn't seem too eager to share with any of the rest of us, so I think he liked it.

The polenta was polenta. Not bad by any means. Well cooked and creamy. My gold standard for polenta with mushrooms will always be Scott Conant's. This cannot be mentioned in the same sentence.

The pig ears were nice. Good mustard. Same mustard went into the breading, which for me was just a bit too thick. Friends weren't too fond of the texture, but that's a personal thing, to be sure.

The tripe, my, my, my. Wonderful. The chilies weren't just written on the menu, they were all over the place adding a nice heat while the sort of aromatic sweetness of the mint came through at the same time. I might be forgetting an ingredient in this dish as well. I'm going to call the restaurant to find out, because this dish ROCKED, the best of the night by a long shot.

The brussels sprouts were frankly a bit of a disappointment, considering all the praise I've read for them at SPQR. They were quartered, and I think I would've preferred them whole or just halved instead, so there was more of a range of different textures in each piece. In this case, they were blackened and crispy pretty much all over. I feel like I could achieve the same texture by essentially just broiling the hell out of them at home and tossing with a nice olive oil.

The bocconcini were good -- they're clearly using a good quality fresh mozzarella. I only tasted

one, and didn't touch that salad of frisee and olives.

The pork sandwich, oh yes. Excessive and delicious. The crispy fried trotter-and-rib cake, the ham, the bacon were all wonderful. A good description of the sandwich is here).

Didn't taste the pastas. Everyone was pleased with their choices, though.

No dessert this time. They all passed, and I wasn't going to be the only one. Not this time, at least. :raz:

They're certainly not afraid to use salt liberally here, most notably on the pig ears and the brussels sprouts. I was really dehydrated afterwards, and somehow the bottle of Montefalco Rosso we drank didn't help either. :cool:

$40/person with tip. Not bad.

I would absolutely go back.


Edited by tupac17616 (log)

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The pig ears were nice.  Good mustard.  Same mustard went into the breading, which for me was just a bit too thick.  Friends weren't too fond of the texture, but that's a personal thing, to be sure.

I'm assuming cut into strips, breaded and fried?

Was the mustard sweet at all, or was it just full on vinegar and nasal pick?

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The pig ears were nice.  Good mustard.  Same mustard went into the breading, which for me was just a bit too thick.  Friends weren't too fond of the texture, but that's a personal thing, to be sure.

I'm assuming cut into strips, breaded and fried?

Was the mustard sweet at all, or was it just full on vinegar and nasal pick?

Yup, pretty large strips (say, 1.5in x 2in).

Re: the mustard... much more the latter than the former!

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10+ course lunch there yesterday with Ulterior Epicure and A Life Worth Eating -- I'm hoping they will chime in on all the courses, but this is just a quick recap:

1. Beat salad with fresh ricotta. Damn fine fresh ricotta.

2. Fried brussels sprouts. They are still over-salting this dish.

3. Tuna conserva, puntarelle, garlic, anchovy and mojama; they have added garbanzo beans to this dish and I seem to prefer it the older way it was presented.

4. Beef tongue with pickled horseradish crema. Fabulously tender and rich.

5. Zuppa with porcini mushroom bread dumplings, chives, and pecorino. WAY too salty. Inedibly so for me.

6. Bay scallops with agreeti, preserved lemon and chilies. Couldn't taste the chilies, but I didn't care. Perfectly prepared morsels of goodnes.

7. Sweet potatoes with pancetta, fried chilies, and pecorino. Easily my favorite dish of the day (well, 'cept maybe dessert).

8. Tripe with fennel, chilies, pickled onions, mint and parsley. I could taste these chilies -- almost too spicy for me.

9. Jones Farm rabbit with frisée, carrots, pancetta and mustard. Still a great dish.

10. Ricotta fritters with orange marmalade and crema fresca. OH.MY.GOD. 'Nuff said.

We were seated early and tended to well in the beginning, but as the restaurant filled up, there were LONG spans of abandonment which was surprising considering there were people waiting for tables. If you have customers waiting, it would seem to me you want to get the tables turned. The busboy was amazing though. He must have filled my water a dozen times and was on top of cleaning our table and getting left-overs boxed.

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1. Beet salad with fresh ricotta. Damn fine fresh ricotta.

2. Fried brussels sprouts. They are still over-salting this dish.

3. Tuna conserva, puntarelle, garlic, anchovy and mojama; they have added garbanzo beans to this dish and I seem to prefer it the older way it was presented.

4. Beef tongue with pickled horseradish crema. Fabulously tender and rich.

5. Zuppa with porcini mushroom bread dumplings, chives, and pecorino. WAY too salty. Inedibly so for me.

6. Bay scallops with agreeti, preserved lemon and chilies. Couldn't taste the chilies, but I didn't care. Perfectly prepared morsels of goodnes.

7. Sweet potatoes with pancetta, fried chilies, and pecorino. Easily my favorite dish of the day (well, 'cept maybe dessert).

8. Tripe with fennel, chilies, pickled onions, mint and parsley. I could taste these chilies -- almost too spicy for me.

9. Jones Farm rabbit with frisée, carrots, pancetta and mustard. Still a great dish.

10. Ricotta fritters with orange marmalade and crema fresca. OH.MY.GOD. 'Nuff said.

1. Beet salad with fresh ricotta. The ricotta (from Gioia Cheese Co.) was nice and milky. Texture was a bit more coarse than I would have liked, but that's personal preference. Beets were boring.

2. Fried brussels sprouts. Disappointed by this dish last time. Hated it this time. Terribly salty.

3. Tuna conserva, puntarelle, garlic, anchovy and mojama. I prefer this newer way, but would've liked to have the garbanzo beans more cooked. Mojama nowhere to be found.

4. Beef tongue with pickled horseradish crema. I liked the texture of the tongue. Really crispy edges.

5. Zuppa with porcini mushroom bread dumplings, chives, and pecorino. Tasted like the "flavor packets" that come with ramen noodles. Terrible.

6. Bay scallops with agreeti, preserved lemon and chilies. I didn't taste the chilies, either. But this was simple and good.

7. Sweet potatoes with pancetta, fried chilies, and pecorino. My favorite, too. A little greasy at the bottom. Serving it on a little square of paper might prevent the bottom pieces from becoming soggy by the end.

8. Tripe with fennel, chilies, pickled onions, mint and parsley. I liked the spice, but wanted more mint. When I had this on my previous visit, I liked it much more.

9. Jones Farm rabbit with frisée, carrots, pancetta and mustard. I enjoyed this one, but wasn't wowed by it.

10. Ricotta fritters with orange marmalade and crema fresca. Nice.

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1. Beet salad with fresh ricotta. Damn fine fresh ricotta.

2. Fried brussels sprouts. They are still over-salting this dish.

3. Tuna conserva, puntarelle, garlic, anchovy and mojama; they have added garbanzo beans to this dish and I seem to prefer it the older way it was presented.

4. Beef tongue with pickled horseradish crema. Fabulously tender and rich.

5. Zuppa with porcini mushroom bread dumplings, chives, and pecorino. WAY too salty. Inedibly so for me.

6. Bay scallops with agreeti, preserved lemon and chilies. Couldn't taste the chilies, but I didn't care. Perfectly prepared morsels of goodnes.

7. Sweet potatoes with pancetta, fried chilies, and pecorino. Easily my favorite dish of the day (well, 'cept maybe dessert).

8. Tripe with fennel, chilies, pickled onions, mint and parsley. I could taste these chilies -- almost too spicy for me.

9. Jones Farm rabbit with frisée, carrots, pancetta and mustard. Still a great dish.

10. Ricotta fritters with orange marmalade and crema fresca. OH.MY.GOD. 'Nuff said.

1. Beet salad with fresh ricotta. The ricotta (from Gioia Cheese Co.) was nice and milky. Texture was a bit more coarse than I would have liked, but that's personal preference. Beets were boring.

2. Fried brussels sprouts. Disappointed by this dish last time. Hated it this time. Terribly salty.

3. Tuna conserva, puntarelle, garlic, anchovy and mojama. I prefer this newer way, but would've liked to have the garbanzo beans more cooked. Mojama nowhere to be found.

4. Beef tongue with pickled horseradish crema. I liked the texture of the tongue. Really crispy edges.

5. Zuppa with porcini mushroom bread dumplings, chives, and pecorino. Tasted like the "flavor packets" that come with ramen noodles. Terrible.

6. Bay scallops with agreeti, preserved lemon and chilies. I didn't taste the chilies, either. But this was simple and good.

7. Sweet potatoes with pancetta, fried chilies, and pecorino. My favorite, too. A little greasy at the bottom. Serving it on a little square of paper might prevent the bottom pieces from becoming soggy by the end.

8. Tripe with fennel, chilies, pickled onions, mint and parsley. I liked the spice, but wanted more mint. When I had this on my previous visit, I liked it much more.

9. Jones Farm rabbit with frisée, carrots, pancetta and mustard. I enjoyed this one, but wasn't wowed by it.

10. Ricotta fritters with orange marmalade and crema fresca. Nice.

1. I loved the ricotta. Beets are never boring. :raz:

2. Brussels Sprouts: not what I expected. These were not meaty, charred halves or quarters, rather a pile of fried leaves (lots of work). I didn't not like it, though I was a little terrified when I saw the cook in the kitchen throwing three heavy handfuls of salt into a bowl of the sprouts.

3. Tuna Conserva: Agreed with tupac (except I can't compare with the "old way," as this is the first time I've had it). Beans needed more time in liquid and heat. Mojama? Where? Could have used a bit more (okay, a lot more) anchovy too.

4. Beef Tongue: Fantastic. Brilliant crust. Best in show (for me) by a country mile.

5. Mushroom Dumpling Soup: Concur with the overall conclusions drawn.

6. Bay Scallops with Agretti: Perfectly cooked scallops, though not as sweet as I would have hoped. Spritz of lemon was key. Chile needed a boost.

7. Sweet Potatoes: Agreed with the others. Crispy skin of this ROOT vegetable was awesome.

8. Tripe with Fennel: Bold spicing was appreciated. Surprisingly, a bit under-seasoned (given the tendency they seem to have with over-seasoning).

9. Jone Farm Rabbit: Very good. Love the grainy mustard.

10. Ricotta Fritters: Not a "fried dough ho" (self-styled) like Carolyn, but I must admit, the texture was very good: like eating warm chenille in a thick, crunch shell. You could paint me with the vanilla crema without objection, however.

Over/under-seasoning problems and slowly-disappearing service issues aside, I was pacified by the music, which was great.

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10. Ricotta Fritters: Not a "fried dough ho" (self-styled) like Carolyn, but I must admit, the texture was very good: like eating warm chenille in a thick, crunch shell.  You could paint me with the vanilla crema without objection, however. 

:laugh::laugh: I'll remember that for next time! :laugh::laugh:

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3. Tuna Conserva: Agreed with tupac (except I can't compare with the "old way," as this is the first time I've had it).  Beans needed more time in liquid and heat. Mojama?  Where?  Could have used a bit more (okay, a lot more) anchovy too.

Well, no wonder I couldn't recall tasting any anchovy in the conserva dish. There wasn't any. I was reading the prior description (with the punterelle, etc.).

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went last night. . .had the rigatoni carbonara. . .could have used more of the guanciale. a friend had the rigatoni aglio e olio, and another had the spaghetti cacio e pepe. . .it was agreed that mine was the best. also had the fried mozzarella, which we all liked.

one of my friends complained that the portions were smaller than the first time she had been there, which was shortly after they originally opened. i didn't really mind.

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After a little research, we strolled over to SPQR, which was a pleasant walk from our Union Square(ish) hotel on Saturday night. I had been so busy researching Napa Valley restaurants that I had almost forgotten about SF. We were looking for a place nearby with solid food that we had a chance of actually getting into! Lucky for us, SPQR doesn't take reservations.

We were told there would be an approx. 30 minute wait so we went up to the bar and split a 1/2 carafe of Sauv Blanc after a taste and a nice conversation with the bartender. I don't remember what kind it was--we were on wine overload by then.

After sitting at the bar for 5-10 minutes, the hostess came up and asked if we would like to sit at the chef's counter. Are you kidding me? We were more than happy to do so and it was great fun.

We started with the 3 antipasti:

-Fresh ricotta, marinated summer squash, toasted pinenuts and crostini

-Beef tongue with horseradish crema

-Cauliflower with garlic, parsley, capers and lemon

The ricotta, as said above, was fresh, smooth and tangy. The summer squash brought a nice savory touch to the dish, especially when my palate was prepared for a sweeter taste (a la goat cheese with honey.) I have only been eating meat for a year so I wasn't ready to commit to the beef tongue, so the only review I have is "it tastes like I expected beef tongue to taste." Take that as you will. The fried cauliflower was phenomenal. I loved the initial crunch that made way for the soft, lemony inside. While I do see how they could be described as oversalted, they were like french fries to me--I could have eaten them all night long.

We each finished with a bowl of pasta. He got the fettucine with clams and I had the spaghetti aglio e olio. The portions were the perfect size to leave us satisfied without being overstuffed, although there was a bit of a heavy hand with the red pepper flakes.

Overall, I loved the atmosphere and thought the food and concept (small plates focus) was unique for an Italian restaurant. We live in South Philly, an overwhelmingly Italian neighborhood and hadn't envisioned coming all the way to California for Italian food, but SPQR hugely surpassed our expectationss!

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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.

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My wife and I ate at SPQR a few nights ago. They are taking reservations now via OpenTable (thankfully), and were very busy. The couple next to us ordered straight out of a tourist guidebook of some kind, so I'm guessing they've gotten good reviews in at least one such tome. It's a very small bistro-like neighborhood restaurant, crammed with as many tables as they could muster, so if you're looking for a romantic night out, this isn't it. That said, if you don't mind that feel, it's a very vibrant place.

I started with the crispy pig's ear. I found that it had minimal pork flavor, which is not uncommon in pig's ear, but an absolutely excellent texture and a very nice tart salad. I can't recall what my wife had, but it was also very good. The appetizers are a clear winner in my book. Next I had the duck ravioli: the taste was good, if a little sweet for my tastes, and nothing terribly thrilling. My wife had the squid-ink pasta with crab; this had a nice flavor, but I found the fresh pasta a bit overcooked. For dessert I had some kind of cake thing. It was quite dry but tasted good, in particular the almonds. Bear in mind that I have no sweet tooth at all so it's possible that this was fantastic and I just didn't appreciate it...

The upshot: a vibrant, cramped neighborhood hot-spot with very good appetizers. I'm not sure it's worth going out of your way for, and I wouldn't bother with the entrees, but it's pretty easy to get to on the Muni and you could do far worse.

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