One of my girlfriends invited me to celebrate her birthday at SPQR in San Francisco. I had not heard much about SPQR, but I was excited because my friend enjoys good food. Sometimes the less you know about something the better because you aren’t setting yourself up for disappointment when your expectations are too high. I didn’t even know we were having Italian food until I was on my way to the restaurant. I started looking at photos on yelp on the drive over to the City and my excitement was reinvigorated.
We had reservations for four. It was my first time meeting one of my friend’s invited guests who has a lot of food allergies and everything had to be gluten free. This really left her to order her own food and the other three of us would order a bunch of items to share.
The first appetizer that came out was the “tomato and burrata,” which was a dish of fresh tomatoes, fried green cherry tomatoes, and burrata cheese dressed with opal basil vinegar. It came with a savory brioche. This dish was simplistic and delicious. Although I thought the fried green cherry tomatoes was a nice concept, there was a consensus that it didn’t really compliment the dish by flavor or texture. All else was lovely.
Another antipasti that we ordered was a lamb dish that came with ground lamb stuffed in savoy cabbage, lamb sausage, chanterelle mushrooms, and cocoa sauce. Our table had two versions of this, one of which was made gluten free. The birthday girl enjoyed the dish, but didn’t like the stuffed cabbage as much as the rest of the dish. I actually preferred the stuffed cabbage over the sausage. That worked out as far as sharing.
The menu had a heading called Piccolo which means small in Italian. The one item we ordered off this part of the menu was the chicken liver mousse with strawberry marmalade and balsamic gelatin. The mousse was in a cute glass jar and came with sliced toast that were about two inches thick. I made sure to spread the ingredients evenly to get all the flavor combinations. The sourdough baguette was tasty, but we all thought that two inch was too thick. We would have enjoyed something more like a crostini.
The primi or first course was the pasta dishes. After seeing a picture of the fettuccini on yelp.com and showing it to my friends, we went ahead and got two orders of it. The smoked fettuccini came with sea urchin, smoked bacon, and a soft quail egg. This dish was quite delicate. The saltiness and smokiness came through perfectly and was so good. We did the right thing by ordering two of these.
The other pasta dish we had was the white corn ravioli with alba mushrooms, butter, smoked goat cheese, and chive. Unlike the fettuccini, the raviolis were hearty. The flavors were quite nice and tasty.
We ordered three main dishes. The sea scallop dish was made gluten free. It came with a purple cauliflower creme, abalone mushrooms, and swiss chard chips. It was thoroughly enjoyed by our friend.
One of the two entrees that I participated in was a king salmon that came with summer squash and cherry tomatoes. The salmon was a bit overcooked and the dish altogether was a little boring.
The final entree was aged squab with plum and onions. I don’t tend to eat squab often because it tends to be a bit gamey. Although it was cooked nicely it still came up short. I think both mains were non climactic after the delicious pasta dishes.
Desserts were next and we decided on two. One was the spiced bombolini, milk caramel, elderberry marmellata, and brown butter gelato. With the desserts, we were back to awesomeness.
My vote was for the albion strawberry, warm marsala zabaglione, marscapone gelato, and ladyfingers. The combinations of fruit, cake, and cream was light and hit the spot for me. I cleaned this one up.
Overall, I would recommend SPQR. The dishes were creative and beautiful. It was a great evening with good food, fun, and friends.
Finally, homemade marshmallows were presented to the table. We were already full, but when the kitchen brings out something complimentary, that makes a person feel special.