Throughout the year, Restaurant Editor Bill Addison will travel the country to chronicle what's happening in America's dining scene and to formulate his list of the essential 38 restaurants in America. Follow his progress in this travelogue/review series, The Road to the 38, and check back at the end of the year to find out which restaurants made the cut.
The plate of brassicas and grains at SPQR looks—and tastes—like the next evolution in Cal-Ital cuisine. Baby kale leaves, wilted rapini, and pale green Romanesco broccoli (the conical tips surely an inspiration to Jean Paul Gaultier) are arranged into a careful jumble among farro, quinoa, and sprouted legumes. Ghostly blobs of burrata and hidden pockets of avocado smooth the many sharp flavors. A thin dehydrated chip made of vegetables, seeds, and nuts lends complex crunch. One of many attentive servers drizzles over freshly pressed olive oil that helps link all the elements. The eye doesn't know quite where to land, but the fork finds new, arresting combinations with every go-around.