Mar 182012
 

**I apologize for the colors looking so off.  My camera has limitations, especially in low-light environments like Gary Danko.

On one of my last days in the Bay Area, I had a chance to dine at Gary Danko, one of the most famous restaurants in San Francisco and recipient of a Michelin Star in 2012. My friend actually made our reservations a month ahead, and even then the only Fri/Sat night reservation we could get was for 9:30pm.. So, if you’re interested in this place, make reservations early!

The restaurant is located in the Embarcadero district of the City, about a block away from Ghiradelli Square. There’s valet parking for $11, but there was also street parking available a few minutes away. We arrived a bit early, so our table wasn’t quite ready, so we hung out in the bar area, and I ordered a cocktail.  I actually can’t remember what it was called, but I asked for something fruity, and this was cranberry juice, grapefruit juice, vodka, and maybe something else?

Without waiting too long, we were seated at our table.  The place setting was not my favorite; maybe I just think the gold color looks tacky.

Fruity cocktail ($11) and place setting

We were provided with a lovely amuse-bouche, a butternut squash soup.  I usually don’t like butternut squash because it’s so sweet, but this was actually very well-balanced.

Amuse-bouche: butternut squash soup

The menus arrived, and it was a bit overwhelming at first.  There were five categories: appetizers, fish & seafood, meats & game birds, cheese, and desserts.  Our waiter kindly explained how the dinner selection works: you can basically pick a 3-, 4-, or 5-course meal, composed of any selection ($71, $89, and $104, respectively).  You could even get 5 meat dishes if you wanted (although they do portion them according to the course, and it’s not recommended by the waiter).  I decided to stick with one from each category and ordered five courses.

Appetizers:

Foie gras with Red Wine Reduction, Butter Lettuce Salad

I decided to have foie gras since the statewide ban is quickly approaching.  It was a pretty big piece of foie, which was a pleasant surprise.  The flavors were really nice, but perhaps a bit too strong for an appetizer (personal preference).

Crispy Farm Egg with White Polenta, Royal Trumpet Mushrooms, Frisée and Pancetta

This was a very lovely dish.  The egg was perfect – crispy on the outside, fried to a beautiful golden brown, with a soft yolk.  The salad and polenta were light and paired with the egg nicely.  Overall a very inspiring dish, full of creativity.

Fish & Seafood:

Seared Sea Scallops with Butternut Squash Purée, Shimeji Mushrooms, Apples, Caramelized Cauliflower and Tarragon

It has been a long time since I’ve had scallops, and these amazing scallops make me wonder why I don’t order it more often.  They are so good.  And again, I’m surprised by how much I enjoyed the butternut squash puree – maybe I do like butternut squash, after all…

Herb Crusted Tuna with Citrus Braised Endive, Sunchoke Purée and Anchovy Essence

I was attracted to the idea of this dish very much, but it ended up tasting like just seared tuna that I’ve had before.. pretty much anywhere that didn’t mess it up.  Which doesn’t mean it’s bad; I guess I just expected something more.

Herb Crusted Lamb Loin with Cannellini Beans, Braised Lamb Shoulder, Barley, and Cumin Mint Yogurt

I’m sometimes wary of lamb because if not properly done, it has that gamey taste.  Some people like it, but it’s not for me.  However, the lamb here was cooked perfectly.  The cumin mint yogurt was awesome.  Cumin + lamb is a classic for me, maybe because they are commonly used together in Chinese cuisine, so I was very impressed with the Western version of cumin-seasoned lamb.

Seared Filet of Beef with Bacon-Potato "Risotto", Cassis-Shallot Marmalade and Stilton Butter

I liked this dish, but I must admit that I’m not sophisticated enough to actually fully appreciate all of the components of this dish.  To me, it just felt like a really good piece of filet atop really good chunky mashed potatoes.  (Or maybe that’s the way the diner is supposed to feel.  I never know with the high-end restaurants what they’re going for..)

Roasted Pork Belly and Tenderloin with Brussels Sprouts, Apples, Parsnip Purée and Maple-Cider Reduction

There really hasn’t been a pork belly that I’ve hated, and this one is exceptionally delicious.  It has both of my favorite pairings with pork: apple and maple.  Maple on pork is one of my favorite flavor combos ever – in fact, I have been pouring maple syrup on sausage patties before it was “in”, so needless to say, I’m thoroughly enjoying the trend.

Cheese:

A Selection of Farmhouse and Artisanal Cheeses Presented Tableside, Served with Grapes and Cranberry Bread

For the two of us at the table who ordered cheese plates, we were presented with a cart full of at least 20 different selections, categorized by type of milk and flavor intensity.  We each chose five – I can’t remember the exact name of all of them, but I do remember my favorite: the Cowgirl Creamery Triple-Cream.  I’m relatively new to the art of cheese appreciation, so it was mostly just the fun of trying out all the different cheeses that I’ve never had before.

Dessert:

Trio of Crème Brûlée with Assorted Cookies

There was definitely enough crème brûlée for all five of us at the table.  The flavors were (clockwise from left): coffee, vanilla, and chocolate, and there were chocolate and oatmeal cookies as well as a pine nut biscotti.  My favorite was of course vanilla, the “boring old” classic, and I liked the biscotti together with the chocolate crème brûlée.

Baked Chocolate Soufflé with Two Sauces

Soufflé is possibly the greatest dessert ever invented.  I’ve made it once successfully, but I’m still too scared to work with chocolate.  Anyway, it was amazing.  Soft and rich and fluffy and warm.  We asked for both the vanilla and chocolate sauces, but I think vanilla alone would have been enough – the chocolate sauce almost overpowered the soufflé itself.  But why am I even criticizing?  I still would have gobbled down the entire thing by myself, if I didn’t have four other dining companions…

Overall, I think it’s pretty clear that I had a wonderful time here.  The food was some of the best that I’ve ever had, the atmosphere was great, and I was in the company of some pretty awesome friends.  It will be one of my favorite memories of San Francisco, for sure.

Gary Danko
800 North Point St., San Francisco, CA
(415) 749-2060

Hours
M-Su  5:30pm-10pm (Dinner); 5pm-12am (Bar)

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