Living To Eat

From My Taste Buds To Yours

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Gary Danko

Posted by Austios on March 2, 2010

When I was planning my trip to San Francisco, I had turned to some fellow foodies and bloggers about which fine dining restaurant I should go check out. While Gary Danko was the only one really off the top of my head that I had heard about, I received some very good recommendations that I will definitely check out in future visits up to the bay.

Someone had suggested Fleur de Lys, and while I love Hubert Keller and would jump at the chance to meet him or dine at his restaurant, I have already been to both Fleur de Lys and Burger Bar in Las Vegas (on separate visits), so while a small part of me wanted to go there and compare the 2 locations, I opted to go for something different.

I went ahead and made reservations at Gary Danko about a month in advance, not knowing how much of a demand there were for reservations there. They called a couple days before my reservation to confirm it. I love it when they do that, it gives you a brief sense of importance, that THEY are calling YOU, only to immediately come to the realization that they do that with everybody. Hey, no one says you can’t pretend, even for brief moments.

Located on a non-descript corner of what seems to be the “border” of Fisherman’s Wharf and Russian Hill, you would relatively have no idea it was there if you didn’t know where it was or were looking. I, however, was looking for it and spotted it right away as I was walking up the street. Yes, I walked. Nothing like getting in some exercise before I high end meal. Before stepping in, I shot this video.

Upon walking in, I was greeted by a bright smiling hostess. She informed me I could be sat until my friend had arrived and offered to check my camera bag and to wait at the bar. I did so and ordered water. The bartender and I made small talk while I waited. My friend arrived and we were taken to our table. The other host pulled out the table and my friend were “forced” to sit on the same side. Almost like we were on a date, but it wasn’t. *shrug*

Our server, Darrin, shortly showed up to give us our menus and took a beverage order. He explained the menu, stating a set 5-course menu on the left or the option to customize a 3-, 4-, or 5-course menu on the right. Considering we needed to be elsewhere at 2.5 hours and some recommendation and accommodation from Darrin, we opted to both get 4 courses. My friend ordered the wine pairing but I didn’t.

While all of the dishes sounded exquisite, we both decided to get the lobster risotto with shimeji mushrooms and butternut squash. For a 2nd course, I ordered the pancetta wrapped frogs legs with garlic puree, potato, lentils, and parsley and my friend got the branzini with cauliflower, orzo, butternut squash and pumpkin seeds. For the main course, I ordered the roasted pork belly and tenderloin with brussel sprouts, bacon, parsnip puree, and a maple cider glaze while she got the foie gras stuffed quail with mushrooms and Quinoa, yams, salsify and a pomegranate gastrique. For dessert, I ordered the warm Louisiana butter cake with caramelized apples, huckleberry compote, and vanilla ice cream while she got the orange soufflé with raspberry sorbet and raspberry sauce. I will have to say that first 2 and 4th courses were recommendations from a friend, but I trust her taste and judgment in good food.

Before our first courses came out, one of their sommeliers came by to introduce the first wine that he paired for my friend. He was very nice and very concise in his descriptions. I actually have since forgotten all the wines that he had paired with each of her courses.

Then came out an amuse bouche. I have since forgotten what this was, but it was pretty good.

The lobster risotto came out and it looked and smelled so good. I don’t know anybody who isn’t a fan of risotto but if anybody reading this is not a fan, you are totally missing out. The texture of the rice was perfect as was the lobster with its flavor perfectly permeating throughout the dish. The mushrooms and butternut squash provided a wonderful earthy contrast to the risotto and lobster. I could eat a big huge bowl of this. Because this was the only dish we both ordered, I had a taste of my friend’s wine and it paired quite well.

Again, before our 2nd course came out, the sommelier paid us a visit to introduce the wine he paired with each of my friend’s dishes. He would do the same for each course.

When our 2nd courses arrived, literally the first thing that popped into my head was “Wow, it’s very green”. Once you see my photo, you’ll understand. 4 pancetta wrapped frog legs surrounding a molded cube of potato and lentil salad. This was really good. The frog legs were cooked perfectly and were well seasoned. The potato and lentil salad was a nice way to cut the richness of the legs and pancetta. My only gripe about the dish was that the pancetta seemed to overpower the frog legs. I mean that’s just me.

My friend’s branzini looked really good and was simple in presentation. I did not have a bite, but she said it was very good and everything on the plate worked.

Main courses then came out. Roasted pork belly and pork tenderloin. Pork 2 ways; how can you go wrong? The pork belly was so succulent and the tenderloin was cook to a nice medium (yes, that’s safe) and everything on the plate just absolutely worked so well together. I can’t comment where this ranks on the pork bellies I’ve had, because I’ve loved it all. Pork belly will NEVER go out of style. Or at least I hope so. Needless to say, I loved this dish.

My friend’s quail looked really good. A whole bird with nice browned skin, neatly presented atop the mushrooms and butternut squash. I unfortunately did not have a bite of it, especially being stuffed with foie gras, but she said it was really good. I could only imagine the balance between the richness of the foie and quail with the earthiness of the mushrooms and butternut squash.

Now, for dessert, I do remember the sommelier pairing my friend’s orange soufflé with a Riesling. Our desserts soon followed and they looked so good. As most of you know, I’m a pastry chef, so I have a particular affinity to dessert. Plus, the way I see it, dessert is usually the LAST thing a patron will be eating, so you want it to be good.

If you recall, I ordered the warm Louisiana butter cake. A warm cakey thing topped with caramelized apples and tasted SO good. The huckleberry compote was a nice tart balance and the ice cream added a hot/cold contrast into play. Loved, loved, LOVED this.

My friend’s soufflé was MUCH more airy than the soufflé at Chez Panisse the night before. It was ever so delicate with a touch of orange flavoring. Both being citrus soufflés, it was hard to decide which was better.

We finished the meal with assorted mignardise. I honestly was too full to eat any of these, but I still snapped a shot anyway.

Our server, Darrin, was just phenomenal throughout the evening. He was genuinely courteous, patient, and very attentive. Our waters were filled without request, and even the sommelier who helped us through the evening was really nice. We actually struck some small talk and I told him I was in the industry and he was saying that he’s in process of getting his Master Sommelier’s certification, just essentially is waiting on the invite. Yes, apparently sommelier’s have to be invited to take the certification. I thanked him for the service and wished him luck. They were also kind enough to call a cab for us, knowing that we needed to be somewhere immediately following dinner.

While there are many restaurants in San Francisco that I will be looking to try on future visits, I would welcome the opportunity to come back to Gary Danko.

Gary Danko Restaurant
800 North Point St
San Francisco, California 94109
(415) 749-2060

Gary Danko in San Francisco
Gary Danko on Urbanspoon

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One Response to “Gary Danko”

  1. How did you not have a bite of the quail! You need to make more generous friends! 😉 Glad you liked your pork, though. Heh.

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