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Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Gary Danko: Restaurant Review

Restaurant Gary Danko is quickly becoming San Francisco's top choice for celebrating special occasions. And so it was that I ate there twice last month--once for a birthday and once for an anniversary. The service is amazingly good and the attention to detail ensures that your meal will feel special. The environment is elegant but relaxed with contemporary art and dazzling floral arrangments throughout the dining rooms. On the downside the tables are so close together that when a glass broke at the table behind us, the glass landed right on me, and my chair...!

The format of the menu is somewhat unique. There are five courses to choose from, appetizers, fish and seafood, meat and game birds, a cheese course and desserts. You can choose three, four or five courses and mix and match them any way you like. For my first time dining there, I choose two appetizers a game course, cheese course and dessert. The second time I ate there I had an appetizer, a different game course and dessert. The portion sizes reflect the number of courses you choose such that even a three-course meal resulted in a doggie bag.

The menu offers lots of options, but the preparations are more classic than cutting edge. The ingredients highlight the seasons and the sauces are what steal the show. One of the signature dishes, the Glazed Oysters with Osetra Caviar and Salsify and Lettuce Cream is a perfect example of this. While the oysters and caviar are great, it's the creamy green herbaceous sauce that really elevates the dish. Danko also has a real talent for game. How often do you find squab, guinea hen, duck and quail all on the menu? I enjoyed both the Moroccan Spiced Squab with Chermoula as well as the Roasted Quail stuffed with Wild Mushrooms, Foie Gras with a Kumquat Cashew Relish. I also got a chance to try the duck and guinea hen and both were flawless.

The menu is eclectic but rooted in traditional French cuisine, with dishes such as the Pan Seared Beef Filet with Bacon, Leeks, Potato and Perigord Black Truffles. There are also some international ingredients such as garam masala, Thai red curry and even Israeli couscous that find their way into the menu.

As far as dessert goes, choose from a new styled peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the form of a Chocolate Peanut Butter Napoleon with Milk Ice Cream and Blueberry Gelee, lemon or chocolate souffles or a tangy and refreshing Rhubarb Soup with Frozen Vanilla Parfait, Candied Kumquats and a Lime Sherbet. Sweet endings also come in the form of some petit fours at the end of the meal, no matter how many courses you have ordered and a fresh baked muffin to take home, making sure you will still remember your meal the next day over breakfast.

Gary Danko
800 North Point @ Hyde
San Francisco
Dinner nightly 5:30-10 pm