Tuesday, February 14, 2012

T is for: Tasting Menu at Gary Danko {Restaurant Review}

From the minute I moved to San Francisco and started learning about the food scene, I heard the name Gary Danko quite often. It's pretty much hands-down considered the best restaurants in the city and one of the tops in the country.

I knew I would get there eventually, but dropping that much money on food requires a special occasion. Recently, an occasion arose that definitely had Gary Danko written all over it, and I was so excited to share it with my good friend Devon.

I was a little hesitant to whip out my iPhone camera at such a nice restaurant, but everyone there practically insisted. One of the things I quickly came to love about Gary Danko was that, for being such an upscale restaurant, the staff was not stuffy at all. They were accommodating, attentive, and most importantly, they were extremely personable and friendly.

Before I get to the food, I have to give a HUGE thanks to Jim and Alma Lynch. The Lynch's are regulars at GD, and the staff absolutely adores them. If it wasn't for them, we would not have been able to get an 8PM reservation on a Saturday night.

Steven, the maître'd, is the most welcoming person you could hope for at the front of this beautiful restaurant. As guests of Jim and Alma, we were each treated to a glass of delicious sparkling wine, courtesy of Steven. Shortly after we were seated, we were presented with our first amuse bouche, a winter root vegetable puree topped with duck prosciutto. Next, was a canape with salmon and caviar. Since Devon has celiac disease and can't have gluten, the staff bent over backwards to accommodate her. So instead of the canape, they brought her a similar bite using cucumber instead.

At Gary Danko, you can get a 3, 4 or 5 course meal. We opted for the 4-course meal, which traditionally would include an appetizer, a seafood dish, a meat dish, and either a cheese course or dessert. But the cool thing about this restaurant is they are totally flexible. If you wanted all seafood, they would accommodate you. If you wanted a main course as an appetizer and an appetizer as a main...no problem.

Us being GD newbies, we played it pretty straight forward, but we did opt to get an extra appetizer because we couldn't decide. We went with the seared Sonoma foie gras (left) and the crispy farm egg with white polenta and royal trumpet mushrooms (right). I know foie is controversial, and some of you will be mad at me for ordering it, but damn is it delicious. And the egg? I loved cutting into it and having the yolk run all over the frisee. So good. I would like Mr. Danko to prepare that for me every morning.

We also split an order of the lobster risotto. It was like a creamy heaven with little angels of lobster gracefully floating through it. Well, I shouldn't say little. These were HUGE chunks of lobster. If and when I ever have the pleasure of eating at this restaurant again, I will 100% get the lobster risotto. It was SO good.

For our seafood course, we selected the seared sea scallops with butternut squash purée and caramelized cauliflower. We also went a little non-traditional and ordered the coconut Thai curry with lemongrass, calamari, lobster, scallops, scallions and shiitake mushrooms. Both were excellent. The scallops are a little on the small side, as you only get two, but they were fabulous. Perfectly cooked, and everything on the plate complimented each other in a way you wouldn't expect. The curry was really good too, though the next day we were questioned for not ordering the lobster. Our rationale was that we were getting lobster in our risotto, but apparently the Maine Lobster with potato puree is like the best thing ever. Oh well...gives us a good reason to go back, right?

For our meat and game bird course, we ordered the duck breast. It looked so gorgeous on the plate I almost didn't want to eat it. Ok, that's a lie. I wanted to devour it as soon as it was placed in front of me. But it was beautiful. I'm sort of obsessed with duck right now, and I can confidently say it was the best duck I've ever had. (Yes, better than the one I was gushing over at Q.) We also ordered the seared filet with bacon-potato "risotto." Also delicious and cooked perfectly medium-rare. My dad would have loved this! Also on my list of things I must try next time (yes, there will be a next time) is the quail stuffed with foie gras, which also sounded amazing.

Next up...drumroll....the CHEESE course. {Swoon} Seriously, this is my personal heaven. (Well, that and the lobster risotto). I will take cheese over dessert every single time, and this was the best cheese of my life. They literally roll out a gigantic cheese cart and slice you off whatever you want. We had our fabulous waiter Seamus select our cheese for us, and all of it was to die for...though I remember liking one from Cowgirl Creamery a lot. I really wish I had written down the names of what we had, but I was in a cheese daze.

Since one of us got the cheese as our dessert course, we also ordered a soufflé. We were told by Devon's cousin the next day that we ordered the wrong one...that the chocolate soufflé was the way to go. But Seamus said he liked the Grand Marnier with Passion fruit sorbet, so we went with that. Honestly, after my cheese-topia, this wasn't the most memorable thing in the world, but again, I'm much more a cheese person than a sweets person. That middle photo is the flambéed pineapples with mascarpone filled crèpes prepared tableside, which the couple sitting next to us ordered. Not sure how it tasted, but it sure looked really cool.

Oh, and the photo on the right? That's a little breakfast cake they give to you before you leave so you can wake up the next morning and remember how amazing your dinner was the night before. How sweet is that? Since Devon couldn't have any because of the gluten, they sent her home with some lotion.

No, these photos weren't mistakenly uploaded. By the end of our 3 hour meal, we had become good friends with the couple sitting next to us. So much in fact that they invited us to a jungle-themed party. Any night that starts with Gary Danko and ends with tigers and monkeys is one for the record books. Seriously. Best. Night. Ever. Thanks again to Steven, Seamus, Rick, Deanna, and everyone at Gary Danko for making this such a memorable evening.

Update: As promised, Devon and I did make a return trip to Gary Danko... and as promised, we did order the lobster (pictured top right) as well as the chocolate souffle (bottom, second from the left). Everything was just as delicious as I remembered. It was also part of my epic #SireSF goodbye tour of the city, which you can read about here.


  1. Well done Jaymee! I love GD and it IS the best restaurant in SF. I hope you get to try the what I think is the #2 restaurant in SF, La Folie. Sucks that the foie gras ban is coming in July. Better get your foie fix soon.


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