After we ate at Gary Danko two friends on separate occasions asked me, “Is it really that good? Is it really worth it?” Yes and yes. Actually, compared to Per Se in New York, Komi in D.C. and Duomo in Sicily, Gary Danko, considered San Francisco’s best restaurant, is quite the bargain. Choose any three courses for a mere $68. (Watch the Champagne though. At $29 a glass you can easily sip away your budget.) But top-end dining isn’t about the money; it’s about the food and the food at Gary Danko is fabulous.
Not the overly fussy or preciously small creations that sometime seem more about pleasing the eye than the palate. These are simple, high quality ingredients expertly prepared that delight with each taste. Service is impeccable, discrete and well paced.
The dining room is as simple and elegant as the food, with dark wood and warm lighting that for the holiday season sparkled with sliver bling. The ambience isn’t as formal as their East Coast counterparts; people here were out having a good time. A mix of young and old here to be seen, celebrating a special occasion or just enjoying great food. Loud and lively when we entered at 9:00 it quieted down later as the evening progressed.
We started with coddled oysters topped with Osetra caviar (the creamy richness of the oysters complemented perfectly by the mild fishy-saltiness of the caviar) and perfectly cooked Sonoma fois gras, whose richness was balanced with the sweet tartness of roasted pear and an onion confit.
For the next course we tasted two sea scallops (fresh and sweet, complemented by a fruity glaze, tiny caramelized cauliflower and a butternut squash puree) and a luscious salmon medallion topped with a thick fresh sharp horseradish wafer that along with the accompanying dilled cucumber mustard sauce cut the richness of the salmon.
We ended the savory courses with a tender loin of venison plated with a red fruit sauce and loin of lamb presented on a melt-in-your-mouth eggplant round topped with red pepper (the intensity of flavors danced in the mouth) and served with polenta cakes.
With three soufflé choices on the dessert menu it is hard not to try one. Besides I’m still trying to perfect my own soufflé cooking technique and wanted to see at what level of doneness professionals serve soufflé. We ordered the chocolate soufflé, just barely cooked served with two sauces, crème anglaise and Belgian bittersweet chocolate, poured table side. Rich chocolately heaven.
To complement the food we ordered a beautiful ruby red Brewer-Clifton Zotovich Pinot Noir, a lovely well rounded fruity wine, with nice acidity and mellow tannins.