A visit to San Francisco wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Gary Danko. This top 5 tripadvisor, Michelin star destination and Zagat juggernaut hasn’t wavered despite the cyclic nature of food trends which have hit the bay city over the years so I was excited when I secured a reservation for a Friday evening. I invited a few colleagues to come along.
The cab ride over was led by a conspiracy theorist who, while driving the winding roads of San Francisco, showed us how he protected his ipad from the government with it in one hand while the steering wheel occupied his other. We also got a history lesson of the neighbourhood which surprisingly didn’t include taxi cab fatalities. Thankfully, after a few blocks, we arrived at our destination (probably due to some autopilot device monitoring Mel Gibson as Jerry Fletcher’s car or maybe my numerous prayers to the ultimate alien deity in the sky).
We had a small wait in the bar before being seated at a round table of six in the middle of the restaurant. Well dressed waiters, white table clothes and silver plates at each setting were classic reminders of a upscale dining experience. As for the menu, one of the unique aspects is the fact that one can enjoy a choice of a wide array of appetizers, mains and desserts for one set price. The number of courses is also variable and portion sizes are adjusted accordingly. One option is a trolley offering an extensive choice of cheeses which is navigated throughout the restaurant like a streetcar on Powell St.
We all opted for the 3 course menu for $76. Before that, we were treated to a curried carrot soup as an amuse bouche. It was very earthy, silky and subtly spiced. A nice start to the evening.
I was set on the Dungeness Crab Salad with Avocado Mousse, Hearts of Palm and Madras Curry Vinaigrette but asked the waiter for his opinion. Perhaps I was wooed by his professionalism, but he highly recommended the Seared Ahi Tuna with Avocado, Nori, Enoki Mushrooms and Lemon Soy Dressing instead. The presentation looked like an Orval Reddenbacher Chia Pet with a nori bow tie, avocado arms and mushroom legs. The tuna was seared beautifully. The dressing was fairly acidic but blended nicely with the protein.
For the main, I like the sound of the Juniper Crusted Bison with King Trumpet Mushrooms, Cipollini Onions and Wild Nettle Spätzle as a package. It was a hunk of meat which was nicely prepared but a little too much. I quite enjoyed the noodles from both a taste and appearance perspective.
For dessert, I ordered the highly recommended Strawberry Soufflé with Strawberry Sauce and Strawberry Sorbet. That’s a lot of strawberry! The pillowy, warm and fluffy texture had me at the first bite. I was hoping that the sorbet would have a tartness to cut through the sweet souffle but I couldn’t quite finish it.
The meal ended with an array of cookies for the table which were a delicious finish. The ladies also received a parting gift which ended up being banana cake filled with a delicious cream cheese filling (no…I’m not a lady but dined with one who didn’t see bringing the bread home worth an extra 20 minutes on the hotel tread mill the next day).
Dining at Gary Danko is a San Francisco rite of passage. The unique menu structure is a blessing, especially when in group with diverse palates. The service was sincere and professional. It was almost as if they were paid actors and actresses in a swanky movie. The food was solid although I found the bison and the souffle to be a little overkill. The amuse bouche and after dinner treats were a testament to the attention to detail which has been synonymous with the name Gary Danko for years. If you think the high Zagat ratings, repeated Michelin stars and smitten tripadvisor reviewers are a conspiracy…just ask the cab driver.