Restaurant Gary Danko, San Francisco
Posted by Foodnut.com
800 North Point Street (At Hyde)
San Francisco, CA 94109
Restaurant Gary Danko is one of the top restaurants in San Francisco, they serve contemporary American cuisine. Open in 1999 and located near Ghiradelli Square, it has been at the top of the Zagat Guide and Yelp for the last couple years. In 2013 they exceeded French Laundry’s food rating in Zagat. We would question that figure though! They have one Michelin Star. “Danko combines classical training with focuses on French, Mediterranean, and regional American cooking. He incorporates influential culinary traditions from around the world into his own work, adding seasonings and techniques drawn from Asia and India.” Gary Danko Menu has not changed much over the years, given his conservative clientele.
They accept reservations 60 days in advance. In 2013, we found that this place was extremely booked, forcing us to make reservations 2 months in advance. Insider tip, the private room is often available for an early 5:30 dinner for 5 or more people, with standard menu, 18% gratuity, and no deposit!
Decor, Vibe – Stylish, elegant decor with lots of marble, wood, and beautiful flower arrangements. Upstairs private dining room. The bathroom has a zen spa like feel. Mostly well dressed older folks from the 40’s to 60’s, not very mixed, were dining at Gary Danko. We would say the Gary Danko dress code is of the most formal in the City. Smart Casual, forget the t=shirt and flip flops! That said, some San Franciscans do not follow the dress code and are a bit too casual.
A note on dining at the bar. One time, we did not have a reservation so we dined at the 11 seat bar. We do not recommend this! You just do not get the entire effect of the dining experience.
This restaurant has gotten pretty loud. Not exactly a romantic spot.
Strawberry Souffle Video
Gary Danko Menu
At this restaurant, you can order a la carte from the Gary Danko menu, or select 3, 4, or 5 courses at a $73, $92, and $107, respectively. The prices have gone up over the years.. of course. You can order 5 meat dishes if you so desire! They do scale portion size down when you get more courses. A $107 tasting menu, and vegetarian menu are also available. Appetizers are available in entree sized portions. Gary Danko’s Menu changes seasonally, but not by very much. The accompaniments or sides might slightly vary. Clearly the regulars have their favorite dishes, so these will stay on forever. Consistency is their greatest attribute, they do not want to be inventive like Saison or Benu.
Signature dishes – Scallops, roast lobster, Ahi, butter cake, Souffle.
Gary Danko Food Picks:
Amuse Bouche of Seared Ahi Tuna on a crisp was a nice complimentary bite sized starter with very fresh fish. Vegetarian amuse bouche was a vegetable sushi. On another occasion we received Zucchini Gazpacho.
Mojito ($12) was top notch. Tall, not too sweet but not too strong. Lots of fresh mint.
Vanilla Lemon drop ($14) was also well made. Strong, not too sweet and beautiful.
Risotto with Lobster, Golf Shrimp, Shimeji Mushrooms and Corn and Roast Tomatoes was very good but a touch on the rich side. The lobster and shrimp were in limited quantity but high on the quality side. This is a signature dish, but very filling.
Seared Ahi Tuna with Avocado, Nori, Enoki Mushrooms and Lemon Soy Dressing is also a signature dish. Fresh fish, thinly sliced, arranged in a beautiful manner. It seems like every restaurant in San Francisco has Ahi Tuna on the menu! This is better than most.
Glazed Oysters with Osetra Caviar, Zucchini Pearls and Lettuce Cream is a popular starter that reminds us of French Laundry’s Oysters and Pearls. While not as great, this dish hit the mark with its decadent ingredients.
Sweet Corn Soup with Dungeness Crab, Creme Fraiche, Bacon and a Chive Biscuit was the creamy side but featured some strong corn flavor and lots of fresh crab.
Seared Sonoma Foie Gras with Caramelized Red Onions and Rhubarb ($20/$39) was excellent and a pretty good sized Sonoma product. Another signature dish. The restrained sweetness of the rhubarb contrasted nicely with the hearty foie gras. The carmelized onions also helped mitigate the need for starch to balance this dish out. On one occasion, we felt the onions were a bit strong. Portion size with a 5 course meal is a lot smaller. Alexander’s also serves a Foie Gras to this level of performance.
Soft Shell Crab with White Polenta, Pickled Ginger, Sesame and Lime was very good. The crab was not heavily battered, nor was it too big. The polenta had strong lime flavor without being buttered up.
Lobster Salad with Avocado, Citrus, Shaved Fennel with Meyer Lemon-Tarragon Vinaigrette was a nice light salad after the hearty foie. The sour cream based dressing had a bit too much sourness to it. Tasty lobster and very fresh greens and avocado. Little chunks of salts provided a nice touch.
Dungeness Crab Salad with Melons, Cucumbers, Roasted Eggplant and Thai Mango Dressing was ordered because crabs were in season. This salad featured some interesting spices, lots of fresh crab, and some nice sweet, crunch interaction.
Roast Maine Lobster with Potato Purée, Shitake Mushrooms, Corn and Tarragon had very fresh lobster that was steamed for 5 minutes, the shell cleaned, then the dish was roasted in the oven. Well done, tender, very juicy and one of the best lobsters around. Quantities were not on the high side for this dish. This is their definitive signature dish and a must order!
Seared Sea Scallops with Butternut Squash Purée, Roasted Apples, Shallots and Red Peppers had one large scallop with a thin caramelized crust that could have been more resilient. The puree went well to accent the scallop. Another diner got a scallop far smaller than the others.
Horseradish Crusted Salmon Medallion with Dilled Cucumbers and Mustard Sauce was interesting but very good. The Salmon medallion was molded round then had horseradish put on top and a crust applied. It was then pan seared, but did not achieve a level of crispiness that would have made it better. In any case, the very fresh fish was cooked perfectly.
Pan Roasted Quail Stuffed with Cornbread and Pancetta with Maitake Mushrooms and Smoked Ham Hocks was recommended by the server. Two very large and tender birds, stuffed and deboned. Frankly we were so full, we ate most of it the next day. Lots of strong flavors make this a great dish if you like quail.
Lemon Pepper Duck Breast with Duck Hash, Celery Root-Garlic Purée and Cardamom Poached Pears was a very hearty entree of significant size. Cooked to a perfect medium rare and tender level, it could have used more pears to contrast the heartiness.
Hazelnut Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Braised Cheeks, Shimeji Mushrooms, Kale and Fava Beans was also highly recommended by the server. Definitely one of their best meat dishes. Cooked to a medium rare, extremely tender and full of flavor. Better than the filet of beef.
Seared Filet of Beef with Cumin Potatoes, Swiss Chard, Tomato-corn Relish and Basil Butter is probably one of their more popular dishes. The meat quality was very high and the cooking style created a nice crisp crust, but flavors were lacking. Potatoes were definitely a standout part of this dish.
Herb Crusted Loin of Lamb with Summer Vegetable Tian and Polenta has lots of thin slices of medium rare lamb. High quality meat with no gaminess. Polenta was a bit soft and neutral.
Roast Loin of Bison with King Trumpet Mushrooms, Cipollini Onions and Herb Spätzle was on the lower flavor side, but had a nice crust and chewiness to it. Surprisingly not gamey.
Baked Chocolate Soufflé with Two Sauces Chocolate and Gran Marnier was a must get decadent dessert. Perfect souffle and 2 sauces that were not too sweet, so they would not drown out the quality of the baking. Perfect texture and lots of air to make your waist line feel better.
Seasonal Sorbet Sampler with Cookies had a smooth coconut, sweet and strong passion fruit, and raspberry. One was far too tart. All clearly homemade and a nice way to round out a filling meal.
Warm Louisiana Butter Cake with Peaches, Blueberry Compote and Vanilla Bean Ice Cream was recommended by the server as a signature dish. Beautiful, rich, sticky and chewy, this was an excellent dessert if you like cake.
Trio of Crème Brûlée with Assorted Cookies had a vanilla, lemon, and bourbon along with some freshly made cookies. All had a nice hard torched crust. The bourbon was fairly subtle.
Petit Fours were excellent home made chocolates, fruit squares, candied nuts.
The excellent Gary Danko Pound cake to go was a nice touch for breakfast the next morning. In 2010 we received a pumpkin cheesecake. They also have pineapple and peach versions.
Extensive Cheese Cart with local, domestic, and international cheeses. We sampled several cheese and found them excellent.
Coconut Thai Curry with Shrimp, Calamari, Lobster, Scallops, Scallions and Shiitake Mushrooms was a change of pace for us. We wanted to try something other than lobster, lobster, lobster.. Nice bit of heat, but not a lot of seafood except for the scallop. OK dish, but not exceptional.
Branzini with Fennel Puree, Nicoise Olives and Saffron-Orange Emulsion was a fish dish that we decided to try. While very good, this was not excellent due to its fishy qualities.
Pan Seared Bass with Arugula Pesto, Herbed Gnocchi, Tomato Confit, Preserved Meyer Lemon and Pinenuts was also a bit fishy. The gnocchi was done well though. Restaurants like Boulevard do this 100% perfect.. Order something else.
Mushroom Dusted Sea Scallops with English Pea Purée, Shimeji Mushrooms and Meyer Lemon were 2 reasonably sized scallops. One still had some ‘crunchy’ residue and clearly was not cleaned well. Both did not have much crispy caramelized crust. The crust was more a visible decoration.
Creme Fraiche Cheesecake with Berries, Spiced Pecans and Strawberry Ice Cream just did not hit the mark.
Strawberry Soufflé with Strawberry Sauce and Strawberry Sorbet is just too sweet. Order chocolate instead.
We have eaten at Gary Danko several times before, and service has always been top notch. It is interesting that they have older, more experienced waiters than other top restaurants in The City. There are so many waiters and helpers running around, you have to wonder how they why they don’t collide. Service at the bar and in the private room was excellent. The waiter (There was a separate bartender) was knowledgeable and very friendly. He knew the menu inside and out. Even for large parties, they bring all the food out and serve everyone at the same time.
Gary Danko remains the top restaurant in San Francisco, with excellent food and some of the best service around. You have to venture outside San Francisco to find places like French Laundry or Las Vegas to top Gary Danko, or hit the best in Paris. Saison and Benu are a lot more New American compared to Danko. If you are a foodie on a limited budget, consider Chapeau! You will be surprised at the level of food and prices there.
Gary Danko has a very extensive wine selection spanning 15 countries and vintages spanning 3 centuries with high markup. Glasses from $18, Bottles from $35, Half bottles from $29, Corkage $35, Wine pairings available.
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