Gary Danko Restaurant — Splendid, memorable dining

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in From the Mobile App, Local and Slow Food, Restaurants

James Beard award-winning chef Gary Danko has created a sumptuous retreat in this splendid restaurant. Critics love it: the Relais & Chateaux property has earned a Michelin star and six five-star Mobil ratings. More important, though, are the rave reviews from everyday diners. Zagat has named it a “Top Restaurant,” and more than 2,000 call-it-like-it-is Yelp contributors have given Gary Danko an extremely high of 4.5 out of 5 stars.

For food-lovers who can afford it, an evening here  will be a highlight of a San Francisco visit. That’s thanks to exquisite service that blends classical formality and polite friendliness, and to the très chic décor: comfortable banquettes, cool and beautiful unisex bathroom, well-spaced tables, and gorgeous flower arrangements …

And, of course, there is the food. Ingredients consist of the very best available in every season, so the menu is always changing. Offerings have included roast quail stuffed with morels; coconut Thai curry with lemongrass, glazed oysters with Osetra caviar, zucchini pearls and lettuce cream; and seared foie gras with peaches, caramelized onions and verjus.

The restaurant is famous for its end-of-the-meal cheese course. Each evening the rolling cart holds from 16 to 20 of the world’s best cheeses — everything from California’s Humboldt Fog to France’s Brillat Savarin to the Garrotxa of Catalonia, Spain.

There are two ways to try the menu. The set Tasting Menu consists of five courses (wine pairings are available at additional cost), but you can choose your own selections from the main menu. Unlike most restaurants, individual dishes are not priced; instead, you pay by the number of courses.

One last note: the wine cellar holds more than 1200 bottles from fifteen countries. You’ll find a reasonable selection of lower-priced wines, although here “lower-priced” means between $45-60.

Tip: Reservations strongly advised. Can’t get one? Take a seat at the 11-stool first-come/first-served bar. You may get lucky with a no-show; if not, you can order a la carte and enjoy your meal at the bar.

My Last Supper, Great ChefsGary Danko Fans need search no further than My Last Supper: 50 Great Chefs and Their Final Meals / Portraits, Interviews, and Recipes for an intimate look at Mr. Danko himself. The author, an award-winning photographer, wrote to 50 famous chefs and asked them to describe their ideal last meal. Their answers, compiled in this weirdly absorbing and gorgeously designed volume, range from the comforting (Lidia Bastianich bids adieu over a plate of linguini and clams) to the cheekily self-aggrandizing.

But it’s the photographs of each chef that make this book so irresistible. One needn’t have heard of them, much less dined in their restaurants, to appreciate their iconic (and often oddly appetizing) portraits: from Marcus Samuelsson posing impishly in a Japanese-style headband made of salmon, to Anthony Bourdain—totally nude, strategically wielding a butchered leg bone.

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