Gary Danko, San Francisco

by Stevie on July 5, 2010

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Gary Danko is one of those must-go-to fine dining establishments in San Francisco, so it was a special treat to be invited to a private dinner there a couple weeks ago with some work friends and colleagues. Located near Ghirardelli Square and Fisherman’s Wharf, the restaurant could be the highlight of a sightseeing visit to the City. Or if you’re lucky enough to actually live here, then anytime is a good time to go.

Gary Danko at the corner of Hyde and North Pointe

I went on a Thursday evening after work. That was marvelous as I was able to stroll there from the office through the Financial District and North Beach. I even had time to peruse the offerings at the famous City Lights Bookstore on Columbus Avenue. By the time I arrived at GD, I’d built up an appetite from my “urban hike” and was relaxed and almost in tourist-mode myself. That sure lifts the spirits!

welcome to Gary Danko

Gary Danko is in an understated building at the corner of North Pointe and Hyde Streets. It’s very popular so I’d recommend a reservation. Also, it’s fairly expensive, so be prepared. That said, the rest is all good.

Jocelyn was our host for what turned out to be a wonderful evening. Thanks again, Jocelyn!

Jocelyn getting ready for the party

The dining room is divided into at least two main seating areas with an elegant and modern looking bar in between. The private room is just past the cheese display and kitchen entrance up a short flight of stairs across from a bathroom. (I don’t know about you, but to me, the way a restaurant’s bathroom looks tells me a lot about the establishment. If it’s a wreck without any design, that suggests that the place is superficial at best. If it’s stylish but dusty or dirty, that suggests that they’re slipping up. Well, GD’s unisex bathroom was beautiful! So that’s good news.)

GD is famous for their cheese course at the end of the meal. This time, though, everyone was too stuffed to avail ourselves of it. Maybe next visit.

private dining room with black glass hanging lamp

The cozy private room is dominated by a huge black glass chandelier that I found stunning. The table easily sat eleven. Service was good and attentive. Since the party was large, Jocelyn had made some menu choices for us and pre-selected the wines. I enjoyed the tart crispness of a California sauvignon blanc, though unfortunately never got the name. Since white’s not usually my thing, I switched to the food-friendly 2006 Green and Red zinfandel, also from California. Jocelyn started with the red, which was probably a good choice, too.

The meal came in three courses with an amuse bouche thrown in at the start. This was a tiny bowl of a vegetarian cauliflower corn soup. It was creamy, corny and slightly cauliflowery with a slight crunch from the vegetables: delicious and an excellent beginning.

Next I tried the seared Ahi tuna with avocado, nori and Enoki mushrooms in a lemon soy dressing. This dish was beautifully presented. It looked like a butterfly on the plate. Wow! As you might expect, this had a Japanese style flavor that I really enjoyed. The lemony soy dressing matched perfectly with the slightly seared ultra-fresh tuna. And when can a chef ever go wrong with sheets of nori on a dish? I wished that I could have had more of this mouth-watering appetizer. I’m getting hungry now just recalling it more than a week later.

cauliflower and corn soup amuse bouche

seared Ahi tuna shaped like a butterfly

Branzini with Sorrel gnocchi, asparagus etc.

For my main, I enjoyed the Branzini with Sorrel gnocchi, asparagus and fried capers. Usually I find Branzini a bit boring—sort of a generic white fish, but Gary Danko made it interesting bordering on exciting. The lightness of the fish matched well with the fatty starchy goodness of the gnocchi. I’d never considered deep frying capers, but that’s something I want to do at home sometime to accent a seafood recipe. These tiny salty crunchy treats added a brininess that made the fish seem even fresher, if that’s possible.

Gary Danko really shines with the dessert course. We had the choice of two, and since by then everyone was feeling stuffed, I shared tastes with my neighbors. I had the trio of crème brulée with assorted cookies. These came in three ample servings on a large dish: vanilla, chocolate and butterscotch. Of course, I most enjoyed the butterscotch. The cookies were an added treat that sent me over-the-edge into excessive fullness. These were irresistible, so what can one do? I tried Carey’s chocolate soufflé with two finishing sauces. I think that you would have adored both of these, Heavenly Housewife!

trio of crème brulée with assorted cookies

chocolate soufflé

Gary Danko bon-bons

With dessert was served elegant trays of assorted bon-bons, coffee and blueberry muffins wrapped in golden paper to take home for the morning. Hegui and I had ours watching Brazil play Portugal in the final qualifying match of the World Cup the next day. The game was thrilling and the muffins were scrumptious!

Gary Danko bluberry muffin for breakie

If you haven’t yet been to Gary Danko, then you should really try it. It’s a memorable restaurant with great food, ambiance and service.

elegant bathroom at Gary Danko

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Heavenly Housewife July 5, 2010 at 7:33 am

What beautiful presentations! I love the look of the tuna… and dont get me started on bon bons daaaaaahling, they look fabulous, and I want them!!!!
*kisses* HH

tasteofbeirut July 5, 2010 at 12:30 pm

something else I love about the place; that understated building it is housed in!

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