What can I say, I had a blast in San Francisco this past weekend. We ran all over the place, eating at little ethnic dives, seeing the sights, doing the tourist thing. We hit so many little hole in the wall restaurants, I can't even begin to name them. Wanda also surprised me by taking me up to Sonoma and Napa Valleys with some friends. We had a great time, but I only got to see a couple of wineries, as Wanda and friends are not big wine fans. So we also spent some time Wandering around Yountville. The highlight of my trip though, was diner at Gary Danko. Truly, I don't know if I have had a dinner to compare to it.
First of all, the decor was perfect. As you walk up to the restaurant, the front enterance is cover in smoked glass, very sleek, yet elegant. There are two dining rooms. The first one shares its space with the foyer and small (maybe 8-10 seat) bar. This is definately the room for those who like to "see and be seen". We were escorted into the other dining room, which is a slightly separated from the rest of the restaurant, making it a little more quiet and a little more intimate. The whole restaurant is done in a minimalist vein with lots of sleek lines and hard angles, yet the use of warm tones, medium-dark woods and a number of focal points keep the room from feeling cold and sterile, like I have experienced in many a trendy, minimalist place.
But enough about the decor. I came to experience Gary Danko's food, and what an experience. First of all, he has what I consider to be an "open" menu. The menu is priced out according 3 course, 4 course, or 5 course dinner. It is then broken down into catagories such as Appetizers, Fish & Seafood, Meat and Game Birds, Cheese, and Desserts. You then create your own tasting menu, picking from these catagories as you see fit. He also offers a Chef's Tasting that comes directly off of the menu, for those people who prefer not to make any decisions themselves.Wanda and I decided to each do a 5 course meal and choose for ourselves.
We started off ordering wine. Not an easy task considering the wine book is 56 pages long!! Luckily, Wanda makes it easier on me as she does not care for too many red wines (90% are way to dry for her LOL). I opted for a 1998 August Kessler Reisling from the Rheingau. Beautiful wine with a nice acidity to balance the sweet fruitiness of it. Full of granny smith apple flavors. And at $55 a bottle, not so expensive that we couldn't order 2 before the night was over.:p
For our first course Wanda had a Seared Foie Gras with Fuji Apples, Caramelized Onions and an Essencia Syrup while I had a boneless quail on a bed of leeks, brunoise potato, and bacon, with Black truffles and a little salad of baby greens. The whole dish was topped with a poached quail egg. Next Wanda chose a salad of treviso and romaine with a slightly sweet Banyuls vinaigrette to balance out the bitterness of the treviso. I moved on to a salmon dish crusted in freshly grated horseradish and served on a julienne of carrots, a dilled cucumber salad and sauced with a mustard beurre fondue. As much as I like meat and game, I decided to go with another fish course; Black Sea bass with cabbage, apples and tarragon, the skin perectly crisp and the juices from the long braised cabbage saucing the bowl. Wanda kept up with the rich dishes by ordering the Roast Maine Lobster, with Black trumpet mushrooms and a light shellfish sauce, and fava beans (small and sweet-in the middle of winter?!).
It was about this time, as we were finishing our second bottle of reisling that I realized that all the dishes I had ordered seemed to have a German twist to them, matching perfectly with the wine we had ordered. Did I do this subconciously or did it just work out that way? Either way, it couldn't have been a better match if I had planned it.
Wanda and I followed this course up with cheese. What a great cheese cart! Approximately 12-15 different cheeses from all over Europe and the US. With each of us 4 choices we were able to cover most of them. I went for the harder, longer aged cheeses, while Wanda went straight for the creamy and stinky cheeses. I had planned on ordering a glass of red to go with my cheese, but the sommolier suggested that a port would be a better choice, and (as one who never turns down a glass of port) I had to agree. This would have been the perfect ending to dinner, but we went on to have dessert. And this is the only place that I felt the food didn't shine. Wanda had a Meyer Lemon Souffle Cake while I had an Apple Crepe with Calvados Ice Cream. Don't get me wrong, they were very good desserts, maybe (in another restaurant) even great, but I felt that they just didn't do justice to the end of such a wonderful meal. I do have to say though, that the pastry chef did redeam him/herself with the plate of mignardes that was sent out. My favorite piece being a cranberry jelly.
Finally, a word about service. Our server was awesome. Very professional, and attentive, yet still very warm and friendly, something you don't see often at this level of service.
So, to sum up all I have said: If you are ever in San Francisco, you must go and experience this restaurant, it will be a dinner to remember for years to come!